Solved: USB External HD Puzzle

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Noyb

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I have several External HD Enclosures and Computers.
Normally, they all work great.

Occasionally, one of the Externals gets the notion that it’s connected to a low speed USB port, and I get a notice from my computer that it will perform faster if I connect it to a high speed port - which they all are, and my computer should know this.
Once this happens, the external, or computer(s), gets stuck in this error mode, regardless of the port used and will perform at the low speed.

Sometimes, this problem will go away after changing HDs and Computer used.
I haven’t found the right combination of events yet.

I have found two workarounds to avoid this error notice and obtain high speed transfer.
1: Leaving the external turned on - Reboot.
2: Leaving the external turned on, do a safe disconnect, unplug it, wait, then plug it back in “hot”

Is there a way to disable this error notice or checking ?
Is there some bad info getting placed in the External or my Computer(s) and a way to reset ??

Since this seems to have something to with the external being “powered up” while connected,
Is there a way to slow down this “error checking”

Any other ideas will be appreciated?
 

DaveBurnett

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You will get this error every time you connect the disk with the power off. This is because the PC has detected a device being attached and has tried to interrogate it. But because there is not enough power (there is some supplied through the USB, but not enough) the disk cannot reply and the PC drops down to a lower speed and marks this against the disk in the registry for future use.
You should ALWAYS safe disconnect with the power still on the disk, and always power the disk up before trying to connect.
 

Noyb

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Hummm
Yes - I always try to do a safe disconnect, but I have a sneaky suspicion this problem may be caused by not doing this.

I have four identical XHDs with external power supplies and front panel power switches.
So, I assume they should work plugged in and with the power switch.
They all used to work OK, but then one of them got cranky.
I was a little worried about plugging in while HOT.

I was suspecting a soft power supply (not quick enough) or a HD that required more startup power. I have switched HDs and this didn't help.

Maybe the trick is to reset the registry. I wonder where I would start looking.

Unplugging and plugging in the USB is a little unhandy.
 

DaveBurnett

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As I said, you MUST plug, and unplug with the power turned on to the disks (or in your terms hot). You risk damaging the disks if you don't.
 

JohnWill

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Actually, I never unplug my USB or IEE1394 drives from the interface, and they've survived for years.

If you make sure you use the "Safely Remove Hardware" in the system tray and then simply turn off the power to the USB/Firewire drive, you'll be fine. There is no risk in leaving the USB/Firewire connected with power off the external disk case.
 

Noyb

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I think I found the fix.
I defragged the HD in the external.
Now - It's recognized as a high speed when powered up while connected.

This would explain why they get "cranky"

Who would have thought ???
 

JohnWill

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Wow, I can't help but think that the defrag was just coincidental, since the determination of the interface speed is done before any access to the USB mass storage device is done. :confused:
 

Noyb

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JohnWill said:
Wow, I can't help but think that the defrag was just coincidental, since the determination of the interface speed is done before any access to the USB mass storage device is done. :confused:
That's what I would have thought, but maybe not.
Along with defragging, I shut down the Autostart - and It worked.
So I re-enabled the autostart, and it still worked.
I could have reset something, time will tell.

I've had the feeling that there is Data being placed in the external, and needs to be read. Such as - how does my computer(s) know that this external was assigned drive G and given the name "Images" ?

I've had this problem in the past with other models of externals, and Google is full of this problem. There's alot of chatter about enhanced 2.0 and drivers, but I've never seen it fixed.

It's been obvious to me that Windows isn't checking the actual data transfer speed, but is looking at something else.

Since I have several computers and XHDs, I'm reasonably certain that I do not have software or hardware issues. The only variable left in the equation was the Data on the HD in the external ... So, I thought I'd tune it up.
 

Noyb

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Update.

The problem is only partially fixed… it was back this morning.
I fired up two other computers and it worked OK - where it didn’t before.
They have the autorun disabled, and it looks like the defrag made some improvement.

But, The problem was back this morning on one of the two test ports in my main puter.

So far, I’ve been able to fix the problem again (port specific) by disabling the autorun, doing a hot start and extracting some data (exercise it). Then it works with a soft start.

Changing ports, the problem may or may not return ???
I don’t know how a reboot effects this problem yet.

Maybe my other XHDs don’t have this problem because they don’t move around.

I think I’m haunted. I haven’t tried relocating my ghost disc to the garage (or across town) yet.
 

JohnWill

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Windows does write something to the hard disk, in an unused part of the boot sector, they're called "signature bytes". These are used by Disk Management to remember what drive letter is assigned to that drive. Did you try my little USB raindance?

Unplug ALL USB devices.
Open Device Manager.
View, Show Hidden Devices.
Uninstall all devices under USB Controllers.
Uninstall all devices under Storage Volumes. Say no to any reboot prompts until you are finished. Also, if a Storage Volume doesn't uninstall, ignore it and move to the next one.
If you have a yellow ? with unknown devices, uninstall all of the entries there as well.

When this is done, reboot TWICE.

Reconnect the USB devices and see if they're recognized properly.
 

Noyb

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Rain dance completed - Still no rain in sight.

Earlier today , I swapped enclosures, external power supplies, Cables and HDs.
The problem is associated with the HD.
This HD is fairly new a Maxtor, 80gig 7200 ATA/133 so it should not be a problem.
I’ve performed a complete disc check - no problems.

After the rain dance (all 13 USB ports) - the drive letter changed but it still showed up named “Images” as before.
I’m assuming we didn’t re-write the “signature bytes”

I’ve been thinking about offloading the contents and formatting it.
That should erase whatever is written in it. Doesn’t the HD also have a file manager ?

Think I oughta try formatting – or wait n see if another idea pops up ?
 

JohnWill

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You can use a disk diagnostic to clear the entire drive, perhaps that will allow it to get it's mind right?
 

Noyb

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It was working good yesterday morning - then it got cranky again and caused some system problems. (fixed now)

So - I unloaded it, removed the partition, put it back, formatted it and reloaded it.
After about a day's worth of testing, it seems to be working good ... So far.

The problem is obviously in the way Windows makes the erroneous decision that the peripheral is not plugging into a high speed USB port.
The puzzle remains .. What was stuck in this HD, and was there a simpler way to repair it.
If the problem returns, I will assume there is something "marginal" with the operation of this particular HD.

John, Thanks for your help - I‘ve learned a few more things.
 

Noyb

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Follow up ... FYI
This is begining to look promising.
The XHD is purring like a kitten again this morning.

Re-writing the HD looks like the cure.
 
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