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Corrupt External Hard Drive

Posted on 2006-06-09
Last Modified: 2012-08-13

I had a Maxtor 300GB hard drive in an external Firewire case.  I had the drive for approx 2 weeks when the drive became corrupt.

I placed a question in this group and received lots of useful answers.


I retrieved as much data as I could and then got a new hard drive and case. This time I bought a Seagate 300GB hard drive with another external case. I have had the drive for 2 days and it is corrupt again!!

What could be going wrong ?

Please help.

Question by:davcage
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 16875626
Well ... the good news is you were able to recover most of your data from the first drive.

... the bad news is this problem is apparently not related to the drive ==> so let's consider a few possibilities:

(a)  Are you using the "Safely Remove Hardware" function before removing or powering down the drive?

(b)  Is this a dual-interface unit (USB & firewire) ??   If so, try it with the USB interface ==> reformat the drive (to be sure you're starting with a "clean" format -- and then see if you experience any corruption with USB.

(c)  Have you used the firewire port for other peripherals in the past (e.g. digital camcorders) => in other words, do you know it's working okay?

(d)  What external case are you using?   ... is it the same model as before?  (you said you got a "... new hard drive and case ...", but didn't note if it was a DIFFERENT model case)

(e)  Is the drive an IDE or SATA drive?   If SATA, is is SATA-150 or SATA-II ?   ... and if it's SATA-II did you install the rate-limiting jumper (to restrict it to SATA-150 speeds) ??   (I know your original drive was IDE, but you didn't note whether or not the Seagate drive is).

LVL 10

Expert Comment

ID: 16875651
Is the drive hooked up to a built-in USB port, or a USB port in an add-in card, like a PCI card?  I have seen a few cases where the USB controller was causing drive corruption, but all 3 cases were while the external drive was plugged into a USB port in a PCI card.  So here are some things to try that may help:

1) Plug the drive into a USB port all by itself (not into a USB hub)
2) If the USB port was on an add-in card, try a port on the motherboard of the PC
3) Try setting the drive to "optimize for quick removal" (which is the default setting) by Right-clicking on the drive -> Properties -> Hardware tab, select your USB drive -> Properties -> Policies tab and select "Optimize for quick removal"
4) Depending on what is getting corrupt, formatting the drive in NTFS may help.  Most external drives come formatted in FAT32 which is more compatible, but NTFS has some journaling capabilities that make it more robust than FAT.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 16875666
GuruGary ==> Note that this is an external FIREWIRE case
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Author Comment

ID: 16875738

Thanks for the speedy reply.

Yes I am using the "safely remove hardware option"

The case is a combo firewire and USB case - its a Skymaster case

I have formatted the drive in NTFS - I havent been given the FAT32 option

The drive is an IDE drive

I havent used the firewire port for anything else, so it may be a problem with the port

If I think to anything common about when the drives corrupted, I think that both times I was writing to my DVD writer - could that be related ?


Expert Comment

ID: 16875769

Make sure your bios supports LBA-48 bit and also that you are running XP SP1 or 2000 SP3.

It is possible the full drive size may not be fully known to the computer past 137 GB.  I don't think this is a known problem with USB, but it wouldn't hurt.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 16875773
If you get an IBM HItachi, it will likely last at least 3-5 years.  If it dies, you are certain that the IDE controller on the external enclosure is causing the drives to die.  But I suspect the Maxtor and seagate.

Why not just plug the drive to the internal secondary IDE controller.  If it is still bad, then it is a bad drive.
LVL 14

Expert Comment

ID: 16876961
Interesting point abt the DVD writing part. WHat program are you using to burn DVD?? Is it NEro?? Is it the latest version?

Is your BIOS updated to the latest version and are your IDE/SATA drivers the newest ones? Also if your motherboard has a SATA option and you are not using a SATA hard disk internally then i suggest that you disable the controllers from inside the BIOS. Also what about using the drive on the USB port and not the Firewire port?

Also just run across a memory check since bad RAM can cause similar data corruption problems too. http://www.memtest86.com/#download1

I dont really think its a problem with the firewaire port since when you use the port to copy data back and forth then you are not getting this error and only when you record DVD's which is an IDE function. On the other side i am not ruling out the possibility but my advice would be to rule out other things first. Changing to the USB port could also tell us more about the problem.

For now dont copy anything important to the drive and just try and copy data back and forth and see if the problem occurs. I dont think there shud be a problem if you have confirmed the steps i have given above.


LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 16877121
If you're using Firewire,M$ has a driver fix for a number of issues.
Check the date if the driver for firewire you are using and see if it matches this.

19-Oct-2004  23:49  5.1.2600.2532  53,248  1394bus.sys
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 16877165
Jbirk1 -- r.e.  "... Make sure your bios supports LBA-48 bit ..." ==> This makes NO difference with an external drive.   With external drives the important thing is that the EXTERNAL controller (the one in the enclosure) supports 48-bit LBA.


==>  Just for completeness r.e. the 48-bit LBA support question, please confirm that the drive did format to its full size.  (I suspect you'd have commented had it not)

==> Is your DVD burner an internal IDE drive or an external drive?   ... if external, is it USB or firewire?

