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A USB flash drive is detected as expected and appears in the unity sidebar. It mounts under /media/john, with john being my username.

However, a USB hard drive does not show in the launcher. The only way to access the drive is by doing a manual mount via terminal. This won't be a good solution for the end user, who is not very computer literate.

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I would look at the permissions of the root of the hard drive for clues. Please edit your question and add ls -l /media/path/to/your/harddrive. – Flimm Jan 19 '13 at 21:28

Can you try mounting the USB drive via /etc/fstab ?

I know this does not explain why the drive does not appear in the launcher. But at least it will auto-mount this way.

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