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This is the usual reason: USB port has 4 pins (connectors). The two at the ends supply 5 Volts to the hard drive (or any other appliance you connect. I don't think there's a problem with those two because you can see the power light on the hard drive. The middle is for data transfer. If one gets damaged, although the device gets power, the OS cannot recognize the device. Try changing the USB cable you are using. Connectors in the wire are damaged more easily than those in the device.
Try hooking it up to a different USB port. Go to computer on the start menu and see if your computer sees it. Try restarting your computer with the hard drive already connected and turned on, the computer may recognize it then.
Thry this: turn your computer OFF. Gently unplug and replace the data cable connection to the computer several times. Do the same to the drive end of the cable. Leave one end unplugged. Turn on the computer and when the Mac os is set up and waiting for you, plug the drive in and see if the computer recognizes and reads the drive. The problem is usually corrosion on the contacts that prevent proper contact.
I also have the same problem. I bought a 500gb WD HDD and it worked great via USB for about 4 days, not the computer does not have it. i am running windows xp home. i can also hear the drive working and the blue light comes on, but it is delayed. When it was working correctly it came on instantly and the computer found it instantly.
Its normal, and is the signal showing the drive powering/spinning up and down. The drive spins at 7200 rpms, when you power it up or down, its switches onto the speed that best suits what it's intended to do.