Home | Blog | Software | Reviews and Features | Forum | Help | Donate | About us
topbanner_forum
  *

avatar image

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
  • December 05, 2016, 06:38:28 AM
  • Proudly celebrating 10 years online.
  • Donate now to become a lifetime supporting member of the site and get a non-expiring license key for all of our programs.
  • donate

Author Topic: Suffering over USB  (Read 10515 times)

Jimdoria

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 256
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Suffering over USB
« on: January 18, 2008, 10:11:56 AM »
I've been beating my head against a wall with a USB problem, and I'm hoping someone with more insight and technical chops than I have will see this and throw me a life preserver.

I used to use my personal laptop for both personal and work stuff. Then I got a new laptop computer at work. Carrying two laptops in my briefcase is silly, not to mention heavy, so I've been trying to move all the stuff from my personal laptop onto MojoPac:

Quote
MojoPac is a technology that transforms your iPod or USB Hard Drive or Flash drive into a portable and private PC. Just install MojoPac on any USB 2.0 compliant storage device, upload your applications and files, modify your user settings and environment preferences, and take it with you everywhere.

Every time you plug your MojoPac-enabled device into any Windows XP PC , MojoPac automatically launches your environment on the host PC. Your communications, music, games, applications, and files are all local and accessible. And when you unplug the MojoPac device, no trace is left behind – your information is not cached on the host PC.

Great! I have an old laptop hard drive, I have a small USB enclosure for it, and now (I thought) with MojoPac I can carry my personal environment around in a small box without having to lug along a whole laptop. MojoPac is free, so I tried it and it worked just as advertised! The perfect solution!

EXCEPT... except that I can't get the USB drive to function reliably. When I plug it in, XP usually recognizes the device, but the data remains inaccessible for one of several reasons. Sometimes the Disk Managment console shows the drive's partition as unallocated. Sometimes it shows it as an extended partition composed entirely of free space. Sometimes it shows the partition but doesn't recognize it as NTFS (it says it's RAW?). And this is all subject to change based on a bizarre dance of unplugging, re-plugging, deleting entries from the device manager, warm reboots and cold reboots.

I've reformatted and repartioned this drive a couple of times already (and spent the hours it takes to copy over all the documents and settings from the laptop.) It always works great... at first. Even now, if I work at it long enough, I can almost always get the drive to come up and be recognized. But it takes a lot of time, and there's no repeatable pattern I can see that causes it to happen. If I have to spend my whole commute just trying to get the drive to come up, it kind of defeats the purpose of the whole setup. "Plug-and-play" isn't supposed to be this much work!  :wallbash:

The thing that drives me crazy is that I can see XP is doing SOMETHING to the drive, even when it fails to come up. The boot sequence pauses while the drive light flashes irregularly. I can hear the drive working, sometimes for minutes at a time. But there's no indication of what's going on behind the scenes, nothing I can look at to give me an idea of where the problem lies. Nothing shows up in the Event log, other than an occasional "could not read the disk" message, and even that isn't consistent.

When I plug the drive directly into a desktop machine via IDE, there are no issues. I've run SMART diagnostics on it and it comes up OK. So I'm fairly sure it's not a bad drive.

If anyone knows of any tools or resources that I could use to troubleshoot this problem, I'd be very appreciative. I've tried everything I can think of based on what I could find through Google, including adding an external power adapter to the drive. Is there some way to see a log of USB activity? Does Disk Managment report out its inner workings anywhere other than the event log?

I've hit the limits of my limited expertise in these matters. This has be driving me bats for weeks, and I don't need any more gray hairs!
- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

Darwin

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 6,984
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2008, 11:20:42 AM »
What connection type is the actual harddrive that you're using as an external drive? ATA or SATA?

