USB Drives - Power Question

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USB Drives - Power Question

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:57 am

I have 2 external USB enclosures. I'm wondering whether to unplug them while I'm away for a week. They're 2 old PATA drives that have kept chugging for 5, 6 years now. I'm a big believer in "leave well-enough alone." The last time they were without power was 3 years ago. The machine goes to "Sleep" every night but the USB enclosures (with their power bricks) are never turned off.

So I wonder if I should just leave things "as is" - power off the computer but leave the USB enclosures alone - still plugged in. Or just unplug them.

It would help me decide if I knew the answers to few questions -

When the computer is off - unplugged - do USB drives ever spin? Do the heads ever have to move?

What about when the computer is only "sleeping" (standby) - the OS is asleep but the USB enclosures are still receiving power - do the disks / heads ever have to move?

I assume the answer is "no" for both states since there are no commands or requests to the drives... but I'm only guessing.

(btw there are no page files on hiber files on either of these external disks, "restore" is turned off, no Win backups on either disk)

Thanks for your replies.
canoli
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Re: USB Drives - Power Question

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:27 am

The PATA drives likely park themselves of inactivity (ie you'd likely hear them spin down on their own)

i would power them down occaisionally as a health check... it is the power down and power up (with the corresponding spin down and spin up) that are harder on the drives. at that age they are likely to be near EOL.
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Re: USB Drives - Power Question

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:14 am

Arvald wrote: it is the power down and power up (with the corresponding spin down and spin up) that are harder on the drives. at that age they are likely to be near EOL.


thanks for the reply A - ya I had a feeling the power on/power off cycle is the most demanding for the drives... kind of makes me lean toward just leaving them powered on - the computer will be off of course - and letting them be. I figured their EOL would've been about 2 years ago but they're both still fine, at least as far as I can tell - S.M.A.R.T. and HDTune tests all check out okay.
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Re: USB Drives - Power Question

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:56 am

we used to have a disk array at work that would lose a drive or two every power cycle... and those were enterprise class drives.

Consumer level is always a gray area for how long they last outside of the support window.

Also in PATA hardware I would not trust SMART. I had drives fail without anything reported by SMART.
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Re: USB Drives - Power Question

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:05 am

The Google drive survey actually concludes that this is not actually particularly true.
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Re: USB Drives - Power Question

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:12 am

K - sorry didn't follow you, what isn't "particularly true" ?

A - Yes as far as I can tell S.M.A.R.T. is useless for diagnosing a drive unless you know the manufacturer's specs, tolerances, etc. which they never publish. Nevertheless, seeing a column of "OK" and "Always Passing" is always reassuring - on some level anyway!
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Re: USB Drives - Power Question

Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:00 am

Whatever your decision for these drives "today", I recommend that you seriously consider retiring them at some point in the next few months. You're already worried that they might not survive a power recycle, so I say it's time to give up a few lunches and make this happen.

Just one or two new 2.5" external USB 3.0 drives will be faster, have more capacity, and won't require external AC power. Especially that last point, because I know of old USB-to-PATA enclosures that have a loud little fan inside, always using AC power even if the hard drive within has parked itself.

And if you're plugging them into a USB 3.0 port, all the faster, but they'll work in USB 2.0 if your hardware is older.
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