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I have a 2TB WD My Passport Ultra HDD (USB3), that I use both as the main storage for my 600GB photo collection (also backed-up on another HDD of course) and as a back-up device (for data from 2 laptops).

When I was copying (using FastCopy) a 60GB mp3 collection to a Dell Studio 1558 laptop (after a clean Win 10 install), the WD HDD dysfunctioned:

  1. FastCopy stopped copying after approx. 10GB with error messages that the other directories could not be read
  2. The HDD made some clicking noises
  3. After I disconnected and reconnected the HDD, there was not the usual constant humming of the motor, but the sound went up and down (as if the motor was always changing speed)

So after that, I did not try to further experiment with the WD, I just ran to the shop and bought a new Maxtor M3 2TB HDD, and I spent the last 24 hours to successfully copy all the content (1.2TB) from the WD to the Maxtor, without any problems!! So the WD functioned absolutely normal, and I used it also to copy the same 60GB of mp3 files to the Dell without any problems.

I read on the WD website that the symptoms of my drive could either be the cable, the power supply through the USB port, or a dying drive... I also ran WD diagnostics telling me the drive is ok.

If I remember well, my Dell was not plugged in the first time, so could that be a cause, i.e. that the USB2 did not give sufficient power (and created the problems)? Or don't supply the two USB2 ports the same power (I used the other port for the successful transfer)? Or did I accidentally use the combined USB2/eSata port, and this isn't enough powered?

The WD is a few years old, but has not been used a lot, so it seems crazy to throw it away or use it just for some non-critical transfers/storage... But the few clicks I heard do "scare" me, so I don't know whether I still can trust the drive.

On a side note, the WD seems so much more solid/heavier than the Maxtor, so (making abstraction of the temporary dysfunctioning) I would like to keep using the WD as my primary external HDD for my photo collection, and the flimsy Maxtor as a secondary back-up.

So my questions are:

  • would you still trust the WD ?
  • is it most likely that there was a power shortage from the USB2 with the laptop not plugged in, and this will have done no damage to the drive? (did this ever happen to you?)
  • are there any other diagnostics (I only used the WD one) I can run to check whether the WD is still 100% healthy?
  • would it be wise to try to "duplicate" the problem (use the other USB2 port, unplug the laptop, launch a big FastCopy job) to try to make sure that it was a power supply issue (so the HDD is healthy), or would running the HDD once more with too little power be a risk to cause some real damage?

Thanks !

  • As a follow-up, I did purchase a new HDD and got all my data copied to the new one. But the new one was a Maxtor that just feels/looks quite flimsy, so I continued using the WD (heavier, premium feel, but whatever, appearances ...) as main HDD for my photos. And when making a back-up (on the Maxtor), I had some CRC errors ... For the rest of the story : superuser.com/questions/1288253/… – Peter K. Jan 24 '18 at 15:24
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You have all symptoms of insufficient power delivery over USB connection.

Formally speaking, you should not run a USB3.0 drive in a USB2.0 ports (your laptop has only 2.0 ports). The formal capability of USB2.0 port is 500mA, and if this laptop is running on batteries, it could really limit port power to 100mA (as it should be appropriate for a battery-powered low-power embedded USB host). At the same time mechanical HDDs (even in 2.5" format) usually require 5V at 600-800mA, which is fine with USB3.0 ports, but below marginal on USB2.0 ports.

In short, your WD gets marginal power from your laptop. In marginal cases every notch matters. You can have a too long or too thin USB cable. Both connectors (laptop and drive) might have contacts deterioration and spring fatigue, so one or another cable position might have increased contact resistance, which further drops the supply voltage. Power consumption of HDD also depends on pattern of head movement, and if your data are fragmented across the HDD platters, the consumption increases, and supply can again drop causing errors and disconnects.

The HDD from other manufacturer could require slightly less current for normal operations, or have fresh connectors, or have thicker USB cable, and that's why it might work better. Still the problem would be in USB2 power supply that might be insufficient.

Under this brown-out conditions the HDD can be damaged, and might require re-formatting or re-calibration by professionals.

Although it is less convenient, don't use bus-powered storage for archive purposes, and use external HDDs that have own power supply. You will be better off.

  • Thanks for this explanation. I did not know that USB2 delivered less power than USB3. It seems illogical that WD (and others) claims it is downward compatible with USB2, but they don't deliver a Y-cable that you can plug into 2 USB2 ports. But I understand that you think that this under-powering might have damaged the HDD, but not permanently (physically), but just that it needs re-formatting to be back in good condition? – Peter K. Jan 4 '17 at 22:34
  • @PeterK. First, you need to supply stable specified power to the device. Then completely re-initialize the drive before making any assessments. No guarantees though. But I thought you have this drive working fine in some other cable/port combination? – Ale..chenski Jan 4 '17 at 22:59
  • @PeterK., Actually, the problem could be as "simple" as screwed power management on your upgraded laptop, in some discrepancy between USB driver and ACPI power management. In newer fully-coherent PCs the entrance into power saving mode should be transparent for Mass Storage class USB devices. Even if a mobile device turns USB power off in SUSPEND/sleep state during transaction, the system driver goes over, re-enumerates everything, and remembers the state of file transfer, and resumes from that point (this is a part of host certification). When you upgraded on your own, all bets are off. – Ale..chenski Jan 4 '17 at 23:36
  • Yes indeed, the device worked fine since then. But that's the question, to understand whether the malfunctioning happened because of a problem with the USB2 power supply of the Dell, or whether it was the HDD itself. I think you suggest it was the former. – Peter K. Jan 5 '17 at 8:56

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