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Windows Vista not showing external drive

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First thing first do not format the hard drive under any consideration as you would make the retrieval of your files very hard.
I would suggest you purchase a copy of Spinrite at ( burn it to a CD and boot your computer with it.
This program is simply amazing, it is created by Steve Gibson.
I feel certain that you should be able to recuperate unless your hard disk is totally toast.
Good Luck.