A few months back I bought a Seagate FreeAgent external USB hard disk with 320GB of space. The intent was to use it as a backup device for my ThinkPads, all of which run Linux. Formatting the drive for ext3 was no problem. I started my first backup one night and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t access the drive; it appeared to have spun down due to inactivity. After some Google searching, I found a solution here. Quick summary: run the following command as root the first time you connect the drive:
sdparm --clear STANDBY -6 /dev/sda
This turns off the drive’s idle timeout, and it appears to be a sticky setting that survives power-off.
Adjust the device name for your particular system. You can look at
/var/log/messages for clues if your desktop icons aren’t being helpful.