Problems with an external USB hard drive

Here’s the backstory. In preparation for an fdisk and installation of XP, I purchased a BUSLink 80gb external hard drive so I could backup some files. I followed the instructions for ME operation, and everything was fine for about 2 hours. File transfer was slower than I expected, as I’m only running USB 1.1, but it was working. After 2 hours, my power saver kicked in, and when I hit the spacebar to bring the monitor back to life, I saw an error generated from the external (F:) drive. It stated that the last file I was trying to copy was no longer on the F: drive, that it may have moved. Also, the window showing the drive contents of F: had closed.

I OK’ed the error message, and opened My Computer so I could reopen the F: drive. When I clicked on it, however, I got a message saying the drive was not formatted. I had previous evidence that this was not the case, as I had opened one of the files from that drive and it worked fine (in addition, the box claims the drive is preformatted in FAT32).

I then rebooted, but subsequently my PC would not see the drive, no matter what I did. I went throught the steps of adding a USB drive in Add Hardware, and I can get an icon w/ a yellow exclamation point, but ME then says that either the drivers are out of date or the device isn’t working properly. The drivers for ME were supposedly installed on the drive prior to my purchasing it, and the ones the OS finds on its own is not good enough to get it operating.

Any suggestions? I’d really rather not start over again with a new external drive if I can help it. Is it possible the drive reformatted itself during my file transfers? Other than a bad cable, what could cause my USB ports to not see the device now (and for the record, all the other USB devices I have attached are working perfectly)? I’ve emailed BUSLink support, but they’re West Coast so I won’t get an answer until at least 11:00 CDT.

Based on my limited user end experience with a variety of external USB drives devices IIRC it looks like (not claiming certainity here) the drivers perform some kind of USB>SCSI>IDE translation layer magic which works great so long as there ar no low level hardware issues. The moment a cluster is busted or a table is munged the drive is more or less invisible to the system and its own drivers unless there is some special formatting software that can with the drive that can be used to re-format it.

There is also the chance that your new drive simply failed.

To see which delete the USB hardware list pointers with the exclamation points and re-boot. If the USB drive interface is operating the system should detect and re-install the necessary drivers. BTW if the drive plugged into a USB hub try plugging it directly into a chassis port.

Here is the buslink support page. There is an extensive discussion of alternative driver versions for 98/ME and installation procedures for your drive which indicates this is probably not an isolated issue .

You can get 2 port USB 2.0 cards for $ 20 or so and they will make a vast difference in real world transfer speeds with external 7200 RPM drives. 1.1 is very slow with external drives.

Thanks, astro. If the USB to IDE conversion is as titchy as you say, I think I will probably just see if Best Buy will take the drive back, and I’ll get an internal IDE drive. I liked the idea of just unplugging the drive and taking it with me to LAN parties and such, but if the thing’s on the edge of dropping the USB-IDE conversion into the abyss all the time, it’s not worth it.

The USB IDE drives I have used have been very reliable overall. The real problematic issue with externals is diagnosing the source of problems if they mung up, and determining if you are facing a driver, USB translation interface, or media failure issue. With internals it’s more straighforward.

Why not disconnect all the other USB things & see if it can see it after you uninstall it in System & restart?