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Thread: External USB Drives Failed

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northwestern New Jersey, USA
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    58

    External USB Drives Failed

    (I'm not sure this is the right place to post this since the drives in question are working fine.)

    I apologize in advance for this very long post but I would like to head off any pending failures on this nearly 9 year old PC:

    Dell Dimension 8300 circa 2003
    Intel P4 2.66 GHZ 533 MHZ FSB
    1024 MB DDR SDRAM AT 333 MHZ
    Drives: Internal: 120 GB, 500 GB SATA
    External (USB): 120 GB, 1 TB
    Win XP Home SP3

    Back on the evening of 3/22 I connected my Garmin Nuvi 50 GPS to the desktop described above for the first time. (All previous updates had been done successfully on my laptop (XP Pro SP3).

    The Garmin updater could not find the GPS and it did not appear in Windows Explorer even though I had gotten a "Found new hardware". While trying to get the GPS recognized I got two of the following error message.

    "{Delayed Write Failed} Windows was unable to save all the data for the file . The data has been lost. This error may be caused by a failure of your computer hardware or network connection. Please try to save this file elsewhere."

    Since I knew I could update the next day from the laptop I checked my email and left the Desktop. The next morning I discovered that all of my overnight backups to the Maxtor 120 GB USB drive and the Western Digital 1 TB USB drive had failed due to disk errors. Event Viewer was full of ntfs and ftdisk errors and warnings. No other errors or warnings were displayed.

    Explorer listed both drives and could display top level folder names but showed no sub-folders or files.

    It didn't make sense that both drives had died at the same time. I retried a couple of very short Retrospect backups to the Maxtor and got the same failures and connected the GPS (treated as a drive by XP) with the same results as before.

    Device Manager reported all USB entries as working properly. All USB devices other than disk drives were working.

    Not knowing anything else to try I ran CCleaner, Shut Down, removed power from all devices and the tower, waited 30 seconds, restored power and rebooted.

    Everything came back to normal. Both backup drives and the GPS showed all the expected folders and files. I ran enough backups to get all the previous day's changes, backed up the GPS and did my map update.

    Everything has run perfectly since the reboot on the 23rd with no disk related errors or warnings.

    For the record I regularly maintain the tower's internals making sure all boards are seated properly, cleaning all vents, and checking all connections. This was done about a month ago when I replaced the motherboard's battery.

    Any advice on identifying the cause of this problem and/or measures to prevent future failures?
    Bob
    (The only dumb questions are the ones unasked.)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Location
    The Mountain State
    Posts
    23,348
    You had a simple USB fault that was cleared up by rebooting.

    For some reason, the USB did not initialize properly when you plugged the GPS in. That brought the whole thing to a screaming halt. No USB, no drives.

    It wasn't a drive problem at all.

    I suspect it was a random/one off occurrence, since rebooting brought it all back. If it does happen again, try a reboot before anything else.
    AV, Anti-Trojan List;Browser and Email client List;Popup Killer List;Portable Apps
    “When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.” - Thomas Paine
    Remember: Amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titantic."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northwestern New Jersey, USA
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    Thanks, mjc. I was hoping for that kind of answer. What confused me was that my mouse, printers, and scanner still worked.

    Got to keep this baby going. If I had to go to Win 7 the cost of software upgrades would probably exceed the hardware.
    Bob
    (The only dumb questions are the ones unasked.)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
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    The Mountain State
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carruth View Post
    Thanks, mjc. I was hoping for that kind of answer. What confused me was that my mouse, printers, and scanner still worked.

    Got to keep this baby going. If I had to go to Win 7 the cost of software upgrades would probably exceed the hardware.

    There's, basically, two layers to the USB subsystem...one layer is at the BIOS/hardware level. That's usually where devices like keyboards and such are 'supported'. The other is the OS...storage devices, cameras, printers and such. I suspect that had you actually tried to print something, it too would have failed, even if it showed 'connected' when you looked. There are also specific storage device drivers (now generic and part of Windows itself) that could be the culprit.

    It looks like Windows choked. Which means, that the basic hardware level support for USB was still functioning but storage devices weren't. What was being reported through the various Windows tools was the last state of said devices, but when you tried to 'update' you would error out...trying to access the directory, etc. It's possible that simply logging out and back in would have 'unfrozen' it.

    Basically, it's the same kind of error that would happen sometimes with serial connected external modems...you'd just have to power it down and restart it...

    But yes, it gets a lot more worrisome when large amounts of data are involved.
    AV, Anti-Trojan List;Browser and Email client List;Popup Killer List;Portable Apps
    “When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.” - Thomas Paine
    Remember: Amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titantic."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northwestern New Jersey, USA
    Posts
    58
    mjc, I almost added to my previous post that I needed to do some more research on USB. You read my mind and now I don't. Many thanks.... again!
    Bob
    (The only dumb questions are the ones unasked.)

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