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Thread: Formatting a BLANK USB hard-disk...

  1. #1
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    Question Formatting a BLANK USB hard-disk...

    Hi.

    With a brand-new drive, in an external USB case, the system neither sees it, nor can ANY software(including DiskWizard in this case) see it to format it in the first place.

    Any reason for this?

    I'm just curious - I have already removed the drive, and connected it to a spare XP box directly to the IDE cable, and am formatting it now, but the fact that you can't format a factory-fresh drive under USB is a little odd, don't you think?

    Anyhow...
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  2. #2
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    Umm...not really, if the USB enclosure is not working properly. Check it again, after the drive is formatted. IF it works it may have been a poor connection at first...
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  3. #3
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    Agree with mjc. Initialising (Partitioning and Formatting) USB drives (flash or ide or sata) is not a basic problem. Double check Device Manager when reconnected after formatting. Also - if its all USB2 as it probably is - ensure you have a good and appropriate A-B USB cable and ensure you have a functional USB2 port. And use onboard rather than a hub as part of any troubleshooting.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjc View Post
    Umm...not really, if the USB enclosure is not working properly. Check it again, after the drive is formatted. IF it works it may have been a poor connection at first...
    It is working properly.
    To test this idea, I put another formatted drive in it, and XP sees it right away.
    I have more then one "Factory-fresh" drive, so I put another one in there, and BAM - XP refuses to see it - Disk Management does not even see it.

    I have several external enclosures, so I repeated the same process again using another enclosure, with exactly the same results - factory fresh drives cannot be seen, formatted ones can.

    The 2nd enclosure was a different brand, with a different USB-IDE interface PCB.

    This is not the first time - I have got so used to this happening with fresh drives, that I tend to adopt the process of formatting in a PC via a "Normal" IDE cable, then moving the formatted drive to the enclosure.

    It's not a complaint so much as a curiosity.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  5. #5
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    Agree with mjc. Initialising (Partitioning and Formatting) USB drives (flash or ide or sata) is not a basic problem.
    Ones that have been previously formatted, I can reformat fine.
    For example: If I have a 40GB HDD formatted with FAT32 or ext2/ext3(Linux), I can use Disk Management to delete any/all partitions, and reformat to NTFS just fine.

    It's factory-fresh drives, which are not accessible at all before their very 1st format, which give me problems...

    Double check Device Manager when reconnected after formatting. Also - if its all USB2 as it probably is - ensure you have a good and appropriate A-B USB cable and ensure you have a functional USB2 port. And use onboard rather than a hub as part of any troubleshooting.
    Yep, cables good, or I would not be able to get another previously formatted drive to work in that enclosure - see above post.

    The hub idea is something I had not thought of though - I might try that, as at this stage, it is a drive on a (powered) hub.

    The drive has it's own PSU.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  6. #6
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    If your hypothesis is correct then if you wipe any such drives (or just zero the mbr) they should become "factory fresh" again and hence invisible to disk management.

    What about device manager? The USB enclosure should at least be detected there as a Mass Storage Device - even with a blank HDD inside it.

    Are you sure you are giving the system enough time to recognise the hardware in preparation for initialisation by the disk wizard. As long as the enclosure is properly detected then disk wizard should run as soon as you enter Disk Management or the drive should show there but as "not initialised".

    I have never had your problems with WinXP with new HDDs in an enclosure and the only other thought would be whether there was any 48bitLBA issue involved.

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    Last edited by Paul Komski; 11-19-2007 at 06:27 AM.
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  7. #7
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    OK, this is intensely interesting...

    On one hub, we have 2 hard disks: drive-1 is the "Blank" one, and drive-2 is a pre-formatted(NTFS) drive.

    If I pull the plug from drive-1, then drive-2 springs to life and can be accessed.
    If I pull the plug from drive-2(but leave the plug from drive-1 in place), then drive-1 shows up as unallocated space.

