Intermittent External Drive Problems

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by beckygb, Dec 2, 2007.

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  1. beckygb

    beckygb Registered Member

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    I have been using an External HDD for a number of years. I seem to have problems with drives lasting more then a couple years or less. Three years ago I switched to building my own external drives, i.e. an enclosure and a bare drive, which is less expensive.
    Before the HDDs just quit, but this time I am getting an interment problem. After the last HDD went bad (just out of warranty) I replaced it with a Maxtor.

    My enclosure is a Adaptec that is about 3 years old and the latest drive is an OEM Maxtor, only 3 months old. My problem is sometimes my computer recognizes the external drive, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I can switch the external off and back on and it will be recognized, other time that doesn’t work. Needless to say I don’t trust my external HDD setup. It has worked ok for the past two days.

    I can not figure out which is bad the HDD or the enclosure. I am tempted to replace both, as intermittent problems are hard to diagnosis. But I hate to do replacements if I don’t need to. If I replace both I am looking at a Seagate drive and a Nexxtech enclosure as both are on sale at Circuit City and Seagate has a five year warranty.

    My past experience has been the external HDD plays games for a day or two and then just dies. No interment games. Any ideas of what I need to do?

    Becky
     
  2. Bruce Mahnke

    Bruce Mahnke Registered Member

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    Understand your frustration. I’m not biased in any way towards USB drives but thought I would mention that I recently purchased two Seagate FreeAgent 320 GB USB drives. These are not the Pro version. They are available in 250, 320 and 500 GB. In that they are 7200 RPM they are fast and work extremely well. A link is here:
    http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/external/freeagent_desktop_data_movers/

    Bruce
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2007
  3. Long View

    Long View Registered Member

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    my money is on the enclosures being the cause of the problem. A few months ago I tried a number of external boxes - after a few failures ( drives too hot for my liking) I found Nanopoint ICY BOX 3.5 SATA - USB & SATA MODERN ALUMINIUM ENCLOSURE BLACK UK - IB-360STUS-B-BL (Storage Optical Systems)

    Even though this seems to work fine the cost of the enclosure and the cost of the drive means that little if anything is saved compared with a ready built retail product.
     
  4. ThunderZ

    ThunderZ Registered Member

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    No experience with external HDDs here but just as a thought......do you always have and\or keep it plugged in to the same USB port? Have you tried uninstalling\reinstalling all USB ports via device manager? After a period of time I have sometimes experienced connectivity problems with various USB devices. After digging for info on the problem as it pertains to the device I find the above mentioned fix does the trick.
     
  5. shieber

    shieber Registered Member

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    Is this a USB connected drive? I've found that very often, the USB connectors can be very tempermental -- sometimes on the cord and less often the connectors on the PC or drive. The USB Type mini-B (mini USB device connector) seems especially susceptible to being finicky as well as the USB Type A Device connector (the half-square-half-octagon shaped connector).

    Sometimes trying a newer cord makes all the diff -- or a bit of jiggling the connection like it was a sloppy-toilet handle, will fix things -- although such are not the best conditions under which to perform critical backups and restores. I've found the connectors to be one of the several critical failings of USB.
     
  6. GroverH

    GroverH Registered Member

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    There was a recent posting by GotMyBackup whereby he found his solution to iintermittent drive problems was to get a good quality 4 port usb adapter. He found that his laptop did not provide enough consistent power to operate his external drive.

    It has often been stated that the rear port usb connector is more stable than the front connectors. Also, the shorter the usb cable the better. Not all cables are equal in quality.

    I prefer to use the Seagate brand due to the 5 yr extended warranty. The drives may not be any better but warranty is better than a 1 year on most others. Always have a backup of your drives so if the drives fail, you are not "up the creek without a paddle".
     
  7. shieber

    shieber Registered Member

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    So long as the cable is within the 5m limit of the USB standard, you shouldn't have a problem from cable length. The only way it could matter is if the host device machine is not providing adequate voltage. Some laptops are crappy at signal strength or power strength on USB ports. In those rare cases, a shorter cord might help.

    Within the 5m length, signal timing should not be adversely affected.

    I tend to thin that the basic design of the USB connectors, more than the cable quality determines failure rate, although there is little emprical evidence about this either way.

    If you had another enclosure you could AQ-B test and determine whats bad, the cable/connectors, the drive or the enclosure circuits. I've had all three go bad altough connectors has occured most often for me, followed by drives.

    You could probably pick up a second enclosure to use for testing for just a few bucks a Newegg.com or buy.com.
     
  8. GroverH

    GroverH Registered Member

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    The actions of the user can have an effect on the life of a disk drive.

    Use a UPS to protect from power fluctuations and power surges.

    Use a good quality power supply. Many of the mass produced boxes use very cheap power supplies and these are often under-powered or wide fluctuations.

    An argument still rages about using an external drive 24/7 on an ongoing basis. Many feel external drives tend to run hotter when connected full time. In fact, there has been a recent forum discussion about the use of external drives.

    Don't defrag the life out of your drives.

    Consider planned replacement of older disk drives. Remember the failure question is not "if"; only "when".

    For those who must repeatedly use the same USB case connector for different devices , it would be prudent to consider using a short (6-12 inch) usb extender cable or a small usb adapter. The objective would be to have the use/abuse occur on the attachment rather than the case connector which is usually quite fragile.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2007
  9. beckygb

    beckygb Registered Member

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    Thanks for the replies and ideas. I am also leaning to the enclosure as being bad. I will also try the idea on the USBs. I am plugged directly into my computer, not through a USB hub, and I am using a power supply for the external HDD. Also I have 5 USB outlets on my laptop and I am only using 3 of them. So I do not need a USB hub, nor do I have to do any plugging and unplugging of any of the USB outlets.

    Yes, you don’t necessarily save much by building your own external drive, unless you get the HDD on sale. Also, if my enclosure is bad then I have a big saving by not having to replace the whole thing.

    My set up worked ok for 3-4 days, after I recently did a dskchk and found several bad files last night it produced an error again. I wiggled the USB cord and the connectors and the external HDD came up, so I replaced the USB cord. So far it is working ok. But this trial and error is taking time. Now I have to wait to see if the HDD will go off line with a new cord. If so I will replace my 3 year old enclosure and see what happens.

    Unfortunately every time the external HDD misbehaves it takes a few days for the problem to show up again. Intermittent problems are very difficult to find and fix and it is so frustrating. I am tempted to replace the whole thing, but I hate to throw out the 4 month old 500gb HDD if it is not the problem.

    Becky
     
  10. beckygb

    beckygb Registered Member

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    To those who helped me. The new USB cord has been in place for 7 days with no problems. Seems like with an intermittent problem replacing the cords is the first thing to try, then wait to see if the problem goes away. I think Shiber suggested this as a possibility. Thanks to all who helped me.

    Becky
     
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