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Computer Unstable after inserting USB drive

Posted on 2011-09-09
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Last Modified: 2012-05-12
I have a computer that has been working great until recently.  We back up the system every night using an external WD Passport drive attached to a USB port.  The USB drives are swapped every night and a full backup is placed on the one attached.  All of a sudden a few days ago, when the drives are swapped, the computer becomes unstable.  Anything you try to run appears to run but never comes to the desktop.  You can see the processes in task manager but cannot interact with the programs.  At this point, the computer will not shut down.  You have to hold the power button until it goes off.

I have run checkdisk and have done a thorough hardware diagnostic with the utilities from Dell and all show everything is in excellent condition.

Also, if I eject the USB drive and don't insert another one everything works fine.  It is only when I actually insert the next USB drive that the system goes bonkers.  And another thing I just remembered, when you insert the USB drive, it seems to be being recognized as a "camer or scanner" in "My Computer"  <--  It's Windows XP by the way.  

I'm considering trying a different USB drive but I don't think that both drives would become problematic at the same time.

HELP!
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Question by:spicer411
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by:-tjs
ID: 36510572
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by:inetman
ID: 36510634
seems like this is a old pc, if its running xp. So you are using more than 1 passport drive? Are all the passport drives causing your PC to crash?

You can test if it is virused/malwared if you want to test the drives on a different PC. See if you are getting similar errors.

Try using malwarebytes to see if it picks up anything.

Do you get similar issues if you plug in for say, a usb stick?

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by:Don Thomson
ID: 36511309
See if you have Windows Search 4.0 installed - It may simply be trying to index the new drives - which would cause it to become unstable

Try uninstalling the Search 4.0 (it's totally useless anyways) and see if that helps
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by:jason_0573
ID: 36512287
WIndows Search is notorious for slowing down things lately. As DTH states, check to see if that and Windows Live is slowing things down with indexing.
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nobus earned 500 total points
ID: 36515424
maybe your USB cannot handle the load of the drive (it has no separate power supply - yes?)
try to connect it viea a powered USB hub then : http://www.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Product_Id=158910

note : usb only delivers Max 5v at 0.5 A = 2.5 W - and often less
you can check the power consumption in device manager if you like
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by:spicer411
ID: 36563105
Ok, I've finally managed to get back to that computer for some more testing.  They have been using the external USB drives for almost 2.5 years.  The computer is also only 2.5 years old.  Both external USB drives cause the same condition whether connected to the front or rear USB ports.  A jump drive does not cause this problem.  I connected a different external USB drive and the same problem occurred.  The drives only have 2 files on them so I don't know if that would cause the Windows Search 4.0 to create such a problem but I'll uninstall it just the same.

The system has been scanned for malware, spyware, and viruses and nothing was found.  I'm beginning to wonder if it is something to do with that search 4.0....that thing sucks.

Thanks for all the input folks.
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by:nobus
ID: 36565054
do these drives have their own power?  if not, see above
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by:phototropic
ID: 36565362
"... I connected a different external USB drive and the same problem occurred..."  Did that drive have dc power?  What you are describing sounds like a power issue, as nobus states above.

To be sure, test the computer with a powered external hdd.  If the problem goes away, it's power related - if the problem persists, it's more complicated.
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Author Comment

by:spicer411
ID: 36566589
So, what I'm seeing is that the USB power circuitry could possibly be failing.  These drives have been working fine for 2.5 years and now they won't.  If you plug in the drive and boot the computer they work perfectly.  It's only when you hot swap them or plug them in after the computer is booted that the problem arises.  I think I'll try a powered USB hub and see what happens.

thanks
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by:nobus
ID: 36567405
>>   So, what I'm seeing is that the USB power circuitry could possibly be failing   <<  NO you understand it wrong
the USB power is VERY limited (see my post above) and it may be sufficient or not to power a disk; but imo, that is BAD practice, since you're (over)loading the USB on the motherboard
if it gets overloaded - it can burn out easily
that is why i suggest ALWAYS to use drives with their own power source.
if you don't want that, use apowered usb hub, like i posted
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Author Comment

by:spicer411
ID: 36567561
@nobus: You are telling me that the USB ports can burn out easily and in the next breath you're telling me that I understand it wrong.  I said that the USB power circuitry could be possibly failing ie. burning out.  I said that it has been powering these drives for 2.5 years.  I understand that USB power is very limited but these drives are also designed to use the minimal power provided by a USB port.  And how would you explain the power being sufficient to operate the USB drives when they work just fine if attached to the USB port prior to booting the computer?  The computer is a precision workstation, not some boilerplate el-cheapo optiplex.  I have been runing external USB drives off my XPS box for nearly 5 years and have no problems like this. I frequently copy 16GB video files but that does not matter here....the problem isn't with my computer anyway.  I'm going to try out a powered USB hub and see if the problem persists or disappears.
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by:nobus
ID: 36568245
i thought you meant the powser from the disk side
and i cannot explain everything, it can even be diffeent on front and rear ports; much depend on the construction, and layout, and what chips are used
i only offer you the BEST way i see to use USB; it 's your choice to accept it or not
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by:nobus
ID: 36568260
even when the power supply ages , it's output diminues abit - and tahat can be sufficient in some cases to cause your problem
but as i said - your choice
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Author Closing Comment

by:spicer411
ID: 36924666
The power circuits on the USB port were beginning to fail.
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