How to eliminate potential problems on USB Powered Drives and keep them healthy


#1

I am a user of external USB powered disk drives for years and thought of writing a guide to help many in need of help…

Technical Stuff:

You need USB 2 or 3 compatible interface on your Desktop/Laptop to make use of these newer external drives. USB 1 compatible PC’s takes ages to transfer large files such as movies. So upgrade your Windows PC or install PCI/ PCI Express card with USB2/3 functionality.

1)      USB Power Starvation due to computer motherboard limitations

You may complain:

My USB Disk drive not properly reorganized; Driver not installed properly; My Disk drive and USB port are USB2 compliance but running at USB1 mode; My pen drive/mouse/camera working perfectly on these ports but USB drive unable to connect etc.

Each USB port is capable of delivering 500mA @ 5Volts max and each port has built in semiconductor fuse that disconnects when external device power drain exceeds rated power output. This fuse will heal itself once the offending device disconnects. This fuse inherits tolerance of 5-10% of 500mA plus or minus. That means it could be disconnecting either on 450mA or 550mA of current drain.

Most of the newer desktop PC’s equipped with 1Amp (1000mA) self-healing fuse; so drawing more than 500mA from a port may not be an issue. Please note that this 1Amp fuse in motherboard may be shared to several ports so connecting multiple USB powered (Drives) devices simultaneously could still could be leading to power starvation on drives.  Low power devices (Pen drives etc.) may not exhibit this problem.

Now let us look in to 2.5in hard disk drives. Drives built many years back draws over 500mA current and are unable to spin-up on modern PC’s. So you’ll hear ticking sound inside the drive. If the drive is ticking, disconnect it immediately or you’ll end up with a physically damaged hard drive. These drives needs an external power adapter capable of delivering 1A (1000mA) or more. So you need a new USB drive enclosure with external AC power adaptor, loosing portability.

Newer drives are capable of running under 500mA power drain but most of them needs 460mA or 480mA of current. Technically these newer drives fit for USB only power source. But some PC’s are unable to provide adequate power to the drive due to above mentioned fuse tolerance. Fuse may be disconnecting intermittently for a brief period causing drive/file system errors. Drive tends to drain peek power while writing larger files for longer period. Writing smaller files in to disk drive may not exhibit this issue.

As a remedy, you can purchase USB Y connector that would occupy two USB ports. Please note that WD Passport supplied with USB micro connector and it is not proprietary. But length of WD micro USB male connector is somewhat long and standard micro USB connector won’t connect to WD drive properly. If this is the case, you can either buy Y connector cable with USB A Female connector on drive side or modify micro USB side jack (on the Y connector) by cutting off 1.2mm portion from the plastic jacket making male jack part lengthier. (Please do not modify WD supplied cable.  If you have an old WD cable which has loose connection issue; request a new improved one from WD) But still you may need third party Y connector, if you experience power starvation issue as I mentioned previously.

2)      USB Power Starvation due to connection issues:

You may complain:

My USB Drive was working perfectly for the last 6 months. Now it is refusing to connect; and complains mention on the first chapter.

USB connectors equipped with four connection pins. These pins are gold plated so they won’t get rust easily. USB ports and jacks get soiled with dust, salty atmosphere, airborne fibers, and due to higher humidity.  

If you often carry USB drives and cables in your pocket; THINGS (Fabric fibers) in your pocket get in to the connectors and make them dirty.

These connectors are also subject to wear out over usage. Once gold plating is partially gone, underneath copper conductor become exposed. Copper rust very easily compared to gold and become highly resistive to current flow. Airborne dust accumulates on rusted connectors resulting current flow more difficult.

As a remedy, you can clean these connectors on PC, after shutting down with an artist’s brush/flattened cotton bud soaked with isopropyl alcohol. Make sure all the connectors are bone dry prior to turn on PC. You can use hair dryer at lower temp with safe distance to make this quick. Please note that this is a temporary measure and USB ports get soiled again if you let them exposed to dusty environment.

