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  1. #1
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    Problem with Portable Drive

    I have two 2 TB portable Western Digital drives which I bought a few months ago. I have different files stored on each, each in the neighborhood of several hundred GBs of data.

    Recently, my desktop computer stopped assigning a drive letter to either drive when I connected it. In each case the device manager recognizes that a generic WD drive is connected, but no drive letter is assigned and I can't access the data.

    My desktop computer has WinXP SP3. I connected the drives to my laptop, also with WinXP SP3, and to my wife's laptop, with Win7, with exactly the same results. After trying a number of things I finally gave up and brought one of the drives to a data recovery place, which charged $80 to recover the data. Oddly, when the guy at the shop connected the drive to his Win7 machine, it recognized the drive right away, so he didn't have to do anything special to recover the data. All he had to do was transfer it to a 1 TB drive that I provided to him.

    I have two questions. First, why would I have this kind of problem, and is there a way to fix it? If I hadn't had access to my wife's Win7 laptop, I would have suspected that perhaps the problem was some sort of difference between WinXP and Win7. But since I had the same problem on her computer, that apparently isn't the case.

    Second, if there isn't a way to solve this problem, how do I securely delete the data from the drives before I dispose of them? Since our computers don't "see" these drive (neither in normal nor safe mode), I don't see how to reformat them or run an data shredding program.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Well, its a scratch your head kind of hard to believe the coincidence that the drives would glitch in the same way at about the same time. Also if it were just one system I'd be almost certain that its the USB mass storage recognition protocol that went on the fritz, I've had that happen and simply deleting all the USB controllers in device manager and letting them rebuild themselves during a restart solved the problem. I had another case where the system was trying to assign a letter that was already taken, not sure why but solved that problem by just reassigning all conflicting letters involved.

    But that was dependent on them showing up in Disk management. If the WD drives show up in the device manager I would think they would also show up in disk management (without a letter assigned). Did you check there and were they not there? If they are, you can right click on them and perform some task/operations like change drive letters or explore the drive, so if you haven't done that yet I'd try that first.

    Otherwise if they are absent from disk management and rebuilding all the USB controllers doesn't do the trick, you will probably need a boot disk with some utilities on it (like Parted Magic) that can see and format or otherwise condition the drives, or take it to another system that can see the drives. But if another system readily sees the drives again its more evidence that the drives are actually ok and that your two systems are glitching, which doesn't make me scratch my head quite as much as both drives having the same problem; same make and model can sometimes cause this problem if you were swapping them for one another on the same system in the same port.

  3. #3
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    I don't have an explanation, but a suspicion, that the initial cause of the problem with the two drives stemmed from my use of a Briefcase type program (ComparatorPro). Before the problem developed I had experienced a system freeze while using Comparator with each drive. (I had also experienced freezes while using the program with other, 1 TB drives -- freezing apparently can happen if the program is used with too many files -- but my drive-recognition problem occurred only for the two 2 TB drives.) I didn't mention this earlier because I figured that the ultimate problem had to be with the drives themselves, since I couldn't see them only any of three computers, but could see one of them on a fourth computer (the repair shop's computer).

    The drives did not show up in disk management, even though they showed up in the device manager (without drive letter assigned). Oddly, however, I looked again just now, just to be sure, and discovered -- lo and behold -- that the drive that I had taken to the data recovery people now appears and has a drive letter assigned to it when I connect it to either my desktop or my laptop. That is, it seems normal in all respects. The drive that I didn't take to the data recovery shop is still inaccessible.

    I'm positive that the data recovery shop didn't do anything to "fix" the drive that now works again. At least the shop didn't do anything to it intentionally. I was there when they connected it to their Win7 machine, and the computer immediately recognized the drive in the customary manner (remember that, as mentioned in my initial post, my wife's Win7 machine had not recognized the same drive). After that, all they did was copy the files from the problem drive to another one that I had given them. Yet here I am with the drive working again.

    This is now such a bizarre problem that I'm not expecting a solution. Though if an explanation is apparent, I'd certainly like to hear it. Otherwise, I'm guessing that my best course is to simply disposed of the drives. I can simply wipe the one that now works again (I'll still get rid of it since I don't want to rely on it) and then dispose of it, but the problem remains that if my computer can't see the the second drive, I don't know of a way to wipe it. Any inexpensive suggestion on that score? Other than a cheap hand grenade?

    Thanks.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Bob,

    Have you tried Infinicore's suggestion to delete all the USB controllers from Device Manager, Reboot and let them be rediscovered by Windows? I'd give that a try before I did anything else.
    May the Forces of good computing be with you!

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  5. #5
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    And there's always someone else's system they should be tried on; the fact that they worked for the repair shop with no special treatment is a strong contrary opinion, especially when they are recognized right away as if there isn't anything wrong at all.

    The one that can be seen now can also be tested; CrystalDiskInfo and WD has Data Lifeguard Diagnostic tool and even SeaTools from Seagate may work. If it passes all tests I wouldn't throw it out just yet.
    Also Parted Magic, a LINUX utility boot disc has GParted on it and if that can see and manipulate the drive with ease or Darik's Boot and Nuke software has a beta boot disc now you could try if you just wanted to securely erase all the contents of the drive (provided it was working). Otherwise, yes many rapid concussions between cement and hammer will quickly destroy all contents as well.

    There's at least a loaded six gun of testing and non-Windows manipulation you can fire at that drive.

