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The Mac searches for peripheral devices on startup. Try plugging in the drive and turning it on and THEN starting the Mac. If the Mac does not acknowledge or see the device, then check your cable that connects the device. Use a known good cable to connect it. Then repeat the above procedure.
Okay , so there are some steps to figure out what is wrong with your external.
Firstly , if your computer makes a sound when you plug in your external ,
go to Start-Control Panel-Administrative Tools-Computer Management-Disk
Management , and see if your external drive is listed here with your
local drives. If it is listed , right click on the drive and change the
drive letter to make it appear in "my computer".
If your drive does not make a connection sound when connecting to your
computer and also does not show up , please follow the next step.
Remove the hard drive from the casing if possible and install it in your
computer case or another external case.If the drive works , the problem
is with the casing and you can ignore the drive.
Now , if the problem is with the casing , there are still 3 possibilities.
The USB cable between the drive and the computer may be damaged.
The circuit board which connects your drive to the interface of the external may be blown.
The power supply (if applicable) may have a blown transformer.
latter is the easiest to diagnose , does your external light up at all
when you plug in the power? If not , then this is probably your problem.
On the bottom of the adapter is a label which you will be able to use
to have a new adapter made at your local electronics shop and this will
cost about $30 max. They will also be able to test the adapter with a
clamp meter to see if this is really the problem and this should be
The second component you want to test is the USB cable. If
you have a printer , swop out the cables and see if your printer
functions normally. Most externals use the same connector so you should
be able to test it in this manner. If the cable works go on to the last
step. If the cable is defective , replace it with a new one which you
can find for about $10 at most electronics and chain stores.
last component to test is the circuit board. This is a bit of a grey
zone as you probably won't be able to spot the blown component unless it
failed really badly. With the casing already opened , locate the
external's circuit board and check to see if you have any blackened
components or fluids leaking from some components. If all the other
components of the external worked perfectly , then this is the faulty
part. It is not really economical to replace the circuit as most of the
time it is out of production by the time you need to replace it and it
still costs a lot even if it is available so if your drive is working
perfectly when connected via sata or IDE on your computer , the best is
to buy a new casing and place your old drive in the new casing.
A casing costs about $50 and you could get it at most tech shops and big chain stores like Best Buy.
I hope this solves your problem and please reply if you need more help.
Very possible your problem is that this drive is not externally powered and your desktop does not put out enough power to drive it. I'm guessing your desktop is older. Especially if your desktop is USB 1.0 this problem would occur. Your best bet in this case is to either mount a newer USB expansion card into your desktop, or get another externally powered harddrive and transfer data over to it from this one with your laptop.