If you happened to live in a dusty/salty/high humid area, or carrying your notebook around; make sure your exposed USB ports are sealed with electrical tape/USB cover plug or keep them plugged with unused clean cable. If cables are old and have rusty pins, don’t use them. They will damage/contaminate your PC’s USB ports and your USB powered drive render unusable.

Connecting, disconnecting USB ports regularly is a bad habit. This will lead to wear connectors and make them wobbly. Also try to allocate dedicated cable for each USB device. Don’t use the same cable for different devices even though they share common port size/type. You can always buy new cables but you can’t change USB female connectors on PC or on devices unless you’re a skilled hardware tech with available new parts.

On some desktop PC’s front USB connectors cannot deliver adequate power to external drives (Motherboard design issue). If this is the case, always use back panel USB ports available on the motherboard itself. Avoid using un-powered USB hubs on External USB powered drives.

3)      Power starvation: How to fix the drive, if it becomes unusable on any PC?

At first rule out all connection issues mentioned on the previous chapter.

You may complain:

My USB Drive cannot be seen on My Computer/Windows Explorer; My Drive cannot read/write files though it is visible on explorer; I cannot copy large files in to USB drive – but smaller files can be copied. Drive get stuck in the middle of writing a file and become unresponsive etc.

Please note that WD or third party USB driver is not required if you’re using Win XP SP1/SP2/SP3, Vista X86/64Bit, Win 7 X86/64Bit OS. With native driver loaded you should be able to access your USB 2 drive without any Smartware or third party software installed.

How to check the drive is connected properly; Right click on “My Computer” icon and choose “Properties”. Now navigate to “Device Manager” and look under “Disk Drives”. Your USB disk drive should be listed there. If it is not listed under disk drives, look under the “Other Devices” If any unknown device listed, right click and choose “Update device software” you may need an active internet connection at this point. Internet device driver update may not work properly if you’re using Win XP. Also note that it is highly unlikely that USB Disk Drive would be listed under ‘Other Devices”. This may be an indication of an interface hardware fault on USB drive.

If you’re using previous versions of WD Passport and out of warranty, you can open the drive enclosure (Look in to You Tube for various case opening methods) and install SATA 2.5in hard disk in to a working USB drive enclosure. Newer WD USB Passport drive cannot be swapped as USB2/3 interface is integrated in to Disk drive electronics so SATA and Power connectors are absent. Also this drive could well within WD warranty period, so you have a chance of getting it replaced.

But the good news is most of the WD Passports are simply going bad because of power starvation issues and can be restored to fully functional state after following under mentioned steps.

(Non destructive method)

1)      Make sure the drive is visible under device manager. (You have resolved all the potential connection issues and Drive is connected to reliable port with good cable – may be on a different PC.)

2)      Now download “HD Tune” basic (for $0.00 full version: Google for it) and look under Info/Health tabs with subjected External USB device selected.  

3)      You may see some errors/warning on health tab. (Note down what they are for future reference)

4)      Now under “Error Scan” run the utility by un-checking the “Quick Scan” option. So called quick scan will not reveal any sector errors.

(This may take several hours depending on your drive size – usually one hour for 100GB)

5)      If you monitor error scan, you’ll see some red blocks indicating bad sectors on the drive map.

(Green blocks represent good sectors and red block represents physical/logical damage)

6)      Let the error scan complete. Now you can capture a screen with current drive map for future reference and close HD Tune application. (Now you know where/how much bad sectors available on your USB drive)

7)      If you see all green without and red blocks means you don’t have physically or logically damaged disk. Please skip to step 20.

8)      For those who are able to see USB drive on explore – Never run Windows scan disk. This will mark all the bad blocks and render them useless.

9)      What we want is to eliminate all the bad sectors/blocks in this drive and make them usable again.

10)   Most of bad sectors are recoverable on USB powered drive, unless you have physically abuse them like dropping on the floor.

The Top Secret

11)   The secret is that USB powered devices keep writing to the disk at lower magnetic strength while they experiencing lower power conditions through a bad USB connection. This cannot be rectified using format utility.

