Subscriber Geraldine Astbury wrote from the U.K. to ask about some strange reliability problems she was having with her external hard drive.
I wondered if you could help me with another problem. You’ve helped me before successfully so I thought I’d ask you again.
I purchased a Medion ‘Hard Drive To Go’ external 250 gig hard drive two years and four months ago. Although I didn’t use it very much it did work. Then all of a sudden it stopped working. I rang Medion and they very kindly replaced it. I had it only a few months and it stopped working again.
Medion repaired it saying I had a Cypress driver problem and they had replaced the caddy. This lasted only a few days and then stopped working again. Medion repaired it again saying it was a Cypress drive error and replaced the PCB Board. It worked every day for seven weeks and now has suddenly stopped working again.
Medion are collecting the drive again and will be repairing it next week. Needless to say I have lost all faith in external hard drives. I wanted to back up my photos on this drive as they are very precious to me. I have since burned them onto DVD RWs. I really wanted them on an external hard drive but I daren’t do that now.
My question is:- Could it be something on my computer that doesn’t like my external hard drive and is doing something to it to stop the external hard drive from working?
Medion have been very good in repairing my drive. There is a three year guarantee with it thank goodness, but come this November it ends. If anything goes wrong then, I would have to pay. I think then it will cheerfully be put in the bin!
I doubt very much that I would buy another one but I still would have the problem of backing up my work. My son built my computer a few years ago and I really haven’t had much trouble from it apart from the usual daft things that I’ve done myself.
So I can’t get in touch with a manufacturer and I have no manual. Your advice would be appreciated so much.
Geraldine has a complicated problem — the kind that is best solved by hands-on effort over weeks. Something is happening to the drive, I think, because I didn’t find any sign of a wide-spread problmem when I did a quick Google search. So, let’s think about what might be going on…
I don’t think that power is the problem, at least not directly. USB connectors have a maximum current that they will supply to a USB device. I don’t think this is Geraldine’s problem — mainly because a two-year old 250 GB external drive is going to be a full-sized drive, with a connection to the electric wall socket.
It isn’t going to be powered by the computer, it’s powered by the external power connection, so I doubt that it is tripping any hardware limitation on the motherboard (or USB adapter card, if Geraldine is using one of those.
Power surges could be an issue, though, if she doesn’t have the drive plugged into a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) or a surge protector. If it’s getting its power directly from the house’s electric mains, the external drive does not benefit from the power conditioning built into the computer.
If her motherboard’s USB connectors are failing, she could lose connection between her computer and the external drive. However, the manufacturer of the drive would be reporting that the drive was OK.
I can’t think of anything about her computer that would cause the internal components of her external drive to fail.
I expect that the failures are caused by heat in the external drive case. If she keeps the drive plugged into the computer and turned on, and if the external drive does not have adequate ventilation (or if she’s blocking the ventilation holes at top and bottom), the drive could be overheating.
Overheating could cause failure of the IDE controller that is built into the drive. I don’t know if it’s the number one reason for failure, but it’s way up there.
I’m not familiar with the Medion brand, since I’m in the U.S, but she seem to be getting some very good service from them. Personally, I would give up on that particular model external drive, probably, but I would not give up on external drives.
Be sure you’re using the external drive properly. Although you can plug in an external drive and should be able to run it all the time, it is not as fast and efficient as an internal hard drive.
If you want more space in your computer, buy a larger internal hard drive. If you want a backup device, buy an external drive. Then, connect it, power it on, do your backup, and then disconnect it. Preferably, keep it in another room — as a disconnected, backup copy of your files.