Subscriber David Wiesner was having problems with his external hard drive:
I have an external hard drive that began frequently shutting down the computer when it was plugged in to a USB slot. The computer would shut down but the power light would be on and the only way to regain control of the computer was to pull the plug or possibly press the reset button, which I did not try.
Eventually the drive would make a beeping noise and I could see Windows XP explorer alternately seeing the drive and not seeing it. Eventually all recognition ceased.
So I bought another drive. Even though its driver would load in, Windows Explorer does not recognize it. Windows has no problem with thumb drives.
I was able to take both external drives to a computer time rental place and both are fine.
Even a camera memory reader shut down my computer until I uninstalled some of the USB hub drivers, which took away my keyboard function and mouse function. I reset the computer. After finding my USB hub and all the other USB devices connected to it (which by the way work fine in the same USB slots) I was able to read my camera memory.
I had a computer tech come over but he could not make it work through the bios.
What else can I do?
I wrote back to David to tell him that, based on the symptoms he mentioned, I suspected one or both of the following, both relating to power:
- His USB port may be going bad. He might want to consider a USB add-in card for your computer. Just make sure that you get PCI if you only have PCI slots — because PCI-e is a different format.
- His USB port provides power to the connection. Even if the external hard drive is a powered model that plugs into a power brick transformer (which then plugs into the wall), that powers the drive, not the data transfer through the USB port. I suspect that his power supply is on its last legs (getting old and not providing full power).
Fortunately, they’re cheap — you can get a good model that’s sized for the typical XP computer fairly cheaply.
Note, however, that if you have a Dell computer, make sure the replacement power supply says it works with your brand. At least at some time in the past, Dell had models that were not wired like the standard power supply. Unfortunately, they apparently continued to use the standard connectors, with potential for either not working or causing motherboard damage.
Thanks for the suggestion. I already tried to get PCI replacement slots but unfortunately they were shorter than my older model so I do not know if that is the problem. However it works fine with my printer and my scanner, both of which have their own power supplies. (The power for the hard drives comes through the USB connection.) So I suspect the issue is the power supply.
The only thing that confuses me is that my camera memory chip and the reader shut down my computer at first, but once I uninstalled and reinstalled the USB hub in control panel it worked fine. But it did not change the performance of the drives.
If he is using a USB hub, he could try a POWERED USB hub — that is, one that has it’s own little power transformer that plugs in to the wall.
There is a specifications limits as to maximum power drain on a USB port.
If David is using a USB hub, he’s got multiple devices connected to one of the USB ports on his computer. If he’s not using a powered USB hub, the power for the device connections (and sometimes, the devices themselves) is coming from that one USB port on the computer!
David mentioned that tried to get an add-in card but the card connectors were shorter than his old model. He was looking at a PCI-e card, not a PCI card. The PCI-e is a later generation interface (and the current generation) that capable of much faster speeds than the PCI interface.
There are PCI cards that provide USB 3.0 connections, but they’re pretty expensive. USB 2.0 PCI cards are still available, some with prices below $15