12)   Bad USB connections also contribute to drop data packets. Once the data written to disk is become garbled (CRC Fail) it will be marked as a bad sector(s). Both of these bad sector errors are recoverable by means of using specially designed software.

13)   Download and install HDD Regenerator 2011 Trial (Google for $0.00 full version if you wish)

(This is very useful utility – you should consider buying it for future use and for free updates)

14)   This software can regenerate bad sectors even the disk drive is not partitioned nor formatted.

15)   Again, use good cable and proper USB connections.

16)   Run Pre Scan and then run Repair Mode of scan in Windows mode. You don’t need to create boot disk as you’re repairing an external drive.  This will regenerate all the bad sectors recorded with lower magnetic strength.

17)   On trial version it will correct one bad sector to prove the software is useful. But in my opinion, pre scan with trial version would fix most of the magnetic errors on the disk. Sometimes you may not need to buy it after all. But the full version would surely fix your disk drive unless your disk drive doesn’t suffer from head damage or platter damage.

18)   Repair scan will take hours to complete on 2 GHz PC and it can repair 100GB within one hour or so. (For e.g. 1TB disk drive will take 10 to 11 hours) You need to have UPS or notebook with battery backup to ensure uninterrupted recovery.

19)   Once completed, you can view a report of what it had done.

20)   Now you have undamaged or fully regenerated USB disk drive in your hand.

21)   You need Admin privileges in your Windows account at this point.

22)   Right click “My Computer” icon and choose “Manage”. On the Management console click “Storage and then select Disk Management”.

23)   Look on the right hand side of the window for a disk drive closer to your drive size. E.g. 930GB for 1TB (1000GB) Drive.

24)   Since you have used non destructive method to regenerate the drive, you don’t need to delete or create partitions on this drive.

25)   If you don’t see a drive letter assign to the drive, you’ll not see it on explorer. Right click and assign a new drive letter.

26)   At this point you should be able to access your drive and copy needed data back in to another backup drive. Also you can repartition and reformat your drive using Disk Management Console.

27)   If you elected to Repartition and reformat your drive, you’ll lose everything in your drive including WD Smart Software. Be sure to select correct disk drive at this point. (Of course you could reinstall this software from WD Download site.

28)   But make sure to format your drive with NTFS and not to create logical drives. FAT 32 format and logical drives tends to corrupt easily.

Hope this long technical guide would enlighten many troubled USB Powered Disk Drive users.


Bad Sector 1 TB WD Elements SE
My Passport Essential SE:Not getting USB 3.0 Read/Write speed
#2

A couple minor things to add. When you repartition make sure to delete the volume and create a new one. Not doiing so some times causes an error. The second there is a quirk with the power adapters. Sometimes rotating 180 deg in receptacle makes a difference. I know it doesn’t make sense.

Joe


#3

Joe, are you referring to power adapters on laptops or on USB hubs? Anyway, there may be a truth on that IF there is no ground pin on electrical plug. Desktop PCs should not exhibit any problems as they are usually equipped with 3 pin power leads.

Nowadays all manufactures make switch-mode power supplies to make them universal, light weight and energy efficient. Inside PSU, primary and secondary sections are fully isolated electrically. But in order to keep high frequency (35 kHz) switching system stable they tend to use 10nF/500VAC ceramic capacitor as a bridge between primary & secondary blocks in addition to an optical coupler. 

Usually these capacitors are grounded through grounding pin of the wall socket. Also they use similar grounding capacitors to eliminate electrical noise generated inside PSU.

But the problem arises when they make two pin adaptors. In 2 flat pin US standard power plug has one pin larger than the other. Larger pin represents Live and the smaller represents neutral connection. US Standard AC/DC 2 pin Power Adapter is designed to eliminate electrical noise through neutral lead which is eventually grounded at the substation transformer.

And if you connect AC plug in opposite way, unnecessary electrical noise will not be grounded (floating) and it will reach the device it powers.

In reality, this electrical noise interpreted as very high voltage at very low current in higher frequency. You can easily test this with a simple neon tester. It lights up if it touches anything above 100 volts.

This is not ideal for sensitive electronics.

