Why does my USB external HDD keep crashing?

By TroyC ·
I have asked several people and searched high and low, all without help for this problem. I have a Maxtor OneTouch USB external HDD running on a Dell XPS410 with WinXP MCE. Twice now within a year for whatever reason when I go to click the icon to use the USB drive I get an error saying it's either not formatted or doesn't exist. I end up losing all my data and have to format and partition the drive.

Last week I upgraded to IE 8 and during it's install to my "C" drive I saw that it unzipped install files to this USB drive. After it finished installing and setting up IE 8, my USB drive didn't work. I got an error saying the drive is not formatted. When I tried to recover data from it everything said it was a 32gig not the 500gig it is.

I couldn't recover anything so I used a program to write zeros on the drive, which took 4 days to do. I partitioned it, formatted it, and it seemed to be fine. I upgraded my iTunes program and while it was intalling the USB drive started up. I went to use the drive today and it tells me it's not ready and asks if I want to format it. When I look at it through the device manager, it says it's only 32gig.

This problem was happening to a WD USB external HDD I had too and tossed it assuming it was a bad drive.

I don't know what to do. PLEASE, does can anyone help me?!

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All Answers

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Maxtor external

by butkus In reply to Why does my USB external ...

There is a Maxtor external drive forum on the Maxtor site. Lots of problems.
First: make sure the "write delay" is turned off for that drive.
Second: do you have two drive cables. Some USB ports do not put out enough power, so the second USB cable is needed.
Third: make sure it's in a main USB port, not from an extension. After the "write delay" fix plug it directly into the MB USB port.

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by ---TK--- In reply to Maxtor external

Dont ditch the drive this time... All that is, is a case with a little hardware attached to a HDD.... worse case: yank the drive out of the casing and transfer it to a new case.... Something like this

Just double check whether its IDE or SATA and get the proper casing...

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by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to 4th....

You should get a good Enclosure something like this one which has active cooling

Though in the case of the MX1 it only takes SATA Drives but as you want to have this connected all of the time you need something with a fan in it to keep the HDD cool enough to not fry the electronics inside the case. That means the USB to HDD Interface Card and the actual Circuit Board on the HDD itself.

You Should Never start a Computer with a USB Drive connected or turn off a computer with a USB Drive connected. This causes the computer to not start or worse still damages the HDD when you power down by not putting the USB Device through the correct shut down procedure and at the very least causes the Partition Information to be deleted. Worst case is it drags the read/write heads across the platters and damages the ability to actually read the Data stored on the platters. You should Always use the Safely Remove Option under Windows to shut down any USB Drive and then unplug it allow it to stop spinning before you move it as well.

In the case here though the HDD is being corrupted because you are installing applications with it connected so you need to Safely Remove the External Drive before installing anything to the computer and reconnect after you have restarted the system if required.

Turning off a Computer with the HDD attached is not the correct way to power down these devices.

Also just as a note any HDD over 80 GIG Capacity requires at least 1000 Milli Amps and as the most you can ever get out of a single USB Socket is 500 Milli Amps you need to either use an External Power Supply or use a Y Cable to power the USB Drive. These Y USB Cables have to USB A Plugs on them but only the plug nearest the Other end supports Data Transfer the other USB A Plug is to supply extra Power to the device it is connected to so both of these plugs need to be plugged directly into the M'Board and not through a USB Hub as they will be overloading that single USB Socket that the Hub is connected to.

At best external USB Drives Should Not be used all of the time but if you insist on doing this you need to use a Case with sufficient Cooling Ability and you need to Always use the Safely Remove Option before turning off the computer and you need to disconnect either the USB Lead from the Computer or HDD and then when you restart the computer you need to keep the USB Lead unplugged till the system is open & running.

However if you want to insist on using a External Drive all of the time that the computer is running you should use a Solid State Drive as there are no moving parts in it to generate the heat of be affected by vibrational Damage. SSD's will also be less likely to suffer from Partition Table Corruption but it will still happen just not as often as it happens with a Mechanical Drive.


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USB speed

by Snuffy09 In reply to Why does my USB external ...

are u connecting your external drive to a fairly new computer?

If your connecting to an older computers' USB hardware (USB 1.0) you may be experiencing a bottleneck / incompatibility. Try another computer.

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How is this Maxtor unit actually powered ?...

by OldER Mycroft In reply to Why does my USB external ...

Where does the power come from ?

I checked on the Maxtor site but there is no indication of an external power supply in the specifications for these units, not even a socket in the illustrations.

If this HDD is powered by USB, and you are keeping it connected at all times (but maybe not accessing it for extended periods of time), the USB circuit may well be shutting down to automatically conserve power when 'not needed'.

This shutdown wouldn't damage a USB device like a joystick or a scanner, but a HDD with heads floating above platters ?

Check the 'Power Management' tabs for each USB Root Hub within Device Manager. If they are set to automatically shutdown - change it by removing the authority tick from the box. :)

You'll have to do this to ALL of 'em, since you won't be able to tell which one is controlling the HDD.

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by Jacky Howe In reply to Why does my USB external ...

How much space is available on your C: drive?

By the sounds of your post you are leaving the external drive connected all of the time. Best practice is to use the drive for whatever you need to do and then use the Safely Remove option to disconnect it. You shouldn't have it permanently connected. The Safely Remove option should be used at all times otherwise you will corrupt the drive.

Remove the drive when you are installing sofware or it is not being used.
Most External USB HDD devices are delivered with two cables (a Data cable and an addtitional USB Power cable). If you encounter problems, use both the Data and Power cable.
If the External USB HDD devices still fails connect it to a self-powered USB Hub.
Most problems on an External USB HDD devices are caused by a too high power consumption during initalisation or data transfer. The USB specification for a USB port is 500mA per port. If a device needs more then 500mA, the USB port may be switched off by the over current circuit.

To avoid too high a power consumption on the used USB port, connect the External USB HDD device to a second USB port with the additional Power cable . This provides up to 1000mA to the USB device. If the device still fails, try a self-powered USB Hub, as they are, in most cases, able to provide more than 500mA per USB port.

Check your Temp environment Variables.

Press the Winkey + Pause
Select Advanced and Under Startup and Recovery, select Environment Variables.

Under User variables for the Logged on User it should look like this.

TEMP = C:\Documents and Settings\Rob\Local Settings\Temp
TMP = C:\Documents and Settings\Rob\Local Settings\Temp

Under System variables it should look like this


Your Path statement should be similar to this.

Path = %SystemRoot%\system32;%SystemRoot%;%SystemRoot%\System32\Wbem;C:\Program Files\Microsoft Network Monitor 3\;C:\Program Files\Support Tools\

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Thank you everyone

by TroyC In reply to Why does my USB external ...

I've pretty much given up on it. I ran a couple DOS diagnostic programs on it last night and nothing was consistant. One said the MBR was bad, another said the size was 1TB. I downloaded SeaTools, which couldn't run all the tests and was no help. I downloaded Maxtor Manager which found the drive and said there was no partition, but it couldn't create one. I later checked the event logs and saw many reports that there was a paging error on the drive. Most web sites said the drive is no good because of the paging error. One said run check disk to report the bad blocks, mark them, and use the drive. I don't have time to deal with it and risk this happening again. I'm going to buy an internal instead of another USB.

The drive does have it's own power cable and I did stop the root hub from shutting off the drive.

Thank you all for your help.

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