USB and SATA connection questions.
Posted on 2011-04-28
1. Are usb connections as much of a pain to you as they are to me?
Just had a customer call. Two USB ports on the back of her computer don’t work any more. They did yesterday, but now they don’t. It’s a Dell Vostro I sold her about two years ago. I’ve seen the same thing on my own computer, both integrated ports and USB hubs. Flash drives sometimes get recognized and sometimes not. My primary work machine now is a Quad 4 Dell Vostro 220. I’ve plugged all sorts of hubs and flash drives into it. Yesterday a flash drive went AWOL and reappeared on their own, without having to plug/unplug it or reboot the machine.
2. Do certain messages mean anything?
“This device can go faster on a USB 2.0 connection”.
When the hub and the port are both USB 2.0 and have been forever. Does that matter? I assume that the actual data transfer is still USB 2.0.
And the general “there has been a malfunction and/or we can’t identify this device…” It happens all the time. Is it the USB port, the hub, the motherboard, the device?
3. Are PCI USB cards more reliable? Are powered USB hubs more reliable than non-powered? Are any hubs more reliable?
My general philosophy on computers is that if it’s not under warranty and not critical, if possible you circumvent a problem or hope it goes away. This customer isn’t going to pay me $150 to slog over to her house 10 miles away and screw around with the USB ports on the back of her computer. For that matter I'm not sure what I'd even do to try and fix it.
4. Someone told me that failing USB ports can be indications of a failing motherboard. Is this true?
5. Why does anyone buy external hard drive enclosures at any price? External drives have been so cheap for so long I can’t believe there’s any advantage to putting together your own. In fact, external drives are often cheaper than the equivalent internal drive. What sense does that make?
6. On the subject of connections, can I get the benefits of USB 3.0 and 6 GB SATA on older machines? Is it worth trying? I’m experimenting with a USB 3.0 PCI card and USB 3.0 dock and it’s worked OK. I don’t know what real speed I’m getting but at least it hasn’t screwed up in any obvious ways.
I try to give my customers reliable automatic backups, both full image and doc backups. Speed means everything here, because if your backups take forever and slow your machine down to a crawl, what good are they?
Is there any point to putting a USB 3.0 card or 6 GB sata card on a Dell Dimension 5100, or XPS Gen 4, or even a later machine, like a Vostro 200 or my Vostro 220? After an application writes to a drive, down through various connections and through various bottlenecks, do we know if there’s any significant increase in speed?
7. Do you have the same ongoing problems with backups that I have? I want to nail it down, to be able to put together hardware and software on a customer’s system and feel 98% confident that if a hard drive were to crash, or if I need to recover a system from a virus, I can restore a backup successfully. Maybe it’s because I’m a perfectionist, but I’ve never had that type of confidence in any system. For one customer I put in a large WD external drive with automatic backups, come back later and saw that the drive was connected and powered on, but it simply wasn’t working. It wasn’t connecting.
That wasn’t the customer’s fault. Other customers turn off their drives and forget to turn them on again. You can never idiot proof it. For this reason I’ve come to favor internal drives on desktops. With laptops it’s hopeless. You’d have to call your customers every three days and tell them to plug in and turn on their external drives.
A lot of this can be solved if customers are well off financially and willing to spend money on their systems. When 500GB internal drives cost $50 and 1 GB externals go for $60, it’s crazy to skimp on storage. Of course I’m also looking at Internet backups but I’m afraid that will just add more complexity to the mix and customers won't be willing to pay for it.
Anyway, what do you think of USB 3.0 and 6GB sata and whether it’s worth looking into trying to use them on older systems?