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  1. #1
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    W7 only partially recognizes external HDD; Win. Explorer will, Win. Backup won't

    My wife and I are running two desktop units, both W7 Pro, SP1, and for a long time I have been faithfully backing up both computers each week to a 1TB external HDD. Lately, however, my wife's machine has started to develop problems in backing up and refuses to recognize the external HDD. Thinking it was just a problem with the backup program we're using - EaseUS ToDo Free 6.0, which performs superbly on my machine and really saved my bacon when my year-old internal HDD suddenly died - I switched back to their older version 4.5, which seemed to work at first, but grudgingly, taking 2 minutes to initialize, where on my machine it would take more like 2 seconds. I have switched back and forth on her machine between versions 6.0 and 4.5, but to no avail. I can back up her internal HDD to its own D: drive, but of course that doesn't help, as it defeats the whole purpose of having a backup. However, when I tried backing her machine up to its D: drive and then trying to move the 43GB file to the external HDD, the transfer failed.

    I figured I could get around this by backing up with the Windows Backup program, but again, the transfer failed, as shown in the images below).
    W7 Backup failed.jpgEaseUS Backup failed.jpg

    What's odd, however, is that Windows Explorer shows the external HDD and I can browse the folders and files on it, so W7 at least recognizes the HDD to some extent, but apparently it will no longer allow programs to connect or write to that drive. That said, when I plugged the external HDD into her computer, the AutoPlay window was very slow to appear, whereas on my machine it pops up almost immediately.

    I'm not sure what's going on, but this is getting really frustrating, as I'm no longer able to back up her machine, on which we have some important company records. Any thoughts as to what's going on and how to get it sorted out will be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Al
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  2. #2
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    Have you tried running a chkdsk /R command on the external disk?
    Rui
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  3. #3
    Star Lounger Wiley's Avatar
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    i presume that you do know that hard drives have to have a minimum of 10% of the drive space open to do the read/write. (if you pull a file up, change one word, then save it - - what the computer does is writes a brand new file to the drive and then it deletes the original file)

    that said, is either your wife's harddrive or your 1TB close to being full?

    from your discription of the problem, the first thought is your wife's hd is where the problems lies.
    if you can see/read from the 1TB from your pc then it appears that yours and the 1TB are okay.

    the first thing i would do on her drive is CHKDSK /F
    the second is defrag

  4. #4
    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    It's possible that your external hard drive has a hardware issue, either in the USB interface, or in the drive itself.

    Does the drive work without issue when plugged into another computer?

  5. #5
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    Hi, Ruirib,

    Thanks for your prompt response. When I tried doing a chkdsk /r on the external HDD from my wife's computer, it said: "The type of the file system is RAW. CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives." Hmmm....... Not what I wanted to see.

    I next clicked on the various folders in the external HDD that were shown in my wife's Windows Explorer. Each folder on the HDD is for one of our several computers, some rarely used, so only occasionally backed up, while our two W7 machines are backed up weekly. What was interesting was that when I checked the individual subfolders - one for each backup on each machine - the oldest ones (I always keep at least two, and usually three, of the most recent backups, just in case), dated 8Oct13, all showed up fine with the correct number of GB for each backup. However, the more recent ones - e.g., 15Oct13 and 24Oct13 - showed up as empty folders, not only for her machine, but for mine as well.

    Becoming concerned, I then plugged the external HDD into my machine, but when I checked those same subfolders, both the older and more recent backups all showed the correct number of GB and none of them showed up as empty folders. Since the backup program works quickly and flawlessly, and the files and folders all show up normally on the external HDD when it's attached to my computer, my current assumption is that something on her computer isn't allowing it to recognize the external HDD, or at least to recognize it completely, since Windows Explorer does at least find the HDD and the main folders (eventually, although it seems to take quite a long time for the HDD drive to appear in the Computer listing).

    Also, there have been times when I've plugged the external HDD into my wife's machine, seen the drive light go on and heard the Windows "device attached" sound, but then not been able to see the HDD listed as a drive under the Computer in Windows Explorer. I've then clicked on the Safely Remove Hardware icon to remove the HDD and start again, only to find that the HDD was not listed there as an attached USB drive, so perhaps W7 is starting to load the HDD normally as an external USB drive, then aborts or reverses the process and the drive is no longer connected. This may be a separate issue from the main one in this thread, but I thought I should mention it, as it might be related to the "non-recognition" problem that appears to be happening on that machine.

    I'm not sure what's happening, nor why it suddenly started messing up, as the backups used to happen on that machine flawlessly, using the same backup program and same external HDD. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'll be most grateful.

