Ok so the most popular external drives on the market have to be the My Book and The Passport. I get a ton of calls every week about them, and I don’t believe it is because it is not a good product but more because they are being SO widely used. So lets start with the main problem I get called about which is that Windows is not seeing the drive at all when it is plugged in. The customer does not even receive the BONG noise that a USB drive has been hooked up. Now in most cases the device seems to still be getting power.
In the case of the MY BOOK I recommend that the customer open up the chassis that is holding the hard drive and pull the drive out of it. Now I am going to preface this with saying it is highly likely this will void your warranty with WD, but it can allow you to gain access to your data. Once you open the chassis you and have the hard drive out you can then either put it in another chassis or slave it directly into the machine. Either option will give you the answer you are looking for, which is , is the drive bad or was it just the chassis. In A LOT of cases it is just the chassis. When we buy one of these devices we are paying for the hard drive and not a lot of extra cash goes into the making of the chassis.
Now in the case of the Passport, these are laptop drives inside of little chassis so you will either need special cables to convert down the size of everything in your desktop machine or to buy a chassis that supports laptop drives. These chassis can be picked up for very reasonable pricing at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, CompUSA, Etc. Again opening the Passport will leave you not having a warranty on the device any longer. If your Western Digital external disk is making noises you my need hard drive recovery.