External HDDs disconnecting from servers

Hi all,

I've been having a problem as of late that's becoming more and more common. It's for the customers that use external hard drives for image backups using software like Macrium Backup. The server (happens on 2003 and 2008) detects the drive is connected. shows mass storage device and hard drive model in Device Manager but nothing appears in Disk Management, and if it does it will only stay there for a short while and then disappear.

Any ideas?

Bruce SkinnerAsked:
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Aaron TomoskyDirector of Solutions ConsultingCommented:
Windows is probably letting the USB port sleep. Go into device manager, properties the device, uncheck allow windows tp turn off this device to save power.
Also go into the power profile and disable "USB selective suspend"

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I have had a similar issue with WD Passport drives (that get power via the USB cable).  If I use a single short high quality usb cable it works fine, if I use a cheap long one, or a decent usb extension and decent normal usb cable then it tries to spin up, the computer sees something connect in device manager but does not acutally get as far as connecting to the drive and assigning a drive letter.

My best guess is that the cheap/log/extra connection looses a bit of power and the result is that the hard drive does not get enough electricity to spin up properly.  Something similar happens with some laptops when running on battery power - they reduce the voltage to the USB ports to save battery power and external drives that get power via usb don't work well or at all.

Try a single short cable with no hubs or anything in the way and see if it starts working more reliably.
Bruce SkinnerAuthor Commented:
I've checked on one of the servers that's disconnecting the external hard drives and it's definitely not set to allow the USB ports to sleep to save power etc and the drive it's using is not a passport drive, it's a full standing external with it's own power supply :/ thanks for your suggestions
Bruce SkinnerAuthor Commented:
Also to note: all of the drives that we have had problems with are various brands (Freecom, Samsung, Hitachi).

With the Freecom drives in particular, when the server is started with the drive plugged in, it shows up fine, but if the drive gets swapped (same make & model) then the newly inserted drive does not show up in Disk Management but the USB Mass Storage device and the drive itself show in Device Manager, even if you leave over an hour in between removing the one drive and plugging in the other, still won’t show up. If you put the drive that was showing after boot back in, that doesn't show either.
You say that your customers have this issue - how many different setups are you referring to?  Just 2 or several?

Some antivirus/security programs have the ability to block USB drives (as a security feature) - are the computers using the same antivirus product?  If so try disabling on one and see if the problem continues.

How about the hardware these systems are running?  Are they all on similar models of hardware or a range of manufacturers?  It might be worth checking the BIOS for USB options and see if there is anything in there which is relevant (eg if it has USB3 functionality try disabling it etc)

Do normal USB memory sticks work OK?

Finally are you using the latest drivers for the motherboard chipsets and firmware for the BIOS?  A quick visit to the manufacturers site should give you the latest versions available.  Although if the hardware is significantly different this is less likely to be the cause.
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