Tying in with the above, it sounds like a power issue to me - your USB drive is simply not getting enough juice. FWIW - the easest, most reliable way to deal with this is to get a jpowered USB 2.0 portable hub and an enclosure that comes with an external power source (ie an AC adaptor).
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

justice

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,898
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2008, 11:56:11 AM »
It depends on the usb enclosure that you're using, i'm having the same problems with a usb enclosure :) no solution though, i'd only consider real removable drives from now on. mine is powered btw

Darwin

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 6,984
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2008, 01:03:33 PM »
Just to add to the above, I have about six external drives in USB enclousures and only have a problem with one of them - a SATA drive (the others are all older ATA100 drives). The others require, at most, that I plug in both the USB connectors (there's the main one plus a secondary one that branches off from it to draw additional power for the drive). The SATA drive requires that I use all FOUR USB connectors - the main one and it's "branch" plus a secondary one that actually connects just like an AC adaptor (round plug into back of enclosure) and its "branch". Even then I have to mess around with the order in which I insert the USB cables to get it to connect properly. Likely this comes down to a USB bandwidth issue - even though I have a powered hub, everything going through it is still sharing bandwidth through a single USB port on my notebook. Hmmm... my notebook only has two USB ports  - the other has an ancient, and huge, powered USB 1.1 hub plugged into it with my keyboard, mouse, printer, and USB Creative Live soundcard plugged into it.

Just free association/food for thought. YMMV - this has been my experience with the dratted things.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

ChalkTrauma

  • Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 116
  • ::41554D::
    • View Profile
    • DreamCycle Studios
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2008, 01:33:49 PM »
From horrible experiences with USB mass storage devices I'd have to agree with Darwin on this, sounds like a power problem...

Either the port is not putting out enough power, or the device is pulling too much..

I carry my entire environment around on external storage, and I started with a VERY slow USB flash drive ( 4gb ), and decided to upgrade to a 8gb with much faster transfer speeds ( 200mb/sec ) because apps took forever to start. It was a Corsair Survivor GT, and for a while it was perfect. But then I had the same problem you describe. In my case the volume would just disappear, the drive would still show as connected, but there would be no volume mounted, to make matters worse, some of my volumes were truecrypt volumes and would become corrupted during a write operation.  I got on the Corsair forums and had a tech helping me, had me try it in multiple systems and with multiple powered hubs, but it would still happen during heavy file usage. I sent it back, they sent a new one... same problem.. I gave up..

I ended up buying a Iomega eGo newegg, which is a 160gb external usb drive about the size of two decks of cards. Other than one incident with running chkdsk /f (read here: My Bricked eGo) it has been working flawlessly, of course I do incremental backups every week just in case :)

You can use this app to see what kind of power requirements your USB device has: UVCView.exe, you can download it from Microsoft, or PM me if you want me to send it to you.. it is under 200kb..

good luck..

 
'Behold! It is not over unknown seas but back over well-known years that your quest must go; back to the bright strange things of infancy and the quick sun-drenched glimpses of magic that old scenes brought to wide young eyes.'

Carol Haynes

  • Waffles for England (patent pending)
  • Global Moderator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,986
    • View Profile
    • Dales Computer Services
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2008, 01:45:38 PM »
Just to add to the above, I have about six external drives in USB enclousures and only have a problem with one of them - a SATA drive (the others are all older ATA100 drives). The others require, at most, that I plug in both the USB connectors (there's the main one plus a secondary one that branches off from it to draw additional power for the drive). The SATA drive requires that I use all FOUR USB connectors - the main one and it's "branch" plus a secondary one that actually connects just like an AC adaptor (round plug into back of enclosure) and its "branch". Even then I have to mess around with the order in which I insert the USB cables to get it to connect properly. Likely this comes down to a USB bandwidth issue - even though I have a powered hub, everything going through it is still sharing bandwidth through a single USB port on my notebook. Hmmm... my notebook only has two USB ports  - the other has an ancient, and huge, powered USB 1.1 hub plugged into it with my keyboard, mouse, printer, and USB Creative Live soundcard plugged into it.

Just free association/food for thought. YMMV - this has been my experience with the dratted things.

Sounds like a barking mad way to get power to any USB device - presumably the device manufacturer was being cheapskate and din't want to supply a power unit!

Go in to your device manager and check under USB devices - you should have one or more hubs listed there - double click on each hub in turn and there is a tab for power consumption - see how much your drive is trying to consume - if you are near the limit for your hub you may want to try spreading the load across more than one hub by moving some of the USB 'power' connectors.

