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Can a USB port damage an external hard drive?

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December 8, 2011 1:17:01 AM

Hi,
I had a 320 GB MyBook external hard drive from Western Digital, that stopped working yesterday. I backed up the data on it just in time, so I only lost the hardware.
However, I also had a 250 GB Coolmax external hard drive, also USB 2.0, that I had not used for a while. It was good the last time I plugged it in, in the same port that was previously dedicated to the MyBook. Today, windows won't recognize it, saying the USB device has malfunctioned and windows does not recognize it. On my netbook, the same thing happens. Is it possible that that USB port causes the second drive to malfunction? What can I do to access my drive?

Thanks in advance for your help.
a c 415 G Storage
December 8, 2011 7:56:32 AM

It's pretty unlikely that the USB port would damage the drive, but it's certainly possible that there's a problem with either the USB port or the cable that's preventing the drive from getting a good connection. If you've tried it on another system then that probably rules out the port itself, but have you tried a different cable?
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December 8, 2011 2:49:52 PM

Yes, I tried several different cables, and on my netbook, even just a USB connector, no cable. The same thing happens. I brought the drive to work and tried it on the laptop here, and again, I get the message that one of the USB devices has malfunctioned. What can I do?
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a c 415 G Storage
December 9, 2011 4:47:37 AM

There's a chance that the problem doesn't lie in the drive itself, but rather in the electronics of the enclosure. If you can open the enclosure up and remove the bare drive from it you may be able to recover the data by connecting it directly to a motherboard SATA port (and power cable). Of course you'd make the connections with the system turned off.
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December 9, 2011 10:21:52 AM

That's of course a possibility, however here I'm thinking two drives one after the other? With the Mybook I did exactly what you proposed, and the disk itself could not be read. Now I have a second diesk that I cannot read, although in this case I get the USB device malfunctioned message, not the disk seeking that happened with the first drive. I will try your suggestion.
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December 9, 2011 10:37:30 AM

as smin said enclosure is the culprit but your usb port got damage too better not use it
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a c 415 G Storage
December 9, 2011 3:18:39 PM

mhguda said:
That's of course a possibility, however here I'm thinking two drives one after the other?
I know it seems suspicious but it's pretty hard for me to imagine how a USB port could damage the drive, short of something drastic such as a frayed internal cable somehow brushing up against another frayed cable from the power supply and shorting 12V into the port instead of the normal 5V. And that seems a lot less likely than just a coincidence in having two drives fail.

Do you live in an area where the air is fairly dry? If so, you might have zapped both drives with static electricity while handling them.
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a c 288 G Storage
December 9, 2011 11:05:21 PM

Many people at WD's forums are reporting physical connection problems with the micro-USB connectors.

Essentials models incorporate hardware encryption on the USB-SATA bridge board while Elements models do not. If you connect the former directly to a motherboard via SATA, then your data will appears as gibberish.

A motherboard's USB 2.0 ports are typically protected by a 1.1A or 1.6A polyswitch. This is a resettable fuse. Furthermore, your drive would have a 5V TVS protection diode at its input, providing further protection.

How does Microsoft's UVCView utility see the external drive?
http://www.users.on.net/~fzabkar/USB_IDs/UVCView.x86.ex...
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December 17, 2011 12:20:52 AM

Here is an update on the drive situation. I opened up the drive, it's a small laptop 250 GB SATA, and took it to a friend's computer. Same story - the drive is not seen at all. We then connected it directly via the SATA port - drive is not seen. It is not even spinning up anymore, so I'm guessing this one is really shot, too. And I think connecting it to that particular USB port is what did it, since before that, it worked fine. I also tried that drive's usb interface with another older 80GB laptop drive that was good before - and had the same problem with that drive. My suspicion is on the second drive, too, both the interface and the disk itself are gone. I will definitely stay away from that usb port.
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March 21, 2012 10:23:39 AM

I have just had a similar problem and found the cause.

Check your drives too see if the laptop OS has damaged the low level format information. The MFT (see later) especially.

This is what happened in my case. The drive SEEMS useless but is in fact perfect still. What happened is that the OS of my laptop did some low level 'write' to the disk causing it to lose it's low level format basic data which results in the drive being 'unseen' (and the data appears lost forever). Both the drive and the data may be in perfect order.

Connect your usb drive to your laptop or other PC and via control panel open up computer management and then disk management. You will see your C drive listed and hopefully your 'dead' drive too. If your drive appears here then don't jump to reformatting just yet. You may be able to repair the MFT (Master File Table) yourself. I remembered to try that AFTER I re-formatted so I don't know if that would have worked but I can't think of any other way the damage could have been done since the drive was in fact in perfect condition. There are free MFT tools available on the net.

Why would Windows 7 write to my usb drive - never mind damage it's MFT in doing so - when all that is supposed to be happening is file copying from, not to, it?

Anyone else seeing this problem with Windows 7?

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March 21, 2012 10:52:54 AM

continuing from my earlier posting

.... (it's been awhile, 2006/7, since my previous delve into this basic hard drive info so forgive possible error)...

I referred to the MFT but please note there is also the MBR (Master Boot Record) and it is one or the other (or both) that needs to be checked and or re-written to correct it's damage) prior to resorting to a reformat. Either way an internet search on these acronyms will turn up plenty of answers to go with and free tools to use.

Also note that while a usb drive may be unrecognized by Windows Explorer etc that the disk management I mentioned should 'see' the drive unless it really is damaged.





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March 28, 2012 1:54:34 AM

Paul Coughlin said:
continuing from my earlier posting

.... (it's been awhile, 2006/7, since my previous delve into this basic hard drive info so forgive possible error)...

I referred to the MFT but please note there is also the MBR (Master Boot Record) and it is one or the other (or both) that needs to be checked and or re-written to correct it's damage) prior to resorting to a reformat. Either way an internet search on these acronyms will turn up plenty of answers to go with and free tools to use.

Also note that while a usb drive may be unrecognized by Windows Explorer etc that the disk management I mentioned should 'see' the drive unless it really is damaged.


Hello, and thanks for your effort in explaining. It has been a while here, too, and I have basically given up on the drive. But your idea suggests something I might still try at some point. I am busy with other things at the moment, but I will try in future. One question though: what if the drive is NOT seen by the system - at all?
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