    Cheers,
    Al
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiley View Post
    that said, is either your wife's harddrive or your 1TB close to being full?

    from your discription of the problem, the first thought is your wife's hd is where the problems lies.
    if you can see/read from the 1TB from your pc then it appears that yours and the 1TB are okay.
    Hi, Wiley,

    Thanks for the idea, but I don't think that's the issue. As noted in my reply to Ruirib, my computer reads the 1TB HDD just fine, so the drive doesn't appear to be the problem. As to being full, the 1TB HDD is about half full, while my wife's C: drive has 13.6GB free out of 123GB and her D: drive has 797GB free out of 808GB, so I don't see space as being an issue. Then again, I'm very open to thoughts from wiser heads than mine.

    Cheers,
    Al
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  7. #7
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    Hi,

    It's a bit puzzling, your situation. I would still run the previously advised chkdsk command on the external drive, from your computer, just to be totally sure there are no issues with the drive, even if your own computer reads from it without issues.

    Does the problem show regardless of the USB port used to connect the drive to your wife's computer?
    Rui
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  8. #8
    Super Moderator bbearren's Avatar
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    On your wife's PC, open an elevated command prompt and run sfc /scannow
    Create a fresh drive image before making system changes, in case you need to start over!

    "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Savvy?"—Captain Jack Sparrow "When you're troubleshooting, start with the simple and proceed to the complex."—M.O. Johns "Experience is what you get when you're looking for something else."—Sir Thomas Robert Deware.
    Unleash Windows

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruirib View Post
    Hi,

    It's a bit puzzling, your situation. I would still run the previously advised chkdsk command on the external drive, from your computer, just to be totally sure there are no issues with the drive, even if your own computer reads from it without issues.

    Does the problem show regardless of the USB port used to connect the drive to your wife's computer?
    Hi, mrjimphelps, ruirib, and bbearen

    I've been working on testing various hardware combinations since mrjimphelps suggested that the problem might be in the USB interface, which is why I've delayed in replying to your various helpful posts, for which I thank you all. Here's what I've found.

    My wife's computer has two USB3 ports I'll call A and B. I had always plugged the external HDD into port A and it had always worked fine until a few weeks ago, when this problem started happening. One added complication is that two or three weeks ago I bought two USB3 extension cables, one for each computer, so that I wouldn't have to pull out the computers to get to the USB3 ports on the back. To the best of my recollection (and my wife's), this problem had started to occur before I added the extension cable, but when mrjimphelps mentioned the USB interface, I decided to experiment.

    Test 1
    First I plugged the HDD directly into port B (with no extension cable), instead of the customary port A, and although it still took far longer for the AutoPlay window to pop up than on my machine, and although it still took over two minutes for the EaseUS backup program to initialize (vs. about 2-3 seconds on my PC), the backup program worked and I got a successful backup, which left me hugely relieved.

    Test 2
    I figured then that the problem was probably port-specific, as B had worked (albeit slowly) when A hadn't, but just to be sure, I then put the extension cable between the HDD and port B. Much to my dismay, that failed as well, so my port-specific theory was in jeopardy.

    Test 3
    Next I took the USB3 extension cable from my machine, which had had no problems, and used it to hook up the HDD to port B on my wife's machine, and again it took over two minutes for the EaseUS backup program to initialize (vs. about 2-3 seconds on my PC), but the backup finally began. However, it immediately stopped and a small window popped up from the system tray to say that a USB device attached to the computer had malfunctioned and was disconnected. The drive light on the external HDD was dark and the Safely Remove Hardware icon was gone from the system tray, so the connection between the PC and the HDD had clearly been broken. This popup warning window and disconnection notice had happened several times before - though not every time - when backups had failed.

    Test 4
    As Ruirib suggested, I ran the chkdsk /r command on the external HDD from my computer, but it appears that everything is OK:

    Chkdsk on 1TB HDD.png

    Test 5
    As bbearen suggested, I ran the sfc /scannow command on my wife's computer, but modifed it to sfc /verifyonly so that it would let me know if there were any problems, but wouldn't change anything until I had a chance to see what the problem was. Fortunately, the response was: "Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations," so the system files on my wife's computer appear to be fine

    After all that testing, I think I'm back to square one. If my Test 1 wasn't just a fluke and I can limp along and get regular backups by directly connecting the HDD to port B on my wife's computer, that will at least keep our records safe in the short term, but I still need to figure out how to get her computer to backup as easily and quickly as mine does, using the same backup software and same HDD, and just as it used to do before this all started happening a few weeks ago.

