safely remove External USB hard drive?

  MIke 09:17 17 Apr 2010

I have a USB hard drive permanently connected to my desktop and is used to backup photos and my documents.

Occasionally in the past I've had had problems with windows not recognising the drive, normally unplugging the USB cable and re-connecting has solved the problem, yesterday however windows kindly informed me I'd need to format the drive to make it usable.

This I did and all was well apart from losing my backup of course.

Normally I just close down the PC, but I last night I decided to use the safely remove hardware first, as I do when removing a USB memory stick.
This set me to wondering should I have been doing this all along with my external hard drive too?

Any thoughts?

Incidentally I've had issues like this with a different hard drive on a different PC, which is why I'm wondering if the remove safely option should always be used, or are USB hard drives just a 'problem'?

  onthelimit 09:24 17 Apr 2010

I was told while on a computer course that removing a USB device while it is powered up and possibly reading/writing can fry the chip. Hence the reason for the 'safely remove...'. having said that, I'd been plugging and unpluging a camera for ages without any problem. I think it's a case of better safe than sorry.

  MIke 09:34 17 Apr 2010

But I'm not actually removing the hard drive, it's permanently connected.Surely closing down windows correctly should protect the drive in question?
Incidentally I also used to connect and disconnect a memory stick without using safely remove hardware until I damaged it!

  MIke 09:40 17 Apr 2010

Thanks Marg7 that's what I thought.

Are external USB hard drives less reliable then as I've had issues with different drives on different PC's?

Currently a Maxtor 1TB on and Asus Mothereboard,

Previously a WD 120GB on both a PCCHips board and an Abit board?

  MIke 10:12 17 Apr 2010

Ah well mine does power up before I boot up my PC. Maybe I'll try a different USB socket if it happens again.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 10:38 17 Apr 2010

make sure machine is not set to boot from USB devices and you shouldn't have a problem with it being not recognised when windows boots.

  MIke 11:20 17 Apr 2010

Fruit bat

i'll check that I don't think it's set for Booting from USB. I believe it's CD ROM 1st then Hard drive. The majority of the time it is recognised on Boot, but occasionally It just shows as Drive L which is correct but cannot be accessed, instead windows tells me it needs to be formatted before I can use it. As I said had similar issues with a different drive on another MoBo which makes me wonder about the reliability of largish hard drives over USB

  ronalddonald 12:19 17 Apr 2010

always keep your backups on a separate drive if that means having two external drives do it and get acronis this will help to clone the hard-rive with an external drive ie the hard disc on the computer being cloned onto an external drive

  Woolwell 12:47 17 Apr 2010

I've got a Maxtor One Touch and WD Essential HD permanently connected to my desktop. One does incremental back ups and the other is used for Acronis. The Maxtor does give problems from time to time with the hard drive not being properly recognised (especially after a reboot) and I have the message about a format. I have found that rather than disconnecting the USB cable turning off its power, allowing it to stop and then powering back up cures the problems and I don't have to reformat. But I find chkdsk does find errors on the Maxtor OneTouch. I have no problems at all with the WD.

  MIke 13:04 17 Apr 2010


I do use Acronis, and actually to the Maxtor I've had an issue with! I also have a spare 120GB drive installed in my PC that I have set a secure Zone on so do an Acronis Backup to that. My main drive is partitioned so that my OS and programs are separate from my data.

My data gets backed up to the Maxtor using Allway Synch.

My Photos are backed up to a Freecom external drive, which only gets switched on when I need to use it...never had an issue with that drive, as well as being backed up to the Maxtor.


As I said in an earlier post my current drive is a Maxtor, but the previous drive I had issues with on another PC was a WD! So I've had similar issues with both WD and Maxtor.

In fact the WD drive is now inside my 'new' PC atached to and IDE socket and functioning perfectly.

Hence my questioning the reliabilty of USB.

  Woolwell 13:16 17 Apr 2010

I'm not sure that it is directly due to the reliability of USB although I have found that I had more problems when connecting through a powered USB hub rather than direct to the pc. I suspect that it is down to build/component quality for that batch.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

Sea of Thieves Review

Dell Canvas review: the cheap Wacom Cintiq alternative

How to use iMovie for Mac, tips and more

Comment filmer l’écran d’un iPhone ?