External HD I/O Errors

June 8, 2009 at 12:12:25
Specs: Windows XP
I have two fairly new 500G external HDs - one WD and one Seagate. Both work fine on all computers except my older XP Home from which I want to copy some data. I've been having USB problems with the older computer (won't update iPod or iPhone) so I don't know if that is the problem. I've started getting an I/O error on the PC when I try to open the external HDs. They work fine everywhere else.
Any way to get them to work before the old pc dies?

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June 8, 2009 at 13:43:58
Your problem with connecting the iPod and the iPhone to that computer is probably caused by you not plugging them into a port directly connected to the mboard, such as when you are plugging into front ports on the case or a port in a hub, and the connection is inadequate for one reason or another.
That may also be the problem with the external hard drives, and/or, additionally, you may not be getting enough current from the port(s) for them.
Try plugging them into a port directly connected to the mboard - e.g. a port on the back if it's a desktop computer, or a port on the computer's case if it's a laptop .
Or - if it's a desktop computer, less likely, the power supply may be failing, or, rarely, you may have an IRQ sharing problem you need to fix.

For more info, see response 3 in this:

It usually doesn't matter if that computer has only USB 1.x support - the USB devices should still work, you may get messages that the USB 2.0 device will work better connected to a USB 2.0 port, but the max data transfer rate will be much slower than for USB 2.0.

If your computer mboard has USB 2.0 support, yet you are getting messages that the USB 2.0 device will work better connected to a USB 2.0 port, then you probably need to install the main chipset drivers for your mboard.

An external hard drive requires more current from the connection to the computer than most devices do. When it is connected to a computer via a USB (or firewire) cable connection the port (or ports) it connects must be able to be able to supply the max standard 500ma from the port (or in total from two ports.)

A 3.5" external drive always has an external power adapter you connect to it's case, as well as the USB cable you connect to the computer - the working external power adapter must be connected to the external drive' case, and the USB port on the computer must be able to supply 500ma of current, otherwise the external drive/it's enclosure can't get enough current (amperage; milliamps) to run properly.

A 2.5" external drive requires less current, but it requires at least 500ma from the one (or in total from two ) USB ports you connect it to, because the hard drive in it requires 500ma to start up properly. It usually doesn't come with an external power adapter that plugs into it.
It may come with
- one USB cable - a small USB connector on one end, and a normal sized one on the computer end
- or - one USB cable (a small USB connector on one end, and a normal sized one on the computer end), and another cable that plugs into a jack on the external drive's case that has a USB connector on the other end you plug into the computer if you need to.
- or one USB Y cable, a small USB connector on one end, and two normal sized ones on the computer end
- or one cable that's not a Y cable and the external case has a jack you can plug an external power adapter into.
- or a Y cable or two cables and it also has a jack for an external power adapter.

All desktop computers can supply 500ma from any USB (or firewire) port directly connected to the mboard, but some laptops cannot actually supply 500ma from any port directly connected to the mboard - if the drive won't work properly connected to one port, you have to connect a 2.5" external drive to two USB ports, or to one USB port and use an external power adapter, or a cable that plugs into a jack on the external drive's case that has a USB connector on the other end you plug into the computer, plugged into the external enclosure as well. If your 2.5" external enclosure has no jack to plug an external adapter into, if the drive came with only a single USB cable with a single USB connector on each end, then you may need to use a USB Y cable (sometimes you can order one from the manufacturer) with a small USB connector on one end, and two normal sized ones on the computer end.

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June 9, 2009 at 04:43:47
Thanks. I have been using the USB ports on the back of the PC and the WD drive has the external power adapter plugged directly into electrical socket.
Very possibly could be failure in the power supply to the USB ports. As I said, this computer is becoming fairly suspect which is why I want to move data off of it before it finally gives up the ghost.
I'll follow all your advice and hopefully the darn thing will work.
After that I'm taking it to the computer repair shop and letting them remove the data before they put it out of it's misery.

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June 9, 2009 at 08:41:10
It's very rare for anything more than one hardware thing at a time to be faulty on a computer.
I've been using the computer I am typing this on since the beggining of 2000 when I assembled it from new pieces and the only faulty thing I've had to replace is the power supply.
If your computer came with Win XP on it it's a lot newer than that

The power supply provides the accurate +5v d.c. voltage necessary for USB, but that's not the only thing that requires that - it also supplies +5v for lots of other things, including your floppy drive if you have one, and your optical (CD and/or DVD ) drive(s) - if the 5v is out of whack it's likely you also have other problems other than with the USB ports.

If it's the power supply, that's common, and relatively cheap to fix.

