Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

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Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Tue Oct 08, 2013 10:57 pm

Hi all!
So, for my workplace I bought 6 Caviar Blacks (2.5", 750GB) and 6 ASTONE 2.5" enclosures to use as off-site backup "tapes".

They've worked for about 6 months flawlessly. Then, one of the drives stopped powering up when I plugged it into the USB. Another soon followed. Thankfully the others are still working.

I figured it was the enclosure, so I bought a couple more. But, they're having the same problem with the same drives! So, I got out my SATA/IDE docking kit and plugged the drive in to confirm the drive was faulty.. and it worked fine!

So, in short,
There are 2 drives that DID work with these enclosures but now DONT, even new ones, but will work with other enclosures/docking kits.

The only thing I can think of, is that the Caviar Blacks decided to start drawing more power and USB is no longer enough to power it?

-Rhys
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:21 pm

it's definitely the enclosures or the micro-usb port on the enclosurses. i can't tell you how many 2.5" enclosures i have seen where the micro-usb port craps out. i avoid them like the plague and only buy 2.5" enclosures with a full sized usb cable. they are rare but do exist. the usb cable will be A to A instead of a regular A to B for a printer or whatever, but it will be way more durable than micro-usb.

in the meantime, you can bust out the soldering iron and re-do the solder joints for the port as that is where they break from constantly having cables inserted and removed or just knocked around. while micro-usb ports are near universal,they are not very durable and many consumer electronics suffer from loose micro-usb ports.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:32 pm

Hi Ryko,
As mentioned, we tried brand new enclosures and they have the exact same problem, the ports definitely haven't crapped out on those.

It's a USB 3 drive which is A to micro B.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:33 am

Sounds like HDDs might be going bad. Just replace them with new ones, see if they work fine in both enclosures...
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 6:18 am

Are you using USB 2.0 or 3.0? USB 2.0 ports are marginal when it comes to providing enough power to run mechanical HDDs. You need to use an external power brick (if the enclosure supports one), or plug the drive into two USB ports using a Y Cable to supply the drive with twice as much power.

FWIW none of my 2.5" externals (I own 3) will spin up reliably if I plug them into a single USB 2.0 port. I always use either a Y Cable or a 5V power brick (turns out the power jack on Vantec's 2.5" enclosures is the same as the one used by many USB hubs, so I just use the brick from a dead USB hub).

JohnC wrote:Sounds like HDDs might be going bad. Just replace them with new ones, see if they work fine in both enclosures...

Except that he indicated that the drives work fine with a docking kit. It seems somewhat far-fetched that the drives would go bad in a way that makes them incompatible with the enclosures but not the docking kit.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 8:10 am

Considering that other drives of the same model still work in same enclosures I do not see anything "far fetched" in that.

As for "required power" - I've been using various 2.5" HDDs in USB 2.0 enclosures for several years (starting with old 120GB models and up to 1TB in recent "My Passport" enclosures), I almost never had issues with getting necessary power from a single USB port (only time I had problems is when trying to use them with car's USB ports or USB hub built into some keyboards). Even most recent 2TB models are efficient enough to be powered from it - WD's own enclosures don't even have external power supply jack on them and include a USB cable with only one connector.
It is of course possible that motherboard itself is not supplying necessary power to USB ports anymore but I believe the OP has also tested these enclosures with different PCs/laptops, no?

Edit: I just looked at the specs for 2.5" WD Black models - they are rated at 1.75W for "average power requirements". Which the USB 2.0 port should be able to supply (unless it's defective). Their "peak" power rating is higher than that but such amount of power is not actually required to operate properly.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:17 am

JohnC wrote:Considering that other drives of the same model still work in same enclosures I do not see anything "far fetched" in that.

Except that it doesn't explain why the misbehaving drives still work if he doesn't use those enclosures.

JohnC wrote:I just looked at the specs for 2.5" WD Black models - they are rated at 1.75W for "average power requirements". Which the USB 2.0 port should be able to supply (unless it's defective). Their "peak" power rating is higher than that but such amount of power is not actually required to operate properly.

Most mechanical HDDs need several times their rated "average" power during initial startup, while they are bringing the platters up to speed. If the drive can't get enough power to spin up, it never gets to the state where it is supposed to be using only 1.75W.

I'm not saying bad drives are impossible; but a power issue still sounds more likely to me.

