External HDD - Causes a long login time & can't view files.

Posted on 2006-07-14
Last Modified: 2010-04-03
Up until now, my external hard drive has been working fine with no problems. It is used to hold all my music/videos/other media.

I leave my external HDD plugged into my computer almost all the time, and so when I boot my computer, there are no problems.

Yesterday, I booted my computer and the time it took to go from the "Windows" loading screen with the green bars, to the login screen was a lot longer (from around 3 seconds, to around 5 minutes). Also, the time between typing in the login details to displaying the full desktop + icons was longer (around 5-10 minutes).
Even when i've logged in, it just displays my background for a long time and I have to CTRL-ALT-DEL and restart explorer.exe around 5 times for it to finally display the icons and "start" bar; and even then, the whole system runs slowly - no windows open when the icons are clicked.. It's a nightmare..

So I decided to systematically go through potential problems.. I first scanned my whole computer for viruses, malware, spyware, everything. There were one or two hits, which were cleaned easily.
I then checked msconfig for any weird startup processes, and also used Autoruns to checkup on any strange activity. I spent a few hours searching through Google for similar problems, and those which came up just had the step-by-step instructions of checking msconfig etc etc etc, all those which i've already tried. And even after all this checking, it still took ages to boot/login.

I then went to the last resort and reinstalled Windows, formatting everything in the process.
I then booted the computer, and things worked fine! So I then set about reinstalling all my motherboard drivers, sound drivers, etc etc, and I had no problems. I downloaded my anti-virus etc programs, Firefox, yadda yadda.. no viruses involved there.

I then decided to install my external hard drive drivers; so I plugged the Ext-HDD into the computer (it wasn't connected to it while I reinstalled Windows) and the drivers installed, and it said the installation was successful.

So I then went on My Computer and double clicked on 'E:' (the external hdd), and it loaded up a blank window, with no documents. Hmm, I thought, that's strange. I know there are definitely files on there (i'm 100% sure of that) but for some odd reason, they aren't being picked up.
I then continued installing my general software (and a few games), and then restarted my computer.

The computer boots and by now i'm hitting my head on the table yelling "AAAAHHH!"..
I then quickly calmed down and thought "okay, since the last boot where it worked perfectly, I installed X, Y, and Z, and attached the HDD - The software i've checked before and that hasn't been the cause, so i'll try removing the EXT-HDD" .. and voila, it worked perfectly again.

So I came to the conclusion that it's my external hard drive that is somehow blocking windows from working nicely. Windows and my External Hard drive have suddenly decided to fall out - and I don't know the cause of this. I need access to this Hard Drive, it has a few important files on. But every time I connect it up after logged in, no files appear - it's just a blank window (and I repeat, i'm 100% sure that there are files on it). And the problem isnt only when booting, even if i'm already logged in, and I have programs running - If I plug in the Ext-HDD, the whole computer slows down suddenly. I even tried doing a full virus/spyware/etcetc scan of the drive, but it would just crash every time.
I tried plugging the HDD into a differnet USB port - no luck.
I check the device manager for any yellow alerts (and also went view>show hidden) - no alerts.
I did a virus scan on the drive, but it only appeared to have scanned 39 files (whereas I have around 120 GB worth of media on it), and it says that the "Last Object Scanned was: C:\WINDOWS\System32\config\systemprofile\...\deskt op.ini".. A file which clearly isn't on the HDD itself. It also returned no hits in terms of viruses.

The Ext-HDD started playing up on the 12th July - and on that day nothing was installed or modified on the computer which may have caused it. I tried doing a System Restore to 11th July (before I reinstalled Windows), but the problem wasn't fixed.

Any help would be appreciated. :D

Relevant specs:
Ext-HDD = Philips SPD5100CC 160GB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive (
Motherboard = Asus A8V
OS = Windows XP SP2
Question by:Teisani
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LVL 88

Accepted Solution

rindi earned 125 total points
ID: 17113252
Download getdataback and scan the external drive with it. It should show you if anything is recoverable. If it can scan the drive and sees recoverable data pay for it so you can actually copy the data off. You will need enough free space on another drive for that.

If you have no luck with the above, downlaod a copy of the knoppix cd or DVD, burn it and boot your PC with that CD or DVD with the external disk attached. If you can access the drive with knoppix and view the data, you will also be able to copy off the data.

If neither of the above works, you can try opening the USB case and removing the drive, then attach it to the PC as a 2nd drive using one of the internal connecters. Now repeat the above 2 steps. If neither work and your data is worth it, send the drive to gillware for recovery.
LVL 92

Expert Comment

ID: 17113468
some things to try :
1- connect the drive to another pc; it might work (i doubt it)
2- define which is going bad : the disk or the enclosure. To do this, take the disk out of the enclosure, and hook it to you secondary IDE channel/cable - disconnect all cd drives from it. If you can now access the drive, it is ok, and you have a bad enclosure; if not , vice versa

Author Comment

ID: 17114262
Whenever I plug the Ext-HDD in, it is detected (and I hear the familiar Windows tune made when a USB device is plugged in), and it is displayed in My Computer.
But when I right click on the drive, and go "properties", it appears to have "Used space: 0bytes" and "Free space: 0bytes".

On GetDataBack, it doesn't seem to pickup that the HDD is attached (eventhough it displays it in My Computer).

I just found out that my HDD started playing up because of the latest (or one of the latest) Windows Updates. I do not know which one exactly, but it has clearly done some damage to it, and so when I reinstalled Windows, the damage appeared to be semi/or fully permanent.
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Author Comment

ID: 17114309
Okay, I booted into Ubuntu using a live CD, and I am able to access the drive and can clearly see all the files.

Now how would I access my C: through the live boot?
LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 17114435
I don't know ubuntu well and am not sure if it can write to HD's and in particular whether it can write to ntfs partitions, but ptobably not. The newest knoppix version has full writing support to ntfs. Another option would be to build a connection to a pc which has shared folders, then you'd just connect to the network share and copy the files from the USB disk to that network share.
LVL 92

Expert Comment

ID: 17114682
try booting with bart pe, and access the drive that way 

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