Close encounter with USB Drive Failure
<p>I ran into trouble when I tried to hook up two external USB 2.5 inch drives to my desktop computer. I'd been using them with no trouble on my employer's laptop, but my contract ran out, so I took them home and plugged the black one in.</p> <p>No problem. Drive works fine. I hooked up the silver drive, and the black one went offline. Error 10, says device manager. Silver drive works fine.</p> <p>Unhooked the silver drive, reconnected the black drive, still error 10. Removed all USB drives, deleted the devices in Device Manager, and rebooted. </p> <p>Windows recreated the USB devices, but the black drive still wouldn't work. I thought it sounded like it was repeatedly recalibrating the heads.</p> <p>Downloaded and installed the latest VIA 4-in-1 driver update (my motherboard uses a VIA chipset). Rebooted, reconnected the black drive. It works. Hooray!</p> <p>Not so fast. I hooked up the silver drive again, and the black drive went dead. Nothing I could do would cause it to work right. Mostly it was totally ignored by the computer.</p> <p>I could hear it making brrrip, brrrip, brrrip sounds. Out of desperation, I hooked it up to my wife's laptop. No problems at all. Figuring the drive was failing, I copied everything to another drive.</p> <p>But it bugged me that it worked on one PC but not another…</p> <p>It is one of those drives with a Y-cable, so it can draw power from multiple USB connections. On a whim, I hooked it to a powered USB hub. It spun up without making the dreaded 'recalibration' noise.</p> <p>Notice the appearance of the quotes around recalibration…</p> <p>The really interesting thing was that the USB hub was connected to AC power, but not to a computer.</p> <p>It turns out that the brrrip sound was the drive attempting to spin up, failing, and trying again. Apparently, even with the Y-cable, it was drawing too much power for the cheap USB system on my motherboard. I'm guessing that when the drive spin-up drew enough current, the voltage dropped below 5V and the drive controller quit. When the drive spun down, power went back above 5V and the drive started to spin up again. And again…</p> <p>The solution was to plug the DATA half of the Y cable into the computer and the POWER-ONLY half of the Y cable into the hub, using the hub as a power supply.</p> <p>The drive also has an input for 5V (with reversed polarity), so I found an old power supply, and rewired its connector to tip-negative, and now the drive works fine with just the data cable and the power supply connected. </p>