For repartitioning issue; you cannot create new partitions on existing one, unless you delete them. New partitions can be created only on an empty space of a disk drive.

Sorry, if I wasn’t clear on that point. Thank you for your comment; I really appreciate it.


#4

It shouldn’t matter which way the plug goes in.  If you have this issue, where you can get power by reversing the plug, then I recommed contacting WD Support and get the power adapter replaced.  That shouldn’t be happening.


#5

Bill,

I was merely explaining the technicality behind switch-mode PSU leakage current to Joe.

And I wasn’t explicitly referring to WD AC/DC power adaptors.

If you don’t take my word for it, get hold of any inexpensive neon tester and check any brand of PSU built with two pin AC power lead. You’ll see a leakage current on DC side.  Most of the HF/HV leaks coming  from Notebook, Phone, Ink-jet Printer adaptors and from external storage adaptors.

(Neon tester may not work properly if you wear rubber shoes, so you need ground yourself  and touch top knob of the neon tester while touching the tip of the neon screwdriver on DC jack.)

Once we connect any of these adaptors to a laptop or external storage device, whole system get live including USB ports, unless there is  at least one device with 3 pin plug and good building ground.

If you live outside US, you’ll see higher leakage current as utility AC supply is around 220 or 230VAC.

If you can connect an Oscilloscope, to DC  side, you’ll see a signal of 50/60Hz superimposed with 35Khz  at 110/220Valts. Of course leakage current is very small and may be less than 1mA.  And that is enough to give you a light shock, if you were bare footed.

Power Adaptors with 3pin plugs, will not exhibit this phenomenon as this leakage current is grounded through ground pin.

TIP: You’ll need only one three pin plug attached in a PC rig to get rid of this stray current. Also first attach 3pin plug to the wall socket and then attach 2 pin plugs as required…


#6

I take issue with this statement:

“The secret is that USB powered devices keep writing to the disk at lower magnetic strength while they experiencing lower power conditions through a bad USB connection.”

A low power condition should disable the write circuitry. Furthermore, the motor controller monitors all the supplies and generates a POR (Power On Reset) if any fall below acceptable levels.


#7

I understand your point and I also know that you’re a highly reputed HDD Guru. The circumstances I mentioned there is not a power outage of one full second or more. I was referring to intermittent power drops on milliseconds or microseconds level.

Then again you may point out POR will trigger in an event like this or the onboard power regulators would take care of this. What about the set-value on threshold point of this POR circuit?

And most importantly, the P-P voltage or Voltage value of serial data stream may suffer voltage dips for a very short period. May be a couple of microseconds dip would negate the whole file integrity. Of course we have CRC error check for this kind of situation. But, we don’t know that for sure and something is happening on these WD USB powered drives which one cannot comprehend easily.

Anyway…

“The secret is that USB powered devices keep writing to the disk at lower magnetic strength while they experiencing lower power conditions through a bad USB connection.”

Statement I brought up as I have noticed this behavior while I was trying to copy large file like 4GB avi file (on NTFS)  through a degraded USB socket. The file will be copied to external without any complain from OS.

But, when you try to open or copy same file to another location, OS will complain that you cannot copy or file itself is inaccessible though it is shown in the Explorer. (Even with a new PC)

Following this incident, if your run HD tune or similar to check this drive, it will report bad sectors on deep scan and S.M.A.R.T. will warn you about reallocated sectors.

After running repair mode using HDD Regenerator 2011 which seemed to repair all bad sectors, HD will report no errors on deep scan and S.M.A.R.T. will report all okay. (I thought S.M.A.R.T. would keep old records but now it seems to update all records in real time)

So the subjected write-up was a result of my own experiences and I simply wanted to share my experience with others whom in need of help…


#8

If you are getting error disconnects with your external USB powered hard disk

and you can see these errors in event viewer and you have tried many things to stop these errors,

then you can also try this;

Disconnect your external hard drives.

Right click on My Computer > Properties > Device Manager > Uninstall any USB Hubs or Host Controllers, etc that you can,

importantly any that you know you connect your external hard disk to and let Windows re-install them.

