External Drive is not staying connected

By oo7golden1 · 7 replies
Jul 16, 2009
  1. Ok. I have been trying for weeks to try and fix or save the data on my Full 500GB External hard drive and have had extremely little success but lots of failure. So I turn to the internet so others who have more experience and hopefully some answers can help me out. I will try and provide as much information as possible so that no details get left out. If I forget something that might be relevant however don’t hesitate to ask I really, really, want to get the videos from my drive.

    Ok so here we go. I have a Western Digital 500GB External Hard drive that I finally filled about a month ago. After words I started getting a message on the computer it is connected to (PC Windows XP) that the drive was full or low on space. Since it was an external and I had two more externals to put information on I was not worried about it. A few weeks later after turning on my computer my drives started to disconnect and then reconnect every once and a while from my computer, I could hear the plug and play sound ding as if I had just plugged in a new USB device (Drive is USB powered) then the ding like it had been unplugged. The dings would stop if I unplugged all my drives and tried to access one at a time. I would also get an occasional write failure notification.

    At first I thought it was my computer acting up because it’s not the newest computer 5+ years old (still reliable though), its custom built so I thought maybe my USB plugs might have not been getting enough power. I went into my computer settings and made sure that the computer was not allowing the USB drives to allocate power to my USB devices, making sure all my drives were getting enough power.

    Any who my F: drive started to connect and disconnect back to back over and over about 8 times before disconnecting completely. I started to read forums and found out that my power cord might be going bad. Fortunately for me I have two more drives so just swapped the power cord from one of these and it worked for a few min, and then stopped. I found another power cord and tried that as well; the light on the drive turned on and would blink for a few seconds then turn off.

    After switching and trying all the power and USB cords I could find I came to the conclusion that my computer was fine and cords were fine it was the drive. So again I hit the internet and the forums. Since I could plug in the drive and hear it connect and disconnect some forums suggested that it was my hard drive encasing. Note: a lot of forums also suggested trying it internally but I don’t have SATA internally only ATA.

    So… I started researching external encasings online. After making the mistake of purchasing some ATA encasings instead of SATA encasings on accident, I got hold of an Antec SATA encasing (pretty fancy by the way but should be for 70$). Well I took my drive out of my Western Digital encasing (the warranty has been over for about a month, go figure) and put it into my Antec.

    When I connect it with the new encasing I get the ding for connect and immediately after the ding for disconnect. Grrr I plugged it into my laptop and get the same thing, other PC same thing. When I plug it in I can see it pop up on My Computer next to my internal hard drive for about ½ a second before it disconnects. If I play with turning it on and off a few times sometimes I can get it to show in my Device Manager (not in my computer though). My Computer>Manage does not work. I started researching other possibilities online and found a program called TestDisk when I got my drive to show in my laptops Device Manager I was able to pickup the drive and see its information “Drive F: - 500GB/465GiB – WDC WD50 00AASS – 22YFA0” I was hoping that the program could fix the drive but so far after fiddling with it. Nada. I am running out of ideas.

    I have 500GB of information that took a great many hours to collect and store. None of its business or anything just a ton of video mostly, so it’s not worth me paying a TON of money for a data recovery center or business to save my information. But if I can fix it I will. 500GB is very, very, very worth it to me. I have a feeling that I am going to want to access some of the info stored and find out it’s on my F drive. Any who… Any and ALL help is appreciated. As well as any questions about the information that I might have forgotten to include. Oh I forgot my drives not making any weird noises and heats up a little while in use so I know its spinning, tried the freezing technique, didn’t work, its also plugged directly into my devices not hubs or power strips. I might try the freezing technique again tonight. If I can just salvage the drive information I would be happy.

    Thanks to everyone who has any ideas on how I might fix my problem I anxiously look forward to reading your suggestions and ideas.
  2. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,572   +65

    I have also fixed numerous other problems using this same method I'm about to describe to you, but here's a personal anecdote that sounds pretty similar to your situation.

    I used to have a 'bad' drive myself.. It was an internal drive and it would spin down/up and disconnect/reconnect on a whim every several minutes to a half hour or so. It would mimic exactly the same issue you are experiencing.

    The solution? I replaced the PCB (circuit board) on the bottom of the drive and it was fine afterward.

    I got the PCB on eBay by buying the same *exact* hard drive... I bought a new hard drive, basically. You should be able to do the same, just look for the exact same model and revision # on the PCB. It may work still if you don't match it up exactly, but to be safe, it's a good idea. For example, I did replace the PCB on a Samsung 160GB with a slight version difference and it worked... But I think matching it up is absolutely critical if you're going to spend money on it.

    Here's an example of a hard drive I own. The model number is printed on the label on top of the drive (not pictured). The PCB is the green stuff on the bottom and the entire thing comes off after just removing a few screws. The revision number is at the bottom. Yours may be in a different location.

  3. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    How many drives, total, are connected to the desktop?
    Is there any difference, when you connect only one external drive to your system... or does it happen not matter what.
    I have great respect for Rick, as one of the top professional tech's on this forum. But we have run literally thousands of drive combinations without discovering the problem Rick describes. Oh, on occasion we have had to replace a PCB to access data or whatever in a repair...