Two other solutions worth a try:

1) Buy a powered USB hub with sufficient ports for this device (they are very cheap) and effectively use it as a power adapter

2) Try a different drive housing with a sensible power adapter.

Failing all that - Seagate do some nice reasonably priced USB drives that work fine for me.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2008, 03:27:23 PM by Carol Haynes »

Darwin

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 6,984
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2008, 02:00:32 PM »
Sounds like a barking mad way to get power to any USB device - presumably the device manufacturer was being cheapskate and din't want to supply a power unit!


;D Thanks, Carol. I"m pretty sure you're right and that I've just got a cheapo enclosure. I'm not worried about it, having picked up a powered 3.5" 500GB External before Christmas - I never use the 2.5" drives anymore. Still, I will take a look at the hub settings in Device Manager, just to be thorough. I am using a powered USB hub (can't speak for Jimordia, though). Tangentially, I think that with the one problematic drive I'm dealing with corner cutting in the design of the enclosure, the fact that it is a SATA drive, and it is a 7200 rpm Seagate. Kind of a perfect storm of power need versus supply issues!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Grorgy

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 821
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2008, 03:41:44 PM »
just a thought tho, powering these hubs or drives could be a bit of a problem while jimdoria is commuting  :huh:

Darwin

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 6,984
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2008, 03:52:18 PM »
just a thought tho, powering these hubs or drives could be a bit of a problem while jimdoria is commuting  :huh:

Good point. I'm assuming that at home and in the office there is a power supply, though, and that AC adaptors for either the portable hub and/or the enclosure will be porable as well.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

ChalkTrauma

  • Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 116
  • ::41554D::
    • View Profile
    • DreamCycle Studios
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2008, 08:55:44 PM »
I have been pretty impressed with the eGo, it has a d/c in, but I never have used it; but it also has a USB cable that has two connectors on one end, and if the power output of the one port is not enough you can plug the 2nd one in for more juice, I have never had to do that I just thought it was good thinking to include it  :Thmbsup:
'Behold! It is not over unknown seas but back over well-known years that your quest must go; back to the bright strange things of infancy and the quick sun-drenched glimpses of magic that old scenes brought to wide young eyes.'

Jimdoria

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 256
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2008, 10:48:14 AM »
Wow, lots of great feedback. Sorry it took me a while to get back here.

Just some clarification re drive type and power. First of all it is an ATA drive. Haven't made the jump to SATA on any of my machines yet. I go for OLD iron  ;)

Second, regarding power, I knew this was an issue. Actually, I've never been able to run this drive on USB power alone. The enclosure came with an external power adapter that also plugs into a USB port (like the 2nd one you mention, Darwin - USB plug to round hole on the enclosure.) For a while I could only get good results if the drive's power adapter was plugged into the USB hub of a desktop machine.

Clearly, this is a problem when running a portable setup, so I actually hacked together an external power adapter for the enclosure. I took an AC adapter that puts out 5V and is rated for 3.0A and wired it up to an old USB extender cable. Now I've got a portable USB power supply that should be able to dish out enough power for any USB peripheral, and I use this to power the drive prior to plugging it in to the laptop.

(For the curious, I commute mostly by train, and there are always at least 1 or 2 seats that are near an AC outlet. So I can use AC while commuting. Otherwise I'd have given up on this plan long ago.)

I've been considering replacing this drive with one designed for this purpose like the Maxtor OneTouch Mini, and it's not THAT expensive a solution, but even so, the budget's not there for it yet, and I'm not sure when it will be. Plus, I feel like I'm SO CLOSE to getting this setup to work that it's become something of a personal obsession.  :-[

ChalkTrauma, I've seen UVCView.exe mentioned elsewhere, but haven't tried it yet. What does it do? I remember there used to be a USBView app for Windows 98 that would report on certain USB info, but I haven't tracked it down yet to even see if it will work on XP.