  6. #6
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    First, if you bought them two months ago, they will certainly still be under warranty.

    Second, I realize that the names are the same, but just in case we are arriving at it by different routes, the way I reach the point at which I can assign a drive letter is Start, right-click on Computer, left-click on Manage, left-click on Disk Management, then right-click on a drive that is displayed but has no letter and see what options you have. (If you don't have the option to assign or change the drive letter, separately or in Properties, I think it may have been formatted for Linux.)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by RetiredGeek View Post
    Have you tried Infinicore's suggestion to delete all the USB controllers from Device Manager, Reboot and let them be rediscovered by Windows? I'd give that a try before I did anything else.
    Oops. In the excitement (or whatever) of seeing that one of the drives was suddenly accessible again, I forgot to mention that I had deleted the controllers without its solving the problem. Sorry for the oversight.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogberry View Post
    First, if you bought them two months ago, ...
    I thought of the warranty, but what with the fact that the data recovery place's computer could access the one drive I brought there, and the fact that I may have caused the problem by using Comparator, I decided that the process of making a claim would be too aggravating.

    The problem drive (now only one of the two drives, since the one miraculously became accessible again after I paid to have the data copied from it) isn't displayed at all in Disk Management. See attachment 'A', which shows my drives. At the time I took the screen image, I had two drives attached: the problem drive and an 8 GB drive. The latter is shown as Drive 'K', but the former isn't shown at all. (Due to the size of the window, the screen capture doesn't show two more drives, both DVD drives.) Attachment 'B', on the other hand, shows the Device Manager, which displays both the 8 GB drive ("PNY USB 2.0 FD USB Device") and the problem drive ("WD Ext HDD 1021 USB Device"). And attachment 'C' shows the properties of the problem drive: reported as "working properly" even though it has no drive letter assigned to it and I can't access it. (Note: I did try the troubleshooter, and it got me nowhere.) Truly baffling to me.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinicore View Post
    And there's always someone else's system ...
    Thanks for the suggestion. I'll see if the problem drive can be accessed on a friend's computer. If it can, I'll wipe it then. In the meanwhile, I've downloaded the programs you suggested, and will try them out later today. But unless I can actually identify a specific cause of the problem (so I'll know how to either avoid or correct it in the future), I'm strongly inclined to junk both drives, since my back ups have to be dependable.

    Thanks again.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FightingBob View Post
    Thanks for the suggestion. I'll see if the problem drive can be accessed on a friend's computer. If it can, I'll wipe it then. In the meanwhile, I've downloaded the programs you suggested, and will try them out later today. But unless I can actually identify a specific cause of the problem (so I'll know how to either avoid or correct it in the future), I'm strongly inclined to junk both drives, since my back ups have to be dependable.

    Thanks again.
    Bob,

    Don't put it in a landfill...send it to me, I'll even pay the postage.
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  11. #11
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    I've seen references on the web of USB connector issues with some WD portable drives. Perhaps you are seeing intermittent good/bad connections to the drive logic board?

    Jerry

  12. #12
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    It might help if you told us the model of the drive. There is lot of variety among drives, but a large user base among readers here, so it helps to pin it down.

    I am also surprised that you haven't sought help directly from WD, who surely offer support. Check the FAQ for your model first - you may not be the only one having problems, and it's a lot less expensive than a repair shop.

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    I have been reminded by my computer with a fussy external drive today that good old continuity is something we mustn't take for granted. I have two USB connections on the front of the machine, and four in the rear, and I discovered the hard way that the front connectors are such a sloppy fit at this stage of their life that the (sensitive) drive won't work reliably with either of them, but it is running very well indeed now that I have plugged it into the rear. You can have poor continuity anywhere, but frequently-used (or old) connectors are particularly susceptible. You may have enough juice to show that a drive is present, but not enough to do much else.

    You have said that you have had it working several times, so this probably won't apply, but it never hurts to be sure the thing is spinning up when it should or is showing any drive lights, just to be sure it really is powered. You have said that it is a portable, which probably means USB-powered, and it may be having trouble getting enough power to run the drive. If you have a USB-Y cable for it you may find it helps to use that for a bit of a power boost. You also want a short cable (gold plated connectors, of course), and if it has a Mini-USB connector, well, so does mine, and it's really drinking through a straw. As for a stand... Say, I am rambling, aren't I?

    Great fun, but not for the poor frustrated User. Sometimes you do get ideas from rambling, though, because if all of your power is being fed through the USB cable to the drive you're in the same boat that I'm in, and my portable drive is acting up as well.

  14. #14
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    This thread is getting sort of long and admittedly I've not read every word, but.....
    I have two WD drives, that work, and both came out of External Drive enclosures, where they had stopped working.
    There are so many problems with WD External Drives that I would NEVER buy one on a bet. I would not hesitate, however, to get one from Seagate, for instance.

    To recover data from a failed WD external drive, I would pull the drive out of the enclosure, slave it to my own desktop PC and access the drive with Windows Explorer. So far, that's never failed.
    Never throw away any external drive, just because you can't access it. Over 99% of the time, the problem is NOT the Hard Drive itself, but the logic in the external drive enclosure, or the External Drive's Power Supply. Save the drive and throw away the rest.

    Good Luck,
    The Doctor
    Last edited by DrWho; 2011-11-10 at 09:55.
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  15. #15
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    Dr, the portable WD drives are one molded piece and are not installed in enclosures. You can't separate the physical hard drive.

    Jerry

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