To Unistall an item you do a right click and choose “Uninstall”.

Let Windows re-install them.

It may re-install them instantly /automatcially,  like it did my usb broadband modem,

or you can do a right click on “Universal Serial Bus controllers” and choose “Scan for hardware changes”

or you can re-start windows?

Windows automatically had all the drivers for my USB hardware already. It took seconds to re-install them.

I just did this after having much trouble with my WD 320GB Passport drive which was constantly error disconnecting

and making clicking sounds alot. I thought I may have lost this hard disk and all my important files on it.

By refreshing the USB controllers the Passport drive now works properly.:smileyvery-happy:

Somehow something got corrupted and by refreshing the usb controllers it got fixed.

So-far after many hours it is still working perfectly with no operation errors.

The main thing I was able to copy all the files off it to another hard disk,  in-case this Passport drive fails completely later on.

Update:

A simpler USB un-installer is this;  USBDeview

The USBDeview program download is under the heading “Feedback”

It is a very small 97kb file.

It lists all the usb devices ever installed on your computer.

You can un-install a usb device by right-clicking on it in the list.

Don’t forget if you connect your usb hard drive via a usb hub then you may need to un-install and re-install the hub also to fix any corrupted usb files or registry faults; it could be the usb hub that is causing the problem?

To see usb hubs > Options > Display USB Hubs > tick it.

If by accident you uninstall the usb ports for your mouse and the keyboard then these will stop working.

More importantly for the mouse, if this stops working you will have to restart  your computer by clicking the reset / reboot button on the front of your computer. If the keyboard is still working you may be able to use that to shutdown and restart you computer.


#9

My Passport Essential USB 2.0 500GB External Drive:

Alright. No joy. I have downloaded HDD Regenerator but it still cannot see my external drive in order to run the repair scan. This occurs on both my computers. I get the message (“one of the USB devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned, and windows does not recognize it”). The drive is receiveing the neccessary power requirements via the 6 USB ports on 2 different computers that I have tried. It was doing this intermittently for about 2 weeks prior to it being completely inaccessible. I don’t care about the warranty or getting an RMA to replace it. I will not be getting another WD drive. I experienced a similar fate about 4 years ago. I just need some ideas on how to get to my folders that I dropped and dragged to the drive before it decided not to cooperate. It is spinning quietly. The light is illuminated. Just not visible under “my computer” or “device manager - disc drives”. Any other ideas?


#10

If your drive is not visible under Device Manager means the particular hardware is not installed properly. This symptom is more common on the drives that are not getting adequate DC power. Check both WD provided USB cable and the micro USB port on your drive under a magnifying glass for possible pin damage or dirt build-up. If cable or port dirty, you can clean it with a small (¼”) artist brush soaked with alcohol. Dry throughout prior to reconnection. If the cable is the culprit, get a replacement cable from WD. Most of the other cables available on the market won’t work. If your USB port on drive is broken, or USB>SATA interface gone bad, you have no other option but to get the drive replaced.


#11

VERY GOOD THANK YOU


#12

bladestall,
My BAAA5000ABK-00, like yours,  is going to **bleep** in the same way.   All of a sudden during a data transfer while running in on a Windows XP, the drive said F-it and I’ve been frantically looking for solutions, carefully following the instructions on this thread.   The HDD regenerater program nor the HD tuner program showed  **bleep** worth of a trace of the external hard drive, neither did the right clicking “my computer” >“properties” ------->device manager"  --------> hard drive.   Swabbing the the usb connections with rubbing alcohol didn’t seem to work either, but this “force mount” in Ubuntu LInux helps:

http://community.wdc.com/t5/My-Passport-for-PC/Running-My-Passport-Essential-on-Linux-Ubuntu/m-p/52770/highlight/true#M2170

sudo mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sdX1 /mnt/ -o force

, but the drive is still running very slowly.

[QUOTE]

bladestall,

Re: How to eliminate potential problems on USB Powered Drives and keep them healthy.