Edit: @OP - If its right on the hairy edge power-wise, using shorter USB cables (to reduce resistive losses) might even help?
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:43 am

One of the WD external drives that I cracked open had a jumped installed on the drive which piqued my interest. As referenced earlier, the WD external drive didn't have any option for external power and the USB cable supplied was only a single connector vs. the dual power connector most of the external enclosures I've had. Looking into it further it turns out that WD mobile SATA drives can enable a Reduced Power Spinup (RPS) mode by installing a jumper between pins 3 and 4 as seen here:
http://wdc.custhelp.com/app/answers/det ... mobilejump

Who knows, maybe those drives in particular are requiring just a little more juice at startup for some reason and maybe this will do it for you. I imagine any old jumper will do the trick - old IDE drives would probably make good donors.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:48 am

frumper15 wrote:Who knows, maybe those drives in particular are requiring just a little more juice at startup for some reason and maybe this will do it for you. I imagine any old jumper will do the trick - old IDE drives would probably make good donors.

As long as the old drives are mobile 2.5" IDE. I believe many 3.5" IDE models used the larger (0.1" spacing) jumpers.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 10:16 am

just brew it! wrote:
JohnC wrote:Considering that other drives of the same model still work in same enclosures I do not see anything "far fetched" in that.

Except that it doesn't explain why the misbehaving drives still work if he doesn't use those enclosures.

Well, the external dock might be supplying more current (more than needed for non-defective drive).

just brew it! wrote:
JohnC wrote:I just looked at the specs for 2.5" WD Black models - they are rated at 1.75W for "average power requirements". Which the USB 2.0 port should be able to supply (unless it's defective). Their "peak" power rating is higher than that but such amount of power is not actually required to operate properly.

Most mechanical HDDs need several times their rated "average" power during initial startup, while they are bringing the platters up to speed. If the drive can't get enough power to spin up, it never gets to the state where it is supposed to be using only 1.75W.

Sure, but the peak power is not necessary to even spin it up - for example if I'll open up my current "My Passport" enclosure, I will see "5VDC: 0.55A" printed on its HDD. Yet it still works perfectly with any USB 2.0 PC/laptop that I've tried.

Some drives (of different capacity) in same enclosure are even rated at 0.75A:
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 10:26 am

I've had this happen several times. All with Western Digital drives in 2.5" enclosures. It always seem to be related to the data getting over a certain point like 50%. It would work fine up until that point and this would just be like 1 out of 20 or some such nonsense. We switched to Seagate and stopped having the issue.

(Now due to pricing, we've switched to the premade drives, they are in the order of 10%-15% cheaper that even the cheapest enclosures.)
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 10:28 am

JohnC wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
JohnC wrote:Considering that other drives of the same model still work in same enclosures I do not see anything "far fetched" in that.

Except that it doesn't explain why the misbehaving drives still work if he doesn't use those enclosures.

Well, the external dock might be supplying more current (more than needed for non-defective drive).

Or maybe the problem drives aren't defective at all, and just happen to need a little more current to spin up than the other ones due to normal drive-to-drive variation, slight changes in rotational friction as the bearings age, etc. Why is this such a difficult concept for you to grasp?

As I've already noted, my external 2.5"s (all three of them) don't spin up reliably when connected to a single USB 2.0 port; but they do spin up sometimes. The odds of spinning up when connected to a single port seems to vary between the drives, and from PC to PC. If I use a Y cable or power brick they all spin up every time, on every PC. Are you saying that all 3 of my 2.5" external HDDs are defective? Other than the power issue I've outlined, they work perfectly.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 11:08 am

just brew it! wrote:As I've already noted, my external 2.5"s (all three of them) don't spin up reliably when connected to a single USB 2.0 port; but they do spin up sometimes. The odds of spinning up when connected to a single port seems to vary between the drives, and from PC to PC. If I use a Y cable or power brick they all spin up every time, on every PC. Are you saying that all 3 of my 2.5" external HDDs are defective? Other than the power issue I've outlined, they work perfectly.

I don't know what exactly you have and whether it is defective or not. All I know is that all of the enclosures I've used and all of the 2.5" HDDs in them have always worked perfectly for me in any USB 2.0 PC ports I have tried, starting from Abit motherboards with Intel's 848P chipset to various HP/Dell PCs (including first-gen XPS One) all the way to my current Asus motherboard with Z77 chipset, using only a single-headed USB cable.