==> There's no reason to do so, but if you wanted to format the drive with FAT32, there's no problem doing so.  XP won't let you format any partitions larger than 32GB with FAT32 (so you don't get the option), but it will work with larger FAT32 drives just fine.  The only real reason to format with FAT32 is if you need dual PC/Mac compatibility.   If you ever want to do this, here's how:

     (1)  Download FAT32Format from here:  http://www.ridgecrop.demon.co.uk/index.htm?fat32format.htm

     (2)  Using Disk Management, first delete the current partitions on the 60GH drive;  then create a new partition as a primary partition with the maximum size;  assign a drive letter (your choice); and select "Do Not Format This Partition".

     (3)  Now open a command prompt window (Start - Run - Cmd)  and type "fat32format x:"  where x: is the drive letter you assigned for the drive.

==>  If your DVD writer is internal, check in Device Manager and confirm that the IDE channels are all set to DMA mode.   Go to Device Manager, open the IDE/ATA/ATAPI controllers; right-click on the Primary and Secondary channel(s); select Properties; and look at the "Current Transfer Mode" for each device on the Advanced tab.   If ANY of these are PIO, we need to fix that (a simple registry mod) => post back and I'll give detailed instructions.

==>  Running good memory test for a couple of hours (as suggested by mysticaldan) is a good idea.  I'd use MemTest-86+ from www.memtest.org instead of the older MemTest that he linked to, however;  it has better support for newer chipsets (it's based on the same foundation code).

==>  Open RegEdit and look at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\lanmanworkstation\parameters
Do you have an item named "UtilizeNtCaching" ??   Just want to know for now - we may want to create one later based on your further feedback.

==>  Meanwhile, I'd do as I suggested yesterday:  reformat the drive and use the USB connection.   Since there may be a correlation between DVD burning and the corruption, burn a few DVD's with this setup and see if you have any issues.    ... and obviously (as noted above) don't put anything important on the drive until this is resolved :-)

==> Also, please post the details of your system configuration:  Motherboard make/model (or system make/model);  # of internal drives and type (both hard drives and optical drives);  amount of memory; etc.

LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 16877231
There is also a known problem with the NEC 1394 chipset

Check the date on the driver

27-Sep-2004  22:19  5.1.2600.2524      61,056  Ohci1394.sys

It does seem as if there are issues with FW on XP SP2,depending upon chipsets.

So if you are going to use FW,I would upgrade the 2 drivers and see what happens.

Just as a side note,I have, as of yet, bought a reliable, non brand name ,3rd part USB case.

If your serious about the external case and drive,I would look at Seagate ,WD or Adaptec as a controller.

Author Comment

ID: 16879519

Thanks all for the help so far - I have lots of checking to do and will report back as soon as I'm done.

I am using Windows XP SP2 and will check on all the drivers etc.

In terms of size of the drive, its a 300GB drive and the size reported in Windows is 279GB so thats OK isnt it ?

In terms of FAT32 vs NTFS, I dont need MAC/PC dual functionality so I assume NTFS is cool?

My DVD writer is an internal one and yes, I'm using Nero 6

Thanks again.

LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 16879776
"... 279GB so thats OK isnt it ?" ==> Yes, that's fine.  279GB = 279 x 1024 x 1024 x 1024 = 299,573,968,896 bytes (~ 300,000,000,000 bytes, which is what disk manufacturers call 300GB)

"... I assume NTFS is cool? " ==>  NTFS is fine;  as I noted, the only reason to format an external drive with FAT32 is if you need to use it on both PC's or Macs (or with Windows 98 or ME systems).

As I noted earlier, you should connect the drive via USB; then reformat it; and then use it for a while (and be sure to burn some DVD's from it).   If it works fine with that connection, you'll know the issue is the firewire connection; and can then troubleshoot that.

Author Comment

ID: 16883975

OK - I've updated my BIOS and done a memory test - all OK

I've reformatted the drive with USB and all seems OK too

How do I go about updating my firewire drivers ?

Is there any way to test the firewire port ?

LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 16885800
Testing a firewire port is difficult without very expensive diagnostic tools.   To test relatively easily requires another known-good firewire device; and another known-good firewire port => then you can simply use those to isolate whether the issue you're having is your PC's firewire port or your external driver's firewire connection.   One simply thing to try (if you haven't already) is a different firewire CABLE.

But I would also suggest you run the drive via USB for a fairly extended period (at least a week) and confirm that it's not giving you the same errors you had with the firewire connection.   That will at least give you some confidence in the drive and confirm that the issue is the interface.
LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 16886058


Once you get the drivers,go into  control panal,system, device manager ,find the icon for fw and do an update driver.
It will ask you for a path to the new driver.


Author Comment

ID: 16929703

OK - I've been using the drive via USB for a few days quite heavily and it seems to be OK.

How can I be sure that it is the Firewire port ?

My Firewire port is an on board port - should I buy a card with a Firewire port ?

Thanks again for all the help

LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 500 total points
ID: 16929985
The problem is isolating whether it's the PC's firewire port, or the external drive's firewire port that is causing the glitches.

Buying a card with a firewire port would be a good test ==> no guarantee it will resolve the issue; but if you still have problems it's almost certainly the external drive's firewire interface that's the problem.

... but at least you know the drive's okay -- and you can use it reliably with the USB interface.


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