Daily Archives: September 2, 2005

‘Oops, my Ooosp drive is not working’

My USB (pronounced Oooospb by the Finns) drive had some problem with it recently. I went through some hell and back, trying to fix the problem. Since I’ve been there, done that, I thought I would compile all the important information so that if someone ever faces a problem like this, they can benefit from it.

My drive wasn’t getting detected in the IBM thinkpad provided to me by my client. ‘Getting detected’ needs to be understood clearly. It could be that the drive is detected but not displayed. It could also be that the drive didn’t get detected at all in the hardware sense. My drive wasn’t getting detected in the hardware sense of the word. I had already checked all alarms, and event logs. There was no mention of any USB device detection at all. That was rather strange considering that just a few hours before that I had copied data into it from my office desktop. However I didn’t panic yet because there was a very apparent difference between my desktop and the laptop. The laptop had WinXP pro whereas the desktop had Win2K as the OS, even though USB drivers are a part of Win XP (no special installations required) and ideally Win XP shouldnt be giving me any problems. The next day, I tried my drive again at the desktop. It didnt get detected, whereas I had just connected my Sony Handycam to it and downloaded pictures. (That rules out a faulty port). Since it could be a port reuse problem, I tried it again at a colleague’s desktop, one who hadn’t plugged in any USB device so far. The drive didnt get detected again. This time I got into panic mode. The USB drive is only 2 months old, just bought especially to store all my personal data. I felt foolish, having removed all my personal data whatsoever from my office desktop in Gurgaon. I didnt have any CD’s of it or any other copies of it anywhere on the net. The thought of being without my precious data left me with a sinking feeling.

I started with searching on the net for forums where similar problems had been discussed. I found a lot of things but not what was helpful in my situation. I also learnt that WinXP has a lot of problems with USB devices. These bugs are reported at the Microsoft site, but there is no solution to them.

There could be various reasons why your USB drive doesnt get detected or rather not displayed.

1. It’s detected but not displayed. One can confirm that by going to device manager and clicking on USB drives or Disk drives. There’s bound to be an entry for your USB device. If it’s there and the drive letter is not being shown so that you can actually access it, then it’s a drive letter problem. It could be that something else is mapped there already. Ideally USB devices should not get stuck to a drive letter and should take any empty slot, however that doesn’t happen at times. For that you could change your drive letter settings through powertoys TweakUI (if that drive letter is disabled eg, A:, B:) or simply disconnect whatever is taking up that drive letter where usually your USB device attaches itself. You could restart your PC too. The next time the device should get detected.

2. The USB port could be faulty. Try another USB port and you could see the contents of your drive again.

3. You could try configuring everything to run USB 1.1 (disable USB 2.0) and it might work. The USB 2.0 drivers don’t seem to be stable.

4. Try a different USB casing. At times, that stops working and is the only thing needed to change and not the HDD.

5. Look in Device Manager, locate the drive – under Disk Drives/ Other Devices or USB controllers. It there is a question mark or exclamation mark, reinstall the driver or uninstall the device and then reinstall it using add new hardware.

6. The USB cable might be faulty and not everything else attached with it.

7. Power supply may not be adequate if you have a USB device that has separate power supply.

8. As a last resort (software) reinstall your OS (with all released updates) and reinstall drivers freshly.

None of these however were a solution in my case. Since the drive was new. I was pretty sure that the casing, wire etc were all ok. Either it was a minor software problem or a rather big hardware problem (HDD gone bad). The USB ports were ok since my handycam worked with it. The OS (at least the desktop – Win2K) shouldn’t have had any problems because I had already used my USB HDD on it earlier. It was only later that the same PC stopped recognising my HDD.

I decided to study the computer management (administrative tools->computer management) more clearly. Though it indicated event logs for my handycam, there were none for my USB HDD, not even of failure to recognise anything. The ‘device manager’ only showed the HDD of the PC itself. The ‘logical drives’ didnt show anything. ‘Removable storage’ showed several heads one of which was ‘Physical locations’. It showed a number of devices attached to the system out of which only one of them was attached to it in reality and all others were ghost entries and had a red ‘X’ mark on them as shown in the picture. That included 2 entries for my Sony handycam, which was no longer connected to the PC. It also had some other devices which I had never ever connected to it, but perhaps the users before me might have. Seeing this, everything fell into place and I deleted these entries (right click->delete). Just to be safe, I rebooted once more and then plugged in my USB HDD. Voila! this time my USB HDD showed without a hitch with all my precious data intact!

So it seems that not only WinXP but Win2K also has this dangling file handle problem. This apparently doesn’t even go away when the PC has been restarted. One has to manually delete these entries. Hope this helps those who are in similar situations. Here’s a good link which has most of the stuff that you can try in this case. If nothing else works, there do exist services that try to recover data lost from hard drives gone bad and dont charge anything if they arent able to recover any data.