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Trouble connecting an external drive in Vista?

with 11 comments

Bashing Vista for whatever reason you can imagine seems to be the most hip thing to do nowadays, and while a post with my take on Vista is on its way, for now I wanted to share a tip with you for connecting external hard drives successfully to the OS.

I should note that not all external drives should be having this kind of problem, however when I upgraded from XP and wanted to get access to my Maxtor Shared Storage Plus external drive, the Maxtor utilities simply refused to communicate with the drive. As a side note, the drive I’m talking about is a networked drive a.k.a. Network-attached storage (not USB). Also Maxtor was acquired by Seagate last year, so my almost brand new 500gb drive receives limited support for the rest of its life span.

Now, the problem and its solution…

Windows Vista defaults to allow only NTLMv2 authentication on a network for increased security, and the Maxtor Shared Storage drives do not work with this type of authentication (that’s why only Public areas were accessible). The solution is to enable LM and NTLM authentications on the network to get full access back.

  1. Click on Start and on the command/search field, enter secpol.msc
  2. This will open the Local Security Policy app. Now on the left menu go to Local Policies > Security Options.
  3. On the right pane, scroll down to Network Security: LAN Manager authentication level and double click it.
  4. On the Local Security Setting tab you should see a drop down menu with options. Choose “Send LM & NTLM – use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated.” Accept all dialogs and restart.
  5. That should do the trick (on Vista Ultimate).

Because the Home editions of Vista do not include the Local Security Policy utility, on those machines you will need to edit a setting in the registry. If you follow my instructions exactly there should be nothing to be worried about:

  1. Click on Start and on the command/search field, enter regedit.
  2. This will open the Registry Editor. Now browse on the left pane to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control > Lsa.
  3. That should show a bunch of settings on the right pane, select LmCompatibilityLevel (double-click it).
  4. Change the current setting, from 3 to 1.
  5. Accept all dialogs and restart.

Written by Julio Franco

October 4th, 2007 at 6:02 pm

11 Comments so far

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  1. This is a joke. We generally run Macs in our house and each has an external drive. My wife had a Dell PC running XP from her employer and all Mac connected drives worked with that Dell. Her employer recently gave her a new Dell with Vista and it will recognize none of the external drives. When I read the complicated instructions dealing with this problem, I want to laugh and cry. Is this just another instance of Microsoft trying but again failing to match Apple? Or, is their a reasonably easy solution?

    John MacLean

    17 Oct 07 at 6:43 am

  2. It may sound ridiculous but in this particular case you have a new Operating System that defaults to newer security methods that are more effective. I don’t have a problem with that and I would say it’s the way things work with software. Operating Systems eventually have to drop some legacy support and Apple and Microsoft do it all the time (actually MS is the more conservative company about this).

    I agree however that the options for making HDDs work are too buried and we should get proper obvious support not only from the OS but from the hard drive manufacturer.


    17 Oct 07 at 2:41 pm

  3. Appreciate the post.
    However, I have Vista Home, and I even did the steps you outlined with regedit (actually similar instructions from another forum a few days ago). Still no dice. Vista won’t show my drive nor will it allow me to connect to my Mac directly. Serves me right I guess – I never have such problems with Macs.


    21 Oct 08 at 10:24 pm

  4. thnx for the info…..ill try that when i get home. ive had nothing but obsticles with vista. my desktop gave out and am trying to retrieve percious saves on an external hdd. i miss xp :/ (fingers crossed)


    11 Dec 08 at 9:52 am

  5. Thanks for the info, worked like a charm on Home Premium


    15 Mar 09 at 4:31 pm

  6. It worked great……Thank You


    27 Apr 09 at 8:17 am

  7. Got Home Basic – external HD in unnamed box works perfectly on XP. Vista allocates drive letter but ‘access denied’ Interestingly if I change permissions to the drive letter it goes through every file on the HD. Changing the registry as above did nothing.

    alan bailey

    21 Jun 09 at 5:58 am

  8. Sheesh…where were you when I needed you? I have an external hard drive that I filled up with about 100GB of Beatles studio outtakes and bootlegs. When I tried to access the drive in my Vista laptop, it would not recognize the drive. I figured it was Vista, but I had no idea how to workaround it. The question is, since this OS is supposed to INCREASE usability, why not a simple pop-up upon plugging in the HDD that says something like, ‘The security settings required to operate this device are not enabled. Would you liek to enable them at this time?” That’s all it would take…But, instead, I bought a whole new external. Oh well, more room for my files I suppose…


    28 Oct 09 at 3:49 pm

  9. To the previous poster: I think that the reason a pop-up like that would not come up is because, since the security settings are as they are, Vista does not even recognize that you plugged the drive in. Still, I see your point. An option like the one you mentioned would make just as much sense during the initial install of the OS or the first boot of a new system. I never understand why these software developers choose to just handicap us like that, and force the community to come up with workarounds.

    Security Sofware

    28 Oct 09 at 4:04 pm

  10. I have sort of a similar situation but this solution didn’t work. My previous laptop running XP Home crashed (motherboard), the hard drive was fine so I goy myself an external case and bought a new laptop running Vista Home Premium. When I connect the USB external I can see the drive and all the folders but I dont have access to my profile in the Doc&settings folder. I have tried taking ownnership of these folders and some files (as per a similar post on this site) but when I try to open these I still get access denied. Please can anyone shed some light on how to get access to this drive – Thanks in advance.


    28 Nov 09 at 5:14 pm

  11. It worked for me. Thanks a lot!!


    20 Dec 09 at 7:01 pm

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