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Win XP Pro fails to recognize external drives

Win XP Pro (w/SP3) had previously recognized my external (USB)hard drives, but no longer does so. It has no difficulty with flash drives - only mechanical ones. What gives? Computer senility?

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Hello Fred,

A few things could be going on here, first a few questions:

  • Does the hard drive "spin up"?
  • Does the computer make any noises or have any balloons popping up in the bottom right corner?
  • Have you tried another USB port (silly question, but great for Googlers!)?

If you get either of the first two, you will want to try right clicking on "My Computer" and selecting "manage". From there, you can select "Disk Management" from the left hand side and see if your disk is listed among those available in the lower-pane. If it is there, right click it and select "Assign Drive Letter and Path" and give it a drive letter.

If you don't get a "spin up", then the drive is most likely not receiving enough power from the computer. If this is a desktop, make sure you are using some USB ports on the back connected to the motherboard itself and not those infront of the computer where less power can be drawn. If this is a laptop, try other ports and specifically look for an eSata port (doesn't look like a USB but you can still put a USB in there), a blue/red USB port, or a USB port that has a small lightning bolt on the case next to it's identification mark. All of these types of ports should provide marginally more power.

Of course, you may want to also ensure that your hard drive works in the first place. Make sure that you try it on another computer before you spend all evening beating up your laptop!

Hope this helps.


Andy Kilgore

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Thanks so much for your prompt response. The history here is: the drives in question (4 in all) have been in use as internal drives for the same computer, connected through the IDE controller (I make a habit of adding drives rather than replacing them as they fill up). One by one the system has refused to recognize each one - so I instead connected them using IDE/USB adaptors (made by Vantec). That worked for a while, but again the system eventually rejected each one. The drives are working and are recognized by other computers as external drives. There are 4 USB ports on the motherboard and 4 on a separate USB hub card, and of course I've tried them all. At present, only one of my now-external drives shows up in Windows Explorer (and on the Disk Management and Device Manager screens). In other words, I've done a lot of troubleshooting already, and now I'm wondering whether there's a way to remind the system that it already recognizes the drives it's ignoring. Any thoughts? Thanks again!



One thing we can do to "remind" windows that it indeed does have these drives connected is to uninstall the drivers corresponding to the device controllers from the device manager. This means uninstall your USB Root Hub Devices from the Universal Serial Bus section in Device manager, as well as your IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers. When you uninstall a device from the device manager and then reboot your computer the driver will be re-installed from the driver cache and will begin re-recognizing devices immediately. You say that you are buying new IDE hard drives. I'm taken aback by this, why buy more IDE?! You will experience much better storage/GB, lifespan, speed, performance/reliability and more from SATA drives.


Surprisingly enough - or perhaps not - I got up this morning, fired up the computer all ready to delete all the USB drivers. . . and the system calmly recognized all the drives it had been ignoring for weeks. To answer your question, I'm no longer buying IDE drives, just using them until they quit (and I upgrade my motherboard to handle SATA drives).

But we'll see how long everything works this time. At least now I know what to do when it has a relapse. Thanks for your help!


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Fred Granlund will be eternally grateful.
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