February 24th, 2009
External hard disks are popular devices for storing data that needs to be portable. If you do not have a laptop, or do not want to bring it, an external hard disk can be the solution. Another popular use is to make backups on an external hard disk. Hard disks have become relatively cheap and with a USB (or eSata, FireWire) connection, the data transfer rates are high.
But when you use an external hard disk with a Windows PC, whether it is Windows XP or Windows Vista, problems can arise. Most can be resolved by restarting or unplugging and re-plugging the external hard disk, but not all external disk problems can be solved that way. We looked at ‘external hard disk not recognized’ type of problems.
In case of an external hard disk that is connected through a USB port, you may get the error:
One of the USB devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned, and Windows does not recognize it. For assistance in solving this problem, click this message.
Clicking the message tells you nothing more than the fact that the USB device is not recognized.
You may also simply see a “USB Mass Storage Device” in the “Other Devices” category of the Device Manager.
There are a few things to try when Windows does not recognize your external hard disk:
- First make sure the right drivers are installed if any came with the drive. If you don’t have the drivers, you can try a driver update program.
- In the case of Windows XP, make sure you have Service Pack 2 or higher installed. For Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 is required. For Windows Vista Service Pack 1 should be installed, and Windows 7 this is not relevant.
- Try a different USB cable.
- Turn off the power of the drive briefly and then turn it on again.
- Check in your system’s Bios that your PC is configured for plug-and-play and make sure that the USB compatibility in the Bios is properly configured. Often you can select between USB 1 (or legacy support) and USB 2.0 (high speed). For external drives, USB 2.0 is required in most cases.
- If using a USB hub, try plugging the external hard drive in a USB port directly on the system, not using the USB hub.
- Unplug all other USB devices apart from the external hard disk. Compatibility or insufficient power can be the cause of problems.
- If the external hard disk has a master/slave switch or jumper, try changing the setting.
- Try updating your system’s drivers. Motherboard drivers can help solve issues with the USB controller on the motherboard.
- Check the Device Manager to make sure no Unknown device or Other device is listed with errors. The drive should be listed under Disk drives.
- Try uninstalling all USB Root Hub devices in the Device Manager under the Universal Serial Bus Controller group. They will be reinstalled when you reboot. That can sometimes help fix USB configuration issues.
- Check the driver letter assignment to make sure there is no driver letter conflict. In Disk Management, right-click the external hard disk and assign a drive letter that is not in use. Do not forget to consider mapped network drives!
- Make sure the disk is formatted, an uninitialized disk will not show up in the Windows Explorer. Use the Disk Manager to partition and format the drive.
Simply right-click My Computer and in the popup menu, select Manage.
- In some cases the MBR record can get corrupted, which means the partition information is gone. Products like the Acronis Disk Director Suite can help repair this.
- In case of Vista or Windows 7 is asking for a driver for your external hard disk, you might need to remove the INFCACHE.1 file. Details can be found on the Seagate site.
- If you cannot get the external hard disk to work on your computer using these tips, try the disk on a different computer, since it could really be defect of course.
Hopefully you can solve any problems you have with your external hard drive using these tips. If you have any other experiences or suggestions, please leave a comment so we can update the list.
Entry Filed under: Device Errors