How to get my windows 7 pc to recognize my external hard drive without formattin

I recently plugged in my external hard drive to my sony vaio intel core i3 windows 7 laptop, and its been a while since i have used it. now the external hard drive wont show up in my computer window. what do i do i have a lot of important info on my hard drive and i would prefer not to format it if at all possible. please help!!!!
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More about windows recognize external hard drive formattin
  1. Does it show up in disk manage? Is there a partition listed and if so have you tried to just assign a drive letter without formatting?
  2. No it does no show anything.
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