    HOWEVER, I cannot have them both connected at the same time.

    If I pull out BOTH plugs, and put drive-2's plug where drive-1's plug was, I can access the drive fine.
    If I pull out BOTH plugs, and put drive-1's plug where drive-2's plug was, I can see a drive with unallocated space.

    If I put both plugs back in any of the hub ports, you can only see the formatted one - the "Blank" one vanished from Disk Management.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

    Me thinks that XP is not refreshing the USB device table once it has booted up, and done one check for USB devices.
    (just a guess though...)

    I'll post back again once I have done more testing.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  8. #8
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    OK, with the "Blank" disk in there, and the other drive removed, I can almost format it. It gets to 99% complete, then falls over with the message: "The format could not be completed."

    I have had this exact same problem before MANY times when formating USB hard-disks.

    Does not matter if 2.5" laptop drive, or 3.5" standard drive with external PSU.
    When attempting with laptop drives, the drive is always powered externally to the USB port.

    I don't know why, but the format NEVER completes when done via USB.
    Multiple different PC's, drives, and IDE-USB interfaces - IT HAS NEVER WORKED FOR ME - EVER

    However, take that very same drive, put it on an IDE cable, and you can full-format it with no problems, take the formatted drive, put it in the USB enclosure, and away you go with no problems.

    It can't just be me, or I would not get the same format errors on DIFFERENT HARDWARE. We're not even talking the same physical hard-disk here...

    My procedure with a BLANK drive(in exact steps):

    01) Connect drive to USB-IDE interface
    02) Connect external PSU for drive
    03) Set drive as MASTER
    04) Fire up drive
    05) Connect USB plug

    Provided XP sees the drive:

    06) Open Disk Management
    07) Format Wizard starts automatically - you can see the black header for this drive, meaning it sees it as unallocated space
    08) Follow prompts(in this case NTFS, 1 partition, all available space, long-format)
    09) Format begins
    10) Format fails at 99% - "This disk cannot be formatted."

    I give up.
    I'll go back to formatting via IDE, then physically move the drive to the enclosure.

    I still think this is an XP bug with the way it handles USB drives.
    I KNOW some of you will dispute that, but what else could it be?(rhetorical)

    QUESTION: Does it matter where the MASTER/SLAVE jumper is for USB drives?
    I thought not, so ALL drives are jumpered as MASTER.
    My reason for this is simply that there is only one device on the IDE-USB interface, so if only one drive, it should be master.

    Perhaps I should not jumper at all?
    Last edited by Mini-Me; 11-19-2007 at 09:25 PM.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  9. #9
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    Jumper as master. In the case of WD drives this usually means no jumper.

    I have just tried to emulate your process. What happened with me is that on the Disk Initialisation Wizard starting it only completed the first phase. This creates boot code on the mbr, a disk signature and boot-sector signature and is exactly what you would get if you ran fdisk /mbr on a zeroed mbr (I checked this twice using WinHex). In Disk Magagment the "Not Initialised value" changed to "Online" and the red no-entry sign disappeared but the drive still showed as unallocated.

    I had to RightClick on the Unallocated Space and choose New Partition. This started a NewPartition Wizard. I chose the defaults including the whole of the drive and the full NTFS format. It took a while but completed satisfactorily.

    Go figure.

    PS Once initialised the drive is added to the mounted devices registry entry because it now has an identifiable disk signature. If the mbr is now zeroed then the system must be rebooted so that logical disk manager can reset things in that area and so that the Disk Initialisation Wizard will run again if Disk Management is then run following the reboot.
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  10. #10
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    Your problem is not unique to USB drives.

    http://www.devhardware.com/forums/st...ror-45734.html

    That makes it look like an underlying 48bit LBA problem or other firmware problem with the USB disk controller in question. If you make a partition less than 127 gigabyte then does the formatting complete??
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  11. #11
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    I had to RightClick on the Unallocated Space and choose New Partition. This started a NewPartition Wizard. I chose the defaults including the whole of the drive and the full NTFS format. It took a while but completed satisfactorily.
    Perhaps my hiccup is in that I am allowing the XP drive format wizard to complete?