Some brands of power supply are well known to become faulty and eventually fail a lot more often than average - e.g. emachines computers and some other brand name system computers have BESTEC power supplies that have that reputation.

Check your PS.
See response 4 in this:

If it's a desktop computer, if it has a standard sized PS, you can replace it with any decent standard sized PS that has the same wattage capacity or greater.

You could try temporarily hooking up a PS from another computer you have if you want to make sure that's the problem before you spend any money.

Standard (PS/2) power supply size - 86mm high, 150mm wide, 140mm deep, or 3 3/8" h x 5 7/8" w x 5 1/2" d , or very close to that, though the depth can be more or less for some PSs.

Don't buy an el-cheapo PS.
See response 3 in this:

If, and only if, the mboard has a graphics card installed in a mboard slot............
Sometimes these days people upgrade their graphics card and doing that may require a PS with a greater capacity as well. If the original power supply's capacity can't handle the system with the changed graphics card installed, it will be slowly damaged and eventually fail.

Your power supply must have at least the minumum capacity required to support a system with the graphics card you are using installed, or the max graphics card you might install in the future.
(Onboard video - video built into the mboard - IS NOT A CARD!)
You can go to the video card maker's web site and look up the specs for the model - often under system requirements - the minimum PS wattage, and, more important, the minimum amperage the PS must supply at 12v is stated. If you don't find that, any card with the same video chipset including any letters after the model number has very similar minimum PS requirements.
If you want to cover any possible video card, a minimum 600 ot 650 watt power supply will handle any current high end video card, or even a X2 card (two video chipsets on one card) or two cards in two slots.

The data on your hard drive(s) is not at risk unless there's something wrong with the hard drive(s) itself(themselves).
Nothing you have mentioned so far indicates there's anything wrong regarding that.

Check your hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostics.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:

(thanks to Dan Penny for this link:)
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities

If you don't have a floppy drive, you can get a CD image diagnostic utility from most hard drive manufacturer's web sites, but obviously you would need to make a burned CD, preferably a CD-R for best compatibilty, on another computer if you need to.

If the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.

If it's a desktop computer....

It's possible, but extremely unlikely, that only the USB controller circuits are damaged on the mboard. E.g. that can happen if the computer was exposed to a harmful power event that produced voltage spikes or surges, such as a power failure or a lightning strike on your AC power grid. In that case, however, it's likely none of your USB devices would work properly.
That can often be fixed cheaply by installing a USB 2.0 controller card in a PCI slot, connecting your USB devices to that, and disabling the onboard USB controllers in the mboard's bios.

Even more unlikely is the mboard may have faulty electrolytic capacitors. In that case it's likely you would have other problems as well.Nothing you have mentioned so far indicates there's anything else wrong.

Open up your case and examine the mboard to see if you have bad capacitors, and/or other findable signs of mboard damage .

This was the original bad capacitor problem - has some example pictures.
History of why the exploding capacitors and which mboard makers were affected:

What to look for, mboard symptoms, example pictures:
Home page that site
- what the problem is caused by
- he says there are STILL bad capacitors on more recent mboards.

Pictures of blown capacitors, other components, power supplies, Athlon cpu's, etc.:

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June 9, 2009 at 10:15:45
Now that you mention it, the CD/DVD drive works intermittently lately. Figured the drive was failing - which I've had happen on a previous machine. Could be electrical though.

Thanks for all the info. Very helpful and much to try.

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June 9, 2009 at 11:48:48
The optical drive requires both accurate +5v and +12v - 3.5" floppy drives require only 5v. If the 5v is not present the drive won't work - if the voltage is more than 10% too high, the drive's circuits will be damaged eventually - if the voltage is more than 10% too low, the drive likely won't work properly.

If the 5v voltage goes too high, it tends, in my experience, to, as time goes by, fry the circuits in a floppy drive first, then optical drives, then cards in slots, in that order. The led on the floppy or optical drive may still work, the motor in it may still spin, the optical drive's tray may still eject and retract, but the operating system and the mboard won't recognize there being a disk in them.

For a CD or DVD drive, if nothing else is wrong, the most common thing that eventually makes them un-usable is after the drive has been used a lot the sleeve bearings in the motor have worn to the point that the resulting friction does not allow the motor to spin fast enough to achieve even the 1X speed of an audio CD, or the motor won't spin at all. It's easy to test for no spin at all - insert a CD, note it's position, retract the tray, let the drive try to spin it, retract the tray - if the CD's in the same position it's not spinning - but spinning too slowly or the motor starting to spin but then stopping when it should be spinning is harder to determine unless you remove the drive's top cover.

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