Thanks for the input everybody!
- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

Darwin

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 6,984
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2008, 11:13:42 AM »
Jim - given the description you've provided of the USB enclosure and how it deals with power supply, I'd swap enclosures. Your description sounds eerily reminiscent of the enclosure I have my SATA drive in... I think I may take my own advice on this one because the SATA drive, as things stand, is pretty much useless to me.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Grorgy

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 821
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2008, 03:16:22 PM »
I use a little wellend sunbright 2.5" enclosure with a 160 gb hard disk in it.  So long as i plug it into one of the ports on the laptop itself i have no problem with it not working, was very easy to put together too, even for someone like me who has to think about which end of a screw driver to use  ;D   :-[  The enclosure does have a hole in it for a 5v power supply, but it is not supplied with one and the instructions suggest that for most people it wont be necessary.

wreckedcarzz

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 1,623
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2008, 05:05:00 PM »
I have been pretty impressed with the eGo, it has a d/c in, but I never have used it; but it also has a USB cable that has two connectors on one end, and if the power output of the one port is not enough you can plug the 2nd one in for more juice, I have never had to do that I just thought it was good thinking to include it  :Thmbsup:

My Maxtor OneTouch III 80GB USB hard drive has this same setup, but recently I now have to use both connectors to get it working (otherwise it beeps; it is more convenient I guess). Don't know why, used to run fine with just one (added data maybe...?)

Jimdoria

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 256
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2008, 09:29:19 AM »
Ok, thanks for the reccommendations.

If I'm going to shell out money for this project (and it's looking more and more like I'll have to) I'll probably just bite the bullet and buy an all-in-one external drive instead of an enclosure. It's more money, but I'd rather spend more on a sure thing than less on a solution that still may not work.

Now, which one to buy? My first impluse was the Maxtor OneTouch 4 mini, but there's a Cavalry drive with built in SATA, just in case. Hmmm....
- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2008, 09:32:13 AM by Jimdoria »

mikiem

  • Participant
  • Joined in 2006
  • *
  • default avatar
  • Posts: 99
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2008, 06:35:24 PM »
FWIW I'd guess that there's a fair difference between good enclosures and cheapies -- we've never had a lick of problems with USB 2/firewire boxes that use a regular power cord, but they cost more. As far as SATA, unless that's how you hooked up the drive to your PC/notebook, don't know that you'd see any benefit, though you'd increase the odds of problems I'd imagine.

For the original intent, carrying your environ with you, might check out Portable Apps & it's branch, GeekMenu... One option to maybe cut costs is with a small card reader/writer that acts like a USB stick -- I think mine cost $5 and even does Ready-Boost. While they're coming down in price, I think the sticks are still more than a memory card, plus the cards take up almost no space.

Jimdoria

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 256
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: Suffering over USB
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2008, 12:27:53 PM »
Thanks, mikiem -

You're probably right about the good drive enclosures being better than the cheapies. The one I bought was definitely at the low end of the range, so maybe that's my problem. But which are which? Is $40 enough to spend? It's hard to tell when enclosures generally sell for around $30-$40, but identical units can be had for either $20 or $45 depending on where you buy.

The variation in pricing and the consistently low price points lead me to think that for these products, price is more tied to who's selling it than actual unit quality. (BestBuy's unit is most expensive, but I don't think for a minute the quality of their product is any higher.) I don't recognize any of the brands, either, so I can't tell whether an Apricorn is better than a Vantek is better than a CoolerMaster. (My existing unit is from MacAlly. Since it had the word Mac in the name, I assumed it would be of high quality.  :D ) And I certainly don't want to plunk down 30 or 40 bucks for a unit that might or might not work, when that's a third or a quarter of what I could spend on an all-in-one unit from a company whose name I do know, like Maxtor.

Even if size weren't a consideration (which it is) I've had mixed results with the larger AC powered units too. One external enclosure I had went south very fast. The other has been rock solid. (It's from Acomdata, which sadly doesn't seem to make the smaller 2.5" portable enclosures.)

As for my environement, I'm pretty happy with the solution I came up with - MojoPac is really a no-compromise app as far as I'm concerned - but I appreaciate the input. I want the external drive to run personally licensed software that has no FOSS counterparts yet, like Poser & Flash. (Or at least no FOSS counterparts that are acceptable to me in terms of features & usability. Believe me, I've looked!)

Also, while the price of cards/sticks etc. has really dropped lately, they still can't match magnetic media for capacity & cost per MB. I need dozens of gigabytes for the apps I want to install and run, and solid-state media just can't supply that yet.
- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.