XP does not 'pickup' external USB HDD (any more)

Posted on 2010-08-20
Last Modified: 2012-05-10
I bought an external HDD (in a case) from Maplin. It has it's own external seprate power supply and connects to the PC via a USB cable.

All was well for the first couple of months. I only turned it on when I needed to backup or retrieve files. Otherwise, for the greater part, it has remeined turned off (but sometimes still connected to the PC).

In the meanwhile, I have installed and upgraded 3 different mobile telephone suites. Nokia's PC Suite, Nokia's OVI suite and Samsungs PC Suite at various times so that I can attach any of 3 different phones to the PC. A lot of the times, successful communication with the phones relied on a reboot of the PC.

Recently, I attached the external HDD and XP failed to pick it up. However, on careful examination, I did notice XP would initially pick up the drive and even assign it a drive letter. I could see this in Explorer. However, after only 2 seconds or so, it would disappear again.

My first reaction was to uninstall all the mobile telephone software and drivers as I thought it might have something to do with that. Still no luck.

Now, when I plug in the HDD, XP doesn't even acknowledge it.

I Googled this problem for several hours and stumbled upon a Microsoft recommendation to remove 2 settings from the registry. I did this but still no luck.

I ran SFC /SCANNOW but still no luck.

I am at a loss.

What diagnostics steps should I take to discovering why I'm having this problem?

And what can I do to fix it?
Question by:t0t0
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Expert Comment

ID: 33483545
Does it show up under disk management, if so try right-click on it and assign it a different drive letter.
LVL 87

Expert Comment

ID: 33483687
Test the external HD on another PC to see if it still works or not. If the other PC can't see it either, then it's broken. If that is the case, and if the Warranty has expired, try opening the USB case and remove the HD from it, then attach it internally to a PC and check if you can access the files then.

Expert Comment

ID: 33483858
The Ext HD is probably toasted.

Expert Comment

ID: 33484046
Does it in disappear from device manager in the same way as it does from explorer?

Try at least 2 different usb cables (they can get damaged internally quite easily)

Does it sound like it keeps trying to spin up?

It may not be getting sufficient power, any indicator lights on the power supply? Any alternative power supply available?
LVL 16

Author Comment

ID: 33484365

to answer all your questions.

the external hdd is only 3 moths old (or should I say 'new'?)...

the only other machine i have close to me right now is a Windows 7 box.

i plugged the hdd's usb cable into the win7 box and connect the power. i switched on the power on the wall socket and win7 picked up the drive straight away and gave it the letter 'H'.

i was able to confirm all data is intact on the drive and i was able to copy files to and from the drive (although  it was a short test).

i am satisfied the external hdd (western digital) is working fine.

normally, as in win7, explorer shows the drive as a small blue icon with 'WD' drawn on it instead of the usual older-type icon windows normally displays. quite nifty really. anyway, this does occur in my winXP box but as i said earlier, only for a short moment and then it vanishes again.

i used all the same cables when connecting to the win7 box as i do when connecting to the xp box.

the hdd does not make any significant noises - in fact it's pleasantly quiet but held up to the ear, i can hear it gently whirring away.

while the hdd was connected to the xp box, and while it briefly showed up in explorer and then disappeared, i fired up windows management. there was no sign of the drive whatsoever.

i used another usb socket. still no joy.

i have minimum services running in the background (uncluttered from the usual mess people get themselves into) so i am fairly confident nothing is interfering with the usb ports.
LVL 16

Author Comment

ID: 33484386
oops! i meant.... "instead of the 'F'older-type icon windows normally displays"
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Accepted Solution

ConUladh earned 500 total points
ID: 33484430
Add in your system environment variables the variable
set it's value to: 1
reboot your machine
goto your device manager
show all hidden devices

Now you can see all devices you ever installed including the ones that still have drives installed but are no longer in use. You should then be able to uninstall this external drive along with every other one that was ever connected. Following this reconnect the drive and see if it reinstalls.

Without this environment variable you will not see the devices that are no longer present.

Expert Comment

ID: 33485568
sounds like USB drivers on the XP machine, have you installed any updates recently?
LVL 16

Author Comment

ID: 33488635

Gonna give your suggestion a try in a mo...


I try to keep my XP updated with the latest fixes etc... Hanven't had reason to specifically muck about with the USB stuff though...
LVL 16

Author Comment

ID: 33489599

ConUladh - You are a GOD!!!!

Thank you SO SO SO SO SO SO VERY much!!!!

I did as directed and after rebooting, there were loads of hidden stuff and USB stuff that was cluttering my system.

There were also loads of 'unknown' devices as well as yellow exclamation marks.

I uninstalled the lot - EVERYTHING.

After rebooting a second time, XP detected and installed everything correctly - USB controllers, mouse, mass storage devices, printer etc etc...

I plugged in my external HDD and I swear I heard sweat sound of angels singing in the distant as XP reported a new mass storage device. It installed the necessary driver and hey presto! I dropped to my knees with tears in my eyes from sheer joy!

Dramatic - maybe, but this has been plaguing me for years... You have shown me how to solve this problem should it ever occur again in the future - forever, just as it has coutless time in the past.

I really cannot thank you enough.

There is absolutely no way I'm going to split the points on this one because quite frankly, there isn't enough points to award you let alone anyone else!

Thank you :)
LVL 16

Author Closing Comment

ID: 33489601
ConUladh is a GOD.

I only wish I had asked this question 3 years ago!

Expert Comment

ID: 33493049
LOL, you're welcome!

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