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I have a Seagate USB external HDD, which is always connected to my server (a re-purposed laptop running Ubuntu Server 12.04). It has one ext3 volume.

If the drive is connected when the machine boots, it doesn't appear to be detected; there is no entry for it in /dev, and it isn't listed by fdisk -l. However, if I unplug the drive and plug it back in, it's detected normally and I'm able to mount it.

I'm guessing this probably has to do with when USB support is loaded during the boot process, but I'm not really sure where to proceed from here.

Edit: I'm updating with the output of fdisk -l before and after re-plugging-in the drive.

Output of fdisk -l after boot:

Disk /dev/sda: 40.0 GB, 40007761920 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4864 cylinders, total 78140160 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x0000b77d

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *        2048      499711      248832   83  Linux
/dev/sda2          501758    78139391    38818817    5  Extended
/dev/sda5          501760    78139391    38818816   8e  Linux LVM

Disk /dev/mapper/gwynn--vg-root: 39.2 GB, 39162216448 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4761 cylinders, total 76488704 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000


Disk /dev/mapper/gwynn--vg-swap_1: 532 MB, 532676608 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 64 cylinders, total 1040384 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000

Output of fdisk -l after unplugging the drive and plugging it back in:

Disk /dev/sda: 40.0 GB, 40007761920 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4864 cylinders, total 78140160 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x0000b77d

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *        2048      499711      248832   83  Linux
/dev/sda2          501758    78139391    38818817    5  Extended
/dev/sda5          501760    78139391    38818816   8e  Linux LVM

Disk /dev/mapper/gwynn--vg-root: 39.2 GB, 39162216448 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4761 cylinders, total 76488704 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000


Disk /dev/mapper/gwynn--vg-swap_1: 532 MB, 532676608 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 64 cylinders, total 1040384 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000


Disk /dev/sdb: 1000.2 GB, 1000204883968 bytes
81 heads, 59 sectors/track, 408772 cylinders, total 1953525164 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0xb8e593ca

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1            2048  1953525163   976761558   83  Linux

Also, output from dmesg at the time of un-/re-plugging:

[84445.475487] usb 1-1: USB disconnect, device number 2
[84449.000409] b44 ssb1:0 eth0: Link is down
[84458.292168] usb 1-1: new high-speed USB device number 3 using ehci-pci
[84458.428387] usb 1-1: New USB device found, idVendor=0bc2, idProduct=5033
[84458.428398] usb 1-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[84458.428423] usb 1-1: Product: FreeAgent GoFlex
[84458.428430] usb 1-1: Manufacturer: \xffffffd0\xffffff89\xffffff89\xffffffd0\xffffff9a\xffffff9a
[84458.428453] usb 1-1: SerialNumber: NA0CAA07
[84458.444271] scsi3 : usb-storage 1-1:1.0
[84459.445977] scsi 3:0:0:0: Direct-Access     Seagate  FreeAgent GoFlex SA11 PQ: 0 ANSI: 4
[84459.464838] sd 3:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg2 type 0
[84459.466359] sd 3:0:0:0: [sdb] 1953525164 512-byte logical blocks: (1.00 TB/931 GiB)
[84459.467368] sd 3:0:0:0: [sdb] Write Protect is off
[84459.467381] sd 3:0:0:0: [sdb] Mode Sense: 1c 00 00 00
[84459.469411] sd 3:0:0:0: [sdb] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
[84459.517776]  sdb: sdb1
[84459.524602] sd 3:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI disk
[84614.000504] b44 ssb1:0 eth0: Link is up at 100 Mbps, full duplex
[84614.000534] b44 ssb1:0 eth0: Flow control is off for TX and off for RX
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