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Questions Regarding Seagate Hard Drive Recovery

On a desktop PC running Windows XP (I know its old but it has never let me down) I have been using an external USB-ed 500GB Seagate Expansion drive. I use it a lot for the work that I do, principally as a backup device, and found to my horror that when I went to boot up the computer (which started normally) it failed to recognize the external Expansion and indeed would not register it when I unplugged and plugged it back in. I’ve got all of my business contacts details on there as well as a lot of personal data and can’t get at any of it now regardless of what operating system or computer I use. It seems to be powering up okay but beyond that there is nothing happening and I’m totally baffled as well as concerned I will lose my data. Someone online recommended swapping platters but (a) I don’t know what it really means and (b) it sounds dangerous. Help!!!!

Can you help me please? I have a Seagate 7200.14 2TB drive fitted inside my machine and all has been working well up until the point where I tried to install a second operating system on a partition of the drive. The idea was to run Windows Vista on one partition and Windows 7 on the other; something I was told I could do easily however it won’t go past the 62% mark each time I try to format. I’m now in the position where all I have are my backups on DVD and a drive is reporting errors when I try to boot up. Although I have backups they aren’t as new as I thought they were so I have a lot of stuff I want to save on the drive – is there anything you can do to help me?