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XP Pro won't assign letter to External HDD

By brightguy · 4 replies
Dec 24, 2008
  1. Hey everyone-

    Before anyone jumps on me for posting a similar thread that has been posted here before, I promise that I did my research and verified that my case is different. The most similar thread I found was topic #60377 - but my case is slightly different (and it doesn't seem the solutions posed in that thread worked for me)

    Here's my problem:

    1. I had a desktop tower with 4 SATA HDDs - (1) for the OS and (3) for file storage

    2. The computer crashed and I decided to junk the desktop for a laptop

    3. To move personal data from my (3) storage HDDs, I purchased an external HDD case with USB 2.0 connect

    4. I installed one of the storage HDDs into the new external case

    5. I connected via USB to the new laptop (running XP Pro)

    6. Laptop and OS recognizes the drive and gives me the "read to use" note

    7. I find the drive unmapped in Windows Explorer

    8. In 'Disk Management' the drive shows up as: active, healthy, NTFS & with the name I gave the drive "Storage" - yet no letter drive assignment

    9. When I right click, the only option available is to 'Delete Partition'

    10. I open up a DOS window and type 'diskpart' and type 'list volume' and only the DVD drive and internal laptop HDD appear

    11. I type 'list disk' and the internal HDD appears as Disk 0 while my external HDD does appear as Disk 1

    From here, I'm at a loss. It has to do with these particular HDDs that were part of my old computer. To test, I attached my WD My Book Pro External HDD to my laptop and that maps completely without problem.

    My (3) storage HDDs were being run on XP Pro in my old machine and I'm not sure if they were dynamic drives - perhaps 1 or 2 of them but not all 3.

    Ultimately, I want to pull all my personal data from my (3) old HDDs and drop it onto my new ReadyNASDuo.

    Any suggestions would be helpful. And I apologize in advance if someone points out the solution on these boards that I totally missed.

    Happy Holidays!
  2. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    Hi :wave:

    Seems you've your post got a bit lost during the holiday shuffle. Was going to help and take a look with you.. but first want to know if anything new since ur post?
  3. brightguy

    brightguy TS Rookie Topic Starter

    No success yet

    Everyone gets busy during the holidays, so I figured I wouldn't get much feedback. Thanks for the reply though.

    I've been troubleshooting this from various angles without success.

    1) I attempted to plug my HDDs into my Dell Precision computer at work, and had the same exact results. The drive would mount for the most part and appear Healthy, Active and ready to go - just no drive letter would assign

    2) Because (2) of the HDDs are Maxtor, I downloaded the MaxBlast and SeaTools in hopes that maybe the software might help. No luck from that end... the MaxBlast software did not recognize that I had the drive connected via USB. The SeaTools did recognize the drive, but would not allow me to run any of the tests it offers (S.M.A.R.T, etc)

    3) I wasn't sure if I am having an issue with MBR. When I connect, it tells me that I have a MBR Partition Style (under volume properties). Nothing seems wrong though. A lot of people experiencing MBR issues have different symptoms.

    I have now put a case into Seagate to troubleshoot this issue. Most likely they will tell me I need to delete the partition. I just don't understand why it won't read.
  4. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    Will look thru ur info in more detail to see if any other ideas. Also, i've been working on a draft on how to help localize the problem (perhaps help fix). I've incuded the still draft version below. Let me know if questions or feedback as is still draft

    When Windows refuses to recognize your USB hard drive
    Drawing the battle lines
    There’s a very long and varied list of “things-to-look-for” to find and fix cause of Windows no longer recognizing your USB hard drive correctly. At some point during the battle for a solution, it helps to narrow the focus of the search to your hardware or the software you have running on the machine. One way to rule out the software
    • Create a non-Windows boot CD and use it to boot your machine
    • Your computer boots and only loads / runs the software on the CD
    • Check if your computer recognizes the USB drive correctly now after removing Windows and your other software from the equation
    This guide
    => Provides info about choice of commercial and freeware products which can be included and then launched from bootable CD
    => Instructions to create a bootable Gparted-Live CD (freeware) and guidance for using it to test (possibly repair) your problem

    Choice of products
    There are both commercial and freeware product choices. Each use a different set of test and recovery tools
    Commercial Products
    Acronis Disk Director and Norton Partition Manager are two of several commerical products which help in drive detection, partition management and partitition recovery. (Note their emphasis on “partition recovery” vs more general “data recovery). Other products, such as DataGetBack, focus primarily on data recovery features

    This CD has an assortment of freeware / public source code based tools. CD tools include
    => Gparted. Offers drive detection, partition management and data edit and recovery
    => TestDisk. Yet another detect, manage and recovery tool​
    Deciding which one’s for you I believe the CDs are about equal at drive detection. They vary in user interface and partition management and data recovery functions / options offered
    • Many people use the commercial products, many use Gparted without problem. That said, problems still happen. And to some extent you’re more on your own and need be a bit more computer savvy if the problem happens with freeware
    • I’ve seen opinions on DataGetBack (commercial data recovery) all over the map though, generally, people seem happy to delighted
    • Never used TestDisk either (freeware data recovery). