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Stumped - can anyone help? Laptop drive issue

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Carol Haynes:
Not sure if it helps, but you could try to use a piece of software, called: PartitionGuru.  It comes as feature limited freeware, but it might help you to access the data of the drive when you take it out of the laptop, into a dock connected to your computer.

As you say, the drive is correctly recognized by the Windows management software, but won't allow you access. Software, such as PartitionGuru, might give you that access as it can circumvent standard Windows controls. Perhaps it could be an idea to use a linux liveCD to access the data from that docked drive. If you can't beat Windows into submission with Windows based tools, liveCD's might provide the proper (read-only) stick. It all depends on how the data access is locked.

The advantage of this is that you won't have to open the laptop in ways you are not comfortable with. Still, if you are able to clone the disk first, do so. And use the tools and skills of your choice on the cloned copy.
-Shades (June 24, 2017, 02:16 AM)
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Thanks - will give that a go if I need to

I did a Duckgo search of "Windows does not allow access to a USB hard drive", and came up with several hits. This one looked interesting (and reminded me of when I went and deleted some obscure settings about USB drives in the registry, when a single USB port on a laptop couldn't access a perfectly OK USB hard drive):
Windows 7 - Notices but does not 'see' external usb hard drive
I upgraded from Vista Home Premium SP2 (32Bit) to Windows 7 Home Premium (32Bit) and after the upgrade my external usb hard drive can not be seen. The system notices it when it is plugged in and/or powered on but does not show it under My Computer or any other drive display option.

I have seen other posts about this all without a solution- could I have missed the solution - if so please forgive this posting and please point me in the right direction.
If there hasn't been a solution posted and you know how to solve this issue I am very interested.
The Windows 7 Hardware Compatibility indicates this drive is supported and the upgrade advisor did not object to it.
Thanks ...
The resolution was to:

* Plug in and turn on the external USB hard drive
* Right mouse click on My Computer
* Left click on Manage
* Left click on Device Manager
* Expand the USB list
* Find the USB device for your USB Hard Drive (in my case it was the one that had no description)
* Right mouse click - Uninstall
* Turn off the external USB hard drive
* Turn on the external USB hard drive and let it find and install the driver
* It should workLionel B. Dyck

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Not sure whether it will help.
-IainB (June 24, 2017, 10:43 AM)
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No because I am not looking for it in Windows - I am using WindowsPE (basically a Live CD of Windows 7) which works fine with USB disks on other computers not just on this laptop. I figured it must be a BIOS setting but either I can't see it or it is hidden??? The BIOS allows boot from a USB HD - but I can't see how if it doesn't pick up there is a drive plugged in.

The drive I am fiddling with is 500Gb so I have order a 1TB replacement which gives me plenty of space to fiddle with - hopefully!!

No because I am not looking for it in Windows - I am using WindowsPE (basically a Live CD of Windows 7) which works fine with USB disks on other computers not just on this laptop. I figured it must be a BIOS setting but either I can't see it or it is hidden??? The BIOS allows boot from a USB HD - but I can't see how if it doesn't pick up there is a drive plugged in.
-Carol Haynes (June 24, 2017, 08:17 PM)
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Ah, that would make it somewhat different, I guess. Sorry, I had not understood that you were using WindowsPE. I was right off the track there.

I know nothing about WinPE, so went and looked it up. You have presumably checked out the limitations,  dependencies and supported drivers, etc. (e.g., as in What is Windows PE?), so I can see why you might be stumped.
Maybe you have inadvertently tripped into a trap for the unwary, built into WinPE by MS, to prevent misuse of WinPE for pirating, or something - one never knows. There can often be a discoverable reason for most such odd things. Maybe WinPE is working as designed?
Rhetorical Q: Under what circumstances might it make sense to design WinPE to exhibit this functional behaviour, in this situation?

Does BartPE still exist?  With that software you could create a WindowsPE like boot-disk or pen drive, with a lot of helpful 3rd party tools already "baked" into it. Many moons ago, in the XP era, I did create such a disk and it was pretty helpful. Still, the 'HiRens Boot CD' is more powerful in getting access to data on hard disk and/or removing limitations. The Knoppix liveCD's were also very helpful to access both Linux and Windows partitions in those days. Neither of these two free boot CDs were that hard to use.

Linux has no problem reading from disks with NTFS. Writing to that filesystem could be a problem under Linux, depending on the combination of Linux and NTFS versions. Using an older version of Linux with the NTFS version from Windows 10 could cause write problems. But if both are more or less of the same period, even writing to NTFS isn't that big of a deal. Because of that I will say that if your WindowsPE disk won't do what you need it to do, by all means try a Linux based boot disk.

Limitations build into Windows are often easily circumvented by simply booting from Linux. 

have you considered reflashing the bios?  could be there's an upgrade available, and its sometimes possible to reflash the existing version,

a bit extreme perhaps, but its looking like the drive is a write off anyway

Question: What make is the laptop and how old is it?

The fact that the drive can be accessed when in the laptop but not through another computer makes me wonder if there is a BIOS security lock set.  ThinkPads (and probably other laptops) allow you to set a password in the BIOS that locks the hard drive so that it cannot be accessed if removed from the original computer.  If that's the case, the only solution I know of is to unlock the drive through the laptop BIOS before removing it.

If the lock was set intentionally, you will probably need to know the password to unlock the drive, and quite possibly a password to unlock the BIOS as well.

I suspect the USB problem is something else, but it might indicate a hardware problem (best case) or that the BIOS itself is hosed (worst case).

Whatever you do, I would certainly not try  to flash the BIOS before you have this problem worked out.

If you can't unlock the drive, since you have Paragon HDM and it can read the drive in the laptop when you boot from a CD, I would try imaging the drive to optical media and moving the image to another computer, then restoring it to another disk. That will probably take a while to do, but it should at least give you an un-encrypted backup image to work from.


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