    Thanks again to all of you for all your help. If anyone has any further ideas, I'll be most grateful; my brain is drained!

    Cheers,
    Al
    Last edited by HealingHands33; 2013-10-25 at 18:48. Reason: Add image
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  10. #10
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    Doesn't it look like to you that the problem may be the extension cables? Didn't the backup complete only when you did not use them?

    I would try inserting the HDD directly into port A and then see if the backup proceeds normally. If it does, I think that will establish the cables as the cause of your problem.
    Rui
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  11. The Following User Says Thank You to ruirib For This Useful Post:

    HealingHands33 (2013-10-25)

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruirib View Post
    Doesn't it look like to you that the problem may be the extension cables? Didn't the backup complete only when you did not use them?

    I would try inserting the HDD directly into port A and then see if the backup proceeds normally. If it does, I think that will establish the cables as the cause of your problem.
    Well, if the cables are the problem, why does the backup complete quickly and flawlessly on my machine when I am using the extension cable?

    I am certainly open to running another test and will give it a try as soon as I can, but even if it works, my question above remains.

    Hmmm.......

    Cheers,
    Al
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    Quote Originally Posted by HealingHands33 View Post
    Well, if the cables are the problem, why does the backup complete quickly and flawlessly on my machine when I am using the extension cable?

    I am certainly open to running another test and will give it a try as soon as I can, but even if it works, my question above remains.

    Hmmm.......

    Cheers,
    Al
    Al,

    I don't know if they are, I just looked at your tests and it seems a possibility. I can be wrong, but it seems it is something that should be tested. I would .

    It may be the combination of the cables and your wife's USB ports. I just noticed that, from your description, the backup only worked without the cables.
    Rui
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    Hi, Rui,

    I appreciate the suggestion and just started another test by plugging the HDD directly into port A on my wife's PC. The AutoPlay window still takes a very long time (probably most of a minute, if not more) to pop up on her computer (vs. only a few seconds on mine), and EaseUS still takes over 2 minutes to initialize on her machine, instead of 2-3 seconds on mine, but the backup finally started and is now complete.

    My question, though, remains: Why do the extension USB3 cables work perfectly on my machine and not on hers? The cables don't affect performance one iota on my machine, so I'm having trouble wrapping my tiny brain around the idea that the cables are the problem on hers.

    Further questions come to mind: Why does AutoPlay take so long on her machine - with or without the extension cable - when I plug in the HDD, while on my machine it pops up promptly? Why does it take the backup program about 60 times as long to initialize on her machine - with or without the extension cable - than it does on my machine, with (or without) the extension cable? Clearly the post-plug-in process and backup initialization process are greatly slowed down on her machine vs. mine, with or without the extension cable, even though they used to run just as quickly and flawlessly as they still do on mine. [Sigh!]

    Thanks for all your help.

    Cheers,
    Al
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    Hi Al,

    I am glad you seem to have found the cause. Knowing why the cables behave like that may be harder. It may be a number of things, I suppose - electrical characteristics, drivers, controllers...

    I have seen AutoPlay being immediate or being very slow, as well. Again, it may be related to the previous point, or it may even due to different used space in her disk, disk performance - Acronis takes a lot of time to start in my desktop, while it is almost immediately on my laptop, with the same disk connected to both.
    Rui
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  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruirib View Post
    Hi Al,

    I am glad you seem to have found the cause. Knowing why the cables behave like that may be harder. It may be a number of things, I suppose - electrical characteristics, drivers, controllers...

    I have seen AutoPlay being immediate or being very slow, as well. Again, it may be related to the previous point, or it may even due to different used space in her disk, disk performance - Acronis takes a lot of time to start in my desktop, while it is almost immediately on my laptop, with the same disk connected to both.
    Hi, Rui,

    At the moment, it does appear that it is at least possible to create backups on her machine, which is a huge relief, though I'll put that theory to the test when I backup our computers next week, after which I'll post again if there's any news.

    Nonetheless, I always find myself ill at ease with problems like this which have contradictory evidence that makes the apparent solution illogical. Even if this apparent success persists, my disquiet will remain until I somehow can make sense of the contradiction, especially since her machine had none of the above-mentioned delays, and did backups on this HDD as quickly and flawlessly as mine, up until only a few weeks ago. That simply doesn't make any sense to me. Oh, well..........

    Again, many thanks for your excellent help.

    Cheers,
    Al
    Windows 7 Pro, 64-Bit, SP1 on desktop
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