    What you describe is quite interesting to us here, as we do a lot of similar connection changes and have never had the problems you describe. We use many different enclosures and firewire as well as usb cables. Strange is the word for what you describe.
  4. oo7golden1

    oo7golden1 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thank you guys for responding to my post so fast, and the great tip Rick, I have read at LEAST 100 pages of forums trying to fix my drive and didn’t read anything about replacing the PCB (circuit board) on the bottom of the drive.

    And yes raybay very strange. So strange I can’t figure it out after what seems like forever searching for an answer online! The answer to your question is I have 3 drives an older WD 500GB (the one with the old power button think it’s called home edition) which I assigned the letter G: another 500GB WD Essential edition assigned F: and a new WD 1TB essential E. The F: drive is the one that disconnects instantly after connecting. After my F started freaking out I got a little antsy and unplugged my G and E and only plug them in when I need to use them. But they seem fine and I don’t have any connection problems with them, thank goodness.

    If I can fix my F then that would be AWSOME. So you both (and readers ;)) agree that replacing my PCB can perhaps fix my problem??? Is there anything technical about it? Just unscrew a few screws and swap the PCBs from one drive to another? I should just be able to drive down to Bestbuy pick up a Hard drive that’s the same (500GB WD Essential Edition) pop it out of its enclosure and swap the green card for the newer one? Its sounding too simple… :)

    Any thing else I need to know before I proceed?

    Look forward to hearing from you guys and thanks again for such a fast response. WD took like a week to message me back and it felt like a copy paste answer write of their support pages. You guys are great. And thank you so much Rick for including a picture. If u would have just said PCB I would have had to start web surfing again :).

    Thanks again hope to hear from you guys soon.

    Bond James :)
  5. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,572   +65

    As raybay pointed out, its an unusual fix and there may be some other things to look at first. You don't really want to make the commitment to spend money for a new drive unless you've exhausted all other possibilities.

    For one, have you tried it on another computer? *Verify* you have the same problem with a 2nd computer. Because this is a 2.5" drive, there could be power issues with your USB. It just reminded me of a problem *I* had though, so I figured I'd share my solution.

    I mentioned the above and nothing else because typically everyone else on the forum mentions just about everything else imaginable, but not that. :) Remember though: don't invest in another drive unless you're at the end of your rope.


    You need to match it with the same hard drive manufactured around the same time period. You can't guarantee that by shopping at Best Buy for the same model. You'll need to look online and not only match the model number, but the PCB model and revision. In the past, I've found eBay is the best place to look. That PCB number is pretty important.

    For example, I searched for the PCB # on eBay and found this. This would be a very good bet, because this drive should have the same electronics my 1TB example has. It just should be a matter of swapping it out and viola... It will work, provided the PCB is the problem. I mentioned the Samsung because I was able to get a different revision to work, but it is the same PCB #. It was a Rev 2 instead of a Rev 1.1 or whatever. If you can't find an exact match, it may be worth taking the chance for you.

    Nope, nothing technical. Just look for that PCB number and swap the boards. There's nothing else to it.

    Be careful when removing the PCB. It might be a little sticky at first, so gently and slowly pry it up and watch for cables underneath (it's usually attached to the drive through a ribbon cable). You'll most likely need to disconnect it before you can lift the board completely up.

    Also, because you have a 2.5" external drive (same kind as used in laptops), you'll need a very tiny screwdriver. You should be able to find the appropriate driver at most hardware stores (Sears has a good selection of inexpensive craftsman micro-drivers). You'll probably need a torx screwdriver.. Probably a size "T5"... Look at your hard drive and see what kind of tool you need, then you can make the appropriate call.

    And raybay: I appreciate your kind words. I don't deserve them, but thank you. :)
  6. oo7golden1

    oo7golden1 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Yeah I have tried the drive on my main PC XP, my laptop Vista, and my family PC XP. I have also tried using a different USB and new power cord.

    Before I go out and buy a new drive to take apart, maybe we can try a few more things, if any ideas come to mind. Let me recap what my drive is doing. At the moment I take my problematic drive and plug it into a computer it dings like it has connected then dings as it disconnects. It does not show anywhere in Device Manager afterwards. However in that brief ¼ of a second when its connecting and the computer reads the drive it will pop up VERY fast in the my computer under Hard Disk Drives.

    Perhaps there’s a software problem with the boot up? I have filled the drive to nearly full. I didn’t go in and delete anything however when the drive was working. Don’t know if that spring forth any ideas.

    Any and all ideas are appreciated. But like I you say I think I am reaching the end of my rope.

  7. oo7golden1

    oo7golden1 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Ok, I started researching for new PCB replacements and stumbled upon this page… htttp://datacent.com/datarecovery/hdd/western_digital/WD5000AAJS when I came to the line where it said “smell of smoke” I went ahead and gave my PCB a sniff and I think it does smell a little fried :( have a fear that this might be my problem after all. As per finding a replacement I think I might have a problem finding information on the PCB. No one includes that in the description when selling drives, and have a feeling that finding it will be difficult. If the drive Model number is the same and the Date is close is it going to be the same PCB card? I am starting to get worried again :(
  8. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,572   +65

    Yeah. That's why I recommend eBay. Sellers often include that information on used drives and for those who don't, you can ask the seller what the numbers are.. they'll usually help you out.

    Without getting the specifics before your purchase, you'll be taking a big chance and I can't say for sure what the results might be if you use the wrong PCB.
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