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How to retrieve files from a drive needed to be re-formatted?

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OH Smeg

It has 2 USB Plugs which plug into 2 different USB Sockets on the Computer to give the correct Amperage to the External Drive.

Each USB Port by Design is supposed to supply 5 V DC at 500 Milliamperes. That is the Apple design but with the move of USB to the PC some makers think that they know better and have reduced that 500 Milliamperes. Granted this mostly happens with NB's and is claimed to increase Battery Life by their maker but it's a Short Cut which hurts the system and really shouldn't be taken. It also occasionally happens on Desktops where that USB Socket is in a Fly Lead so read that as Front USB Sockets and the like.

If you carefully look at a Y Cable you'll see that the Middle Connector has a standard Cable but the Cable to the second USB Plug is thinner than the other cable. This is because the second USB Plug only supplies the Current to drive the external drive so it has fewer wires in that part of the lead. There are no Data Wires just Power Wires.

You can plug one of these cables into 2 Different USB Sockets on a computer or into 2 different USB Sockets on a Powered USB Hub. If you do not use a Powered USB Hub you are not getting the full benefit of the Y Cable as there will not be enough Amperage available at the Hub.

I hope that helps you understand.