3 weeks ago

My Passport Essential USB 2.0 500GB External Drive:

Alright. No joy. I have downloaded HDD Regenerator but it still cannot see my external drive in order to run the repair scan. This occurs on both my computers. I get the message (“one of the USB devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned, and windows does not recognize it”). The drive is receiveing the neccessary power requirements via the 6 USB ports on 2 different computers that I have tried. It was doing this intermittently for about 2 weeks prior to it being completely inaccessible. I don’t care about the warranty or getting an RMA to replace it. I will not be getting another WD drive. I experienced a similar fate about 4 years ago. I just need some ideas on how to get to my folders that I dropped and dragged to the drive before it decided not to cooperate. It is spinning quietly. The light is illuminated. Just not visible under “my computer” or “device manager - disc drives”. Any other ideas?  " [/QUOTE]


#13

I my reply to “bladestall” I had mentioned “If your USB port on drive is broken, or USB>SATA interface gone bad, you have no other option but to get the drive replaced”.

Since you’ve tried most of the fixing methods which didn’t work, and if you still need to use your drive with Windows OS, you shall contact WD support for drive replacement. WD also have approved “Data Recovery Agents” and they should be able to recover your data.

If Linux works, you can use it to  copy your data out of the drive and avoid data recovery hassle. (I am a Windows user and don’t know anything about Ubantu)


#14

You can find a Linux version that runs off a CD or this  http://www.ubcd4win.com/ It’s pretty intuitive to look around with. Just be careful not to mess up system files.

Joe


#15

Thanks Joe. I’ll give it a try…

I have used Linux Red Hat & Mandrake long time ago. But I didn’t use it for long as they were lacking drivers. New Linux must be much improved and this time I’ll try to study little more.


#16

Rather than install Linux on a hard drive, get  a live CD of many of the popular distros:

Ubuntu,  Deban,  Knoppix, and many others)

http://distrowatch.com/


#17

http://store.westerndigital.com

http://store.westerndigital.com/store/wdus/en_US/DisplayCategoryProductListPage/ThemeID.21986300/parentCategoryID.13092600/categoryID.13095900

I’m not finding a Y drive that specifies it’s for a WDBAAA5000ABK - 00 and I am not sure it’s a good idea to test even if there is such a cable.  I guess a replacement of the one I have is something I need to do.

As a remedy, you can purchase USB Y connector that would occupy two USB ports. Please note that WD Passport supplied with USB micro connector and it is not proprietary. But length of WD micro USB male connector is somewhat long and standard micro USB connector won’t connect to WD drive properly. If this is the case, you can either buy Y connector cable with USB A Female connector on drive side or modify micro USB side jack (on the Y connector) by cutting off 1.2mm portion from the plastic jacket making male jack part lengthier. (Please do not modify WD supplied cable. If you have an old WD cable which has loose connection issue; request a new improved one from WD) But still you may need third party Y connector, if you experience power starvation issue as I mentioned previously. [/QUOTE]

wdhdisfubar wrote:

Rather than install Linux on a hard drive, get  a live CD of many of the popular distros:

 

Ubuntu,  Deban,  Knoppix, and many others)

 

 

 

http://distrowatch.com/


#18

Y cable is not available on WD store. Most of My Passport users in US received Y cable (Booster Cable as per WD) free of charge when they contacted WD support and explain their situation. I don’t use Y cable on my laptop or on my desktop. They are capable of providing adequate power to My Passport. But some motherboards need Y cable as they provide little low DC power on USB ports.

Constant 500mA power source on USB is not sufficient to spin up My Passport drive. It takes around 800mA for half second until spin up completes. Then it goes down to 420mA.


#19

I have an eerie feeling the USB-micro connector (both male and female ends) is desgined way too fragile.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Serial_Bus#USB_Mini_and_Micro_connectors

Why can’t  they make them a little more durable like the standards?


#20

i have a wd my passport se 1tb usb 3.0 hdd.i ran hdd tune and it detected 98%bad sectors.i ran hdd regenerator but it run extremely slow l,about 100mb in 1 hr.Also it frequently says that connection to the hard drive has been lost.what should i do?please help.