    Perhaps I should CANCEL this when it pops up when you click on Disk Management in Computer Management, and MANUALLY format the partition without the wizard...

    Might try that for my own information.

    I feel that I should be VERY clear here:
    This only seems to happen with hard-disk based USB mass storage.

    I can format flash-disk media no problem.
    The largest flash disk I have(8GB) formats fine every time, so perhaps it is a large-disk related issue do you think?

    If you make a partition less than 127 gigabyte then does the formatting complete??
    Very good question. I have a spare 80GB drive. I will zapdisk it, and then try to format it, and get back to you...
    Last edited by Mini-Me; 11-20-2007 at 01:33 AM.
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  12. #12
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    ...as expected, I was able to connect that "Blank" drive - the same one which refused to fully format on the USB, to the IDE port of a spare XP box, and it formats fine. That done, I have now moved it to the enclosure, and it is accessable just fine, as another USB drive.

    Both PC's use XP Pro w/SP2.
    The "Blank" drive is a Seagate 160GB.

    If I may paraphrase Bloat from FINDING NEMO(right at the end): "Now what?"
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  13. #13
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    I would go right back to the initial posts by mjc and myself and point the finger, if at anything, at the usb enclosure including its cabling, connections and sometimes any power-drainage. If its happening with multiple enclosures or IDE to USB convertors then I would wonder about other hardware issues but I doubt very much if this is a Windows issue per se.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Komski View Post
    I would go right back to the initial posts by mjc and myself and point the finger, if at anything, at the usb enclosure including its cabling, connections and sometimes any power-drainage. If its happening with multiple enclosures or IDE to USB convertors then I would wonder about other hardware issues but I doubt very much if this is a Windows issue per se.
    Fair comment, however, I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one perhaps.


    If it was cables/hubs etc causing the problem, why can you access the drives OK, and, indeed format 99% of the drive OK via USB, but then it fails while trying to do the last 1%?

    Anyhow, that's OK.
    As I said - It's not really a major problem for me, just a curiosity as to why it does not want to work - for me.

    When I try the 80GB format later today, I will connect DIRECTLY to the computer, bypassing the hub, and see what happens.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  15. #15
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    If it was cables/hubs etc causing the problem, why can you access the drives OK, and, indeed format 99% of the drive OK via USB, but then it fails while trying to do the last 1%?
    Have no idea. PCs just like human beings seem to be or simply are idiosyncratic at times and one doesn't always get logical answers to problems. Sometimes one does later on with hindsight. All I can say is that this smacks to me of an intrinsic hardware rather than an intrinsic Windows problem. A bad or poor USB cable nearly drove me nuts in trying to understand what was wrong with an external enclosure that I actually RMA'd only to have it returned as being quite OK. It was.
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  16. #16
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    I have a hub right now that works great with everything...except my USB Skypephone...when plugged into that hub all I get is crackling/hiss/noise, everything including an external drive enclosure is fine. The phone works fine in the other hub I have. My conclusion...some USB devices and some USB hubs just don't like each other.
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  17. #17
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    OK everyone, I thought I would just post a quick update on this issue.
    I finally got a chance to do some experimenting.

    It would seem to be a 127GB barrier problem with respect to USB drives.
    I can 100% format several drives that I tried.
    3x laptop drives, powered from the USB cable itself, and they all completed the format fine. 2x 4.7GB 4200RPM Toshiba laptop drives, and 1x 10GB 4200RPM IBM laptop drive all fully formatted OK.

    Next, I tried some 40GB and 80GB full-sized Seagates, and they formatted fine too.