Edit: here are 2 of them which I could find right now, both have WD HDD's (one is an ancient 160GB, the other is more modern and slightly larger). One has USB 2.0 plug (Mini-B), the other USB3.0. Both work perfectly with any USB 2.0 ports, both have no external power supplies. B.t.w, the Mini-B connector still works to this day.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 11:24 am

spin up time is one of the stats recorded by smart which IIRC is an indicator of old age.

I don't think it's too big a stretch to the imagination that spending more time spinning up might mean it's also drawing more current.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 11:51 am

OK, I think we've beat this to death. All we can really do now is wait and see whether a Y cable fixes the OP's problem or not.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 12:02 pm

just brew it! wrote:OK, I think we've beat this to death. All we can really do now is wait and see whether a Y cable fixes the OP's problem or not.

...or the RPS jumper...
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 3:08 pm

I don't remember seeing such jumper on 2.5" drives... If such mode still exists I think it is being automatically managed by firmware (perhaps some special utilities can allow manual adjustment, but I doubt it).

Edit: Actually I am wrong - there are 4 pins on both of the WD drives I have, they just aren't marked in any way on drives themselves. So I guess it is worth to try putting a jumper on the two pins closest to sata connector and then see what happens...
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 3:19 pm

JohnC wrote:I don't remember seeing such jumper on 2.5" drives... If such mode still exists I think it is being automatically managed by firmware (perhaps some special utilities can allow manual adjustment, but I doubt it).

Guess you didn't click the link frumper15 posted, eh? :wink:
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 3:24 pm

I did, I just wasn't reading the text carefully enough.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 5:48 pm

Hey guys,
Thanks for all your suggestions.

I'd love to try the jumper suggestion, I just need to get ahold of some jumpers of the right size.. which doesn't sound easy.

The >50% capacity problem is intriguing, though these drives have used about 287GB with 410GB free.

These are USB 3.0 enclosures but I think I have tried both 3.0 and 2.0 ports, both are having issues. In fact, I plugged one into my Macbook Retina (which has a USB 3.0 port) and it said that the drive was drawing too much power.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Wed Oct 09, 2013 6:45 pm

Hah!
Problem solved. And it's really not an exciting solution.
Basically, the new enclosure I put the drive in was ALSO dud.
I got another one out of the box of 5 I ordered, and it works fine.

How boring is that!
Thanks guys
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Thu Oct 10, 2013 2:43 am

LOL, what kind of junk did you buy (so I can avoid it in future)? :wink: Seriously, though, you should try the WD "My Passport" drives - they come in all kind of sizes, pretty durable (even though they are plastic), pretty reliable and not too expensive compared to buying enclosure+drive separately. They don't come with carrying cases but since they are pretty popular there are plenty of cases available specifically for this model:
http://www.amazon.com/Western-Digital-W ... d_sim_pc_3
http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Hard ... d_sim_pc_1
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Thu Oct 10, 2013 9:50 am

Yeah, sounds like some pretty junky external enclosures. He mentioned that they are "ASTONE" in the first post.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Thu Oct 10, 2013 10:33 am

The one thing I'd mention that i've had happen on Windows.
The system may not be automounting the drive if there are issues with the USB. This has happened to me a few times when I've been connecting and disconnecting the unit a lot. Eventually windows stops mounting it. The only cure I've had is rebooting the system (full cycle, not in and out of sleep/standby). Windows remembers the enclosures electronics not the drive.

Glad to see you've resolved it but giving more food for thought.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Thu Oct 10, 2013 10:40 am

just brew it! wrote:Yeah, sounds like some pretty junky external enclosures. He mentioned that they are "ASTONE" in the first post.

looking up quickly I was able to fine that Astone seems to be a fairly good manufacturer of equipment, seems to have good quality.

The only issue is they seem to be region specific to Australia which (again looking) is where the OP is.

No need to knock a brand just because we don't recognize it in North America.
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Re: Bizarre Ext HDD Problem

Postposted on Thu Oct 10, 2013 11:08 am

Arvald wrote:No need to knock a brand just because we don't recognize it in North America.

My "knock" was entirely based on the fact that he seems to have had problems with multiple units, not because I didn't recognize the brand. And I *still* think a Y cable is worth a try. Weird stuff happens when power is marginal.
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