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Mac's won't read windows format disc, even if it's capable of reading the files wich I believe Newer Mac Operating Systems CAN DO, it can not read the file SYSTEM used to place them on the disc. You need a third computer. Put the files on a nother computer or two if you need the room or on another media or pocket drive. Use a program that VERIFIES the were moved without errors while copying them, the use the Mac to format the now empty disc drive and download Mac Pooler, or File Stuffer, and copy the files back onto the disc. Now the Mac will be able to read the drive they're on.
Assuming your talking about an "external" storage device, such as a hard-drive over a USB connection... If the device isn't responding, and ASSUMING it doesn't need external power, and "should" operate over USB (most do)... then it's damaged. If it needed to be formatted, etc..you would get a different message. If it's locking up the computer, and not responding..it's simply bad and needs to be returned. Sorry :-(
If you have another Macintosh that is working correctly, you can copy the contents of that hard-drive, including the Operating System onto an external hard drive.
To do this, install Carbon Copy Cloner on the working machine and plug in an external hard-drive. Then run Carbon copy cloner and make the source the computer's hard drive most likely named "Macintosh HD". Then choose to have your external hard drive be the drive where all of the data is copied. Then run the program and let it copy all of the files.
Once this is done, remove the external drive from the computer and plug it into your G3. Turn on your G3 while holding the Option (alt) key and then double click on the hard-drive image that is named whatever your external hard-drive is named.
Once your system boots up from the external hard drive, run Carbon Copy Cloner again and repeat the process again except have the source be your external drive and have the internal drive in your G3 be the disk that has all the data copied to it. Once this is done, turn off your computer, remove the external drive, and then boot up your computer again.
You will have an exact clone of the computer that you copied the data from and will just simply need to adjust the account settings as such as you see fit.
The external drive process can be skipped if you have a firewire cable. Simply connect the firewire cable to both computers and when you turn on your G3, hold the "T" key. This will turn your G3 into an external hard drive and you just have to carbon copy the files straight to your computer's internal hard drive.
If you do not have access to another computer mac computer, then you will need to go to the Apple Store and see if the Genius Bar can install the default operating system that your computer came with.
If for some odd reason you have the contents of an Mac OS install disc copied onto a flash drive or external hard drive, you can boot from that and use it in place of a disc.
Format on your old Macintosh using standard Mac HFS, then your new Mac will read the files without problems. Reformat the discs if they came pre-formatted for DOS as the filenames won't copy properly and will be very slow to read/write
If your new Mac is FireWire/USB only, then you'll need to track down a USB Zip drive (the 100Mg or 250meg versions will read your discs ok.)
I would be very concerned that the drive may be failing, and make copies of anything important. Is the external drive full? Go to My Computer and right click on your external drive and click on properties and it will tell how much is free and used. 90% is very full. Check all your hard drives while you are at it.
You should go to the website of your hard drive maker and download a diagnostic utility to check the health of your hard drive. It will be on the website under support. This must be run from bootable floppy, bootable usb, or bootable cd.
Your only option is a professional "Data Recovery Service".
They will disassemble the hard-drive, fix the bad parts,
just long enough to read all the files, and copy them to a brand-new hard-drive. Expensive!
Do a "disk cleanup"
Click on [My Computer]
Right-click on the External drive (D?)
In the [General] tab, click on [Disk Cleanup]
It will "scan" your drive, but not remove anything... alow it to complete the scan.
Look at the recommended list that appears and accept its findings.
This should remove non-essential files and leave your data intact.
Burn some of your data, especially video content to DVD (make at least two copies) ... then remove the data from your external hard drive.
You may want to purchase another (larger) external drive. You can use two of them or move your data to the new one.
create a new folder in your hard-disk and first try to copy 1-2 files from the external hard-drive to the new folder (copy any data/work/images you have stored/created not any files of windows folder or root of c: drive)
if the above copy works then copy back all except the c: root and these folders - Windows folder, Document & settings, Program Files