Unfortunately there are a multitude of reasons why USB connected storage can fall off-line, many of which are not necessarily the USB device’s fault. With the introduction of USB 3.0 and its complex power saving schemes, this problem grew.    It can be very frustrating to try to track down these problems.  In this FAQ we will try to explain some of these problems and offer ideas for things to check or ways to make corrections.

Quick Summary of things to try:

  1. Switch to a shorter and better quality USB cable.  1M or less is better.  Use a good brand (no cheap cables)
  2. Power Management settings. See more info below and install our Stay Awake program if you think power management is a problem
  3. Try plugging device into USB 2 port to see if problem goes away.  It will be slower, but if more reliable and it will help diagnose.
  4. Update USB port drivers to latest.
  5. Try a different port using a different chipset if possible.  For example, plug into a USB port on the back (or front) of the computer because sometimes USB ports in different locations on the machines use different chipsets.
  6. Install a 3rd party USB card if motherboard ports don’t work.  Ask your sales rep for a “kit” of several USB ports we stock.
  7. Use our HRDM2.5 if drive letters aren’t assigned or change randomly.
  8. Switch to eSATA connection (Note: eSATA has it’s own set of issues including cable length and compatibility).
  9. Eliminate any USB hubs.
  10. Upgrade your high-rely trays to Rev 2.0 (these may be more stable, especially with larger >1TB hard drives).
  11. Ask your sales rep about deals to upgrade to NAS.  You may be able to use the same backup media and save costs.

Also If you have multiple drives, be aware that USB3 will disconnect all drives momentarily when you unplug only one of them, then reconnect all the drives.  This behavior is part of the USB3 standard, but can create problems if backup jobs are using one drives while you swap another.

USB 3.0 problems are NOT isolated to one brand.  For example look at these linkshttp://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-1730557/seagate-3tb-external-randomly-dropping-usb-connection.html

You can usually tell USB 3.0 versus USB 2.0 ports by the blue connector.  On some early machines they may not be blue but are marked with a USB 3.0 logo next to the port.  USB 3.0 is so fast it’s a bit like a radio antenna from an electrical engineering standpoint.  Running at 5 Gigabits per second the signal is running at a similar frequency to a broadcast antenna.  That translates to 640 MBps (megabytes per second)—ten times faster than USB 2.0 (aka Hi-Speed USB). In the real world this speed increase will result in only 2-3 times faster data transfer for backup compared to USB 2.0 but the signals are genuinely 10 times the bit rate.  This is why the signals inside the cable can be influenced by nearby power cords or devices via electromagnetic interference (and vice versa).

Here is a more detailed explanation and compilation of possible things to check or watch out for when you’re having difficulty with USB storage staying connected:

1. Power conservation settings – Power conservation maybe shutting down the drive during periods of inactivity. There are multiple layers where these settings can exist. They can be in power settings for storage, for hubs, for the operating system, even the BIOS. They can be in the configuration of the USB driver. They can be in device side options. They can exist in USB performance enhancement tools or even caching utilities.  Try to inspect every level where these options exist to note if any power saving features are enabled and attempt to disable them. Often a drive is shut down during inactivity to conserve power, but then when requested from again can take to long to spin up again and become ready and so a time-out error occurs resulting in the device going off-line.  Is your BIOS set correctly for continual USB operations.  In the BIOS, make sure that no other chipsets which may affect USB operations are set to conserve power.  High-Rely offers a software tool free to download and use on this site called “Stay Awake”.

2. Other storage devices – If you are using a network environment, other storage devices (network shares) or even other USB drives, those resources may be taking the drive letters away from the volumes of your concern. Be sure that all devices are accounted for and that none would interfere with your USB device.  Consider using our HRDM2 utility to assign and hold letters if you think this maybe happening.  Account for all of your network shares.  Be sure there are no transient processes running which maybe intermittently connecting to a storage resource, doing something, then disconnecting.

3.  Weak connections – Wiggle your power supply, device and USB connections.  A weak connection to power, or data may cause intermittent problems like this.  While the device is connected (within reason) shake or wiggle connections to the power supply, the data cable, or even the device itself.  make sure the device stays connected.  If it does not, a weak connection of those items is suspect.  Try another USB cable.

4. Power – is everything on a UPS and has your UPS passed a test recently?

5. Static discharge – have you noticed high static discharges in your area.  A sufficient static discharge can disrupt system operations on all levels.

6. Temperature – is it possible that at some point during the day or night, the air temperature is rising about 95F where your equipment is?  Over heating can cause an interruption.  This can happen when no one is around particularly with timer based thermostats.

7. Molestation, unknown or authorized access – Is someone else using the computer, possibly without your knowledge?  This could be a benevolent situation where another employee is simply using the computer and isn’t managing it correctly or it could be a virus or hacker.  Software updates can also cause issue for example rebooting your computer or stopping and starting services.

8. System stability – Possibly the system is unstable: processes, drivers, utilities or applications are hanging or incompatible.  Or possibly the system has a hardware problem.

9. Software – See if your hardware drivers are up to date.  Or, possibly a driver was recently updated which now has a problem – you can try rolling back the driver.

10. Hubs – If your storage is plugged int o USB hub that is intermittent or is responding to power saving setting preferences from the hosts USB port.  Make sure your hub is a “powered” hub and is not relying on power from the USB host port in order to operate.

11. Noisy RF environment – high instances of RF can interfere with machine operations.  For example if your machine and USB device are within or 20 feet of a shop arc welder, inconsistent operation wouldn’t be too surprising.  RF can travel through walls easily.  If you share your building with another entity, it might be their RF noise causing the problem and not any from you.

As you can see, achieving persistent USB drive connections can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  If you’re unable to resolve USB 3 problems, consider upgrading to one of our NAS solutions.