    When I went up to the next biggest size I had, which was a 250GB, it fails at 99% with the same error mentioned in earlier posts.(NTFS, All 250GB as one primary partition, formatting and partitioning done via Disk Management)

    ALL DRIVES in this testing, were connected DIRECTLY to the PC's USB port.
    I did not do any of this via hubs, in case they might have been adding to the problems.

    I wonder if the 48-bit LBA thing is supposed to apply to USB drives, but dosen't?
    I would not think so, as it should apply to ANY drive or partition, no matter how it is accessed, so long as the system can see it there in the first place.
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  18. #18

    USB hard Disk

    Download HP USB Storage Format tool its free , intall the software and run the programme , in a window it will show your new drive select the system you want to format in i.e FAT FAT32 or NTFS and format your new Disk , this should fix your problem
    Last edited by ashishksri; 02-21-2009 at 02:38 AM.

  19. #19
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    Download HP USB Storage Format tool
    Correct me if I'm wrong but formatting flash memory drives has not been the problem in this post and the HP format tool is for flash memory drives.


    When I went up to the next biggest size I had, which was a 250GB, it fails at 99% with the same error mentioned in earlier posts.(NTFS, All 250GB as one primary partition, formatting and partitioning done via Disk Management)

    ALL DRIVES in this testing, were connected DIRECTLY to the PC's USB port.
    I did not do any of this via hubs, in case they might have been adding to the problems.

    I wonder if the 48-bit LBA thing is supposed to apply to USB drives, but dosen't?
    I would not think so, as it should apply to ANY drive or partition, no matter how it is accessed, so long as the system can see it there in the first place.
    The 48bit LBA issue relates to the firmware-BIOS of the devices themselves and not of the system BIOS own capability. The fact that the cable is attached "directly" to a USB port does not make the system see the enclosed hard drive's details directly; the system sees and queries the enclosure's firmware and it, in turn, reports back the hard drive's details to the system. That is why even legacy operating systems (that may be limited not only by the BIOS but also by the operating system's LBA capability) normally have no problems with drives above 128/137 "gig". That is as long as the firmware of the USB device itself is 48bit LBA capable. Early enclosures were not capable in this way; more modern normally would be.

    The fact that the failure occurs at 99% may well be because that is 99% of 128/137 "gig" and it expects that to be the end of the drive and/or partition, when with your 250GB drive, for example, that would be far from the truth. You could maybe try creating just one 120gig partition at the start of the drive and see what happens with formatting. If OK then delete it and try the same thing with a 150 gig partition.
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  20. #20
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    Thanks to both of you, but this problem is now more then 14 months old, and as such, I consider the issue long since solved...

    Thanks anyway, and welcome to the PC GUIDE ashishksri!
    "An expert is someone who will tell you why you can't do something." - Alec Issigonis (designer of the Mini)

  21. #21
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    Yes indeed, welcome to the forums ashishksri, and the HP tool is a great tool for what it has been designed to be used for. The original tool was more specifically a formatting flash memory tool and not nearly as big a download but it is no longer available.

    Hadn't noted that the last post was 14 months ago.
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  22. #22

    HP USB Storage Format Tool

    Any hard disk in the external case i.e IDE or SATA pluged in the USB can be formated with HP tool

  23. #23
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    Any hard disk in the external case i.e IDE or SATA pluged in the USB can be formated with HP tool.
    Not in my experience or not without risk. The embedded pic should show what I mean with an external USB HDD partitioned into three partitions. The utility doesn't discriminate between the three existing partitions and so I would lose all three and can not format just one of them.



    What the utility is designed for is for flash memory drives on whose media data is stored quite differently from those with magnetic media and often without any partition tables at all.

    It does recognize all USB drives but I would warn against using it to format magnetic spinning drives. There is no need for it to do so in any case since this can be done from within Windows Disk Management or from a host of "normal" partitioning utilities.

    The utility comes into its own when flash memory drives need to have a partition structure put on them or when they may be unrecognisable from Windows when typically the NAND block data has become corrupt.
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