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Why would an external drive show up empty when it is not?

Last response: in Storage
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April 8, 2011 3:35:08 PM

Hello,
I have Windows Vista and a 500Gb WD external drive that is about 1/2 full. Yesterday when I navigated to it, Windows explorer said it is empty and it reports no files or folders are on the drive(It does find the drive itself with the same drive letter and name as always). I have run antivirus (I could see all the files being indexed in the antivirus software window) but no issues were found. I ran a CHKDSK with no issues identified. I tried rebooting to no avail. Finally, I tired the drive on a different computer(also running Vista) and the drive was recognized along with all the folders and files.

Does anyone know what could cause an external USB drive to work fine on one computer and then be recognized but show up empty on another(that it has been running on for years)?

Any suggested fixes?

I need the files to stay linked to the original computer because I have a bunch of itunes library stuff and video clips that my editing software references. So I am planning to buy another drive and transfer the files using the working computer and then try this new drive on the original PC to see if it will work. Then I can try reformatting the flaky drive and continue using on the computer where it works. Is this my only option?

NOTE: I have done reading all morning on this forum (and several others) but have not been able to find anything that seems applicable to my specific situation. Any feedback on the above would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
a c 289 G Storage
April 8, 2011 4:29:22 PM

That is a new one.

If it were me, I would first save all the files using the second computer, just to be safe.
Then attach the drive to the first computer and configure Explorer to show all hidden, system, and otherwise obscure files to see if they are there but Explorer is suppressing them.
Right-click on the drive in Explorer and look at Properties. See if it sees the correct size with half free, half the size with everything free, or what. If it shows the correct size with half used, it can see that the files are there but isn't showing them to you.
Do the same as the above in Disk Management, just to be thorough.

Let us know how those tests go, and I'll see if I can narrow it down further.
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a b G Storage
April 8, 2011 4:52:07 PM

Also try opening up a command window and accessing the drive by hand. Does it see your files?

Try another external usb drive on the problem PC. Do you see the same problem?
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April 8, 2011 9:02:14 PM

WyomingKnott said:
That is a new one.

If it were me, I would first save all the files using the second computer, just to be safe.
Then attach the drive to the first computer and configure Explorer to show all hidden, system, and otherwise obscure files to see if they are there but Explorer is suppressing them.
Right-click on the drive in Explorer and look at Properties. See if it sees the correct size with half free, half the size with everything free, or what. If it shows the correct size with half used, it can see that the files are there but isn't showing them to you.
Do the same as the above in Disk Management, just to be thorough.

Let us know how those tests go, and I'll see if I can narrow it down further.


Well after getting home from work I tried connecting to the second computer again and now I get the same issue on that computer AAARgh! Even went to a neighbor and tried it on theirs - same issue. When I check properties in explorer it shows 213 Gb are used with the pie chart showing there is content there also when I run virus scan I can see the scan software scrolling thru all the files by name, but nothing in Explorer. Also tried accessing from command prompt per another suggestion but it returns a "File Not Found" to a K:\dir command.

Any other thoughts/suggestions??
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April 8, 2011 9:05:04 PM

FreeDataRecovery said:
Also try opening up a command window and accessing the drive by hand. Does it see your files?

Try another external usb drive on the problem PC. Do you see the same problem?



I currently have a Seagate 500Gb running on the first computer as well with no issues. Of course based on the latest developments it seems to be clearly tied to the drive somehow. Just do not know if this is a common failure mode and/or if I will be able to recover my files (special diagnostic tool, 3rd party service etc).
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April 9, 2011 12:48:32 PM

try running a chkdsk on the drive see what turns up...a cycle redundancy failure can cause this.
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September 20, 2011 2:01:32 AM

Same exact thing happened to me, started my laptop in vista to find external drive showing empty, asking for reformat before use. Chkdisc shows Data error<cyclic redundancy check>.

however, the drive reads fine on OS X Laptop. Just cannot alter it from there. Not sure what happened but I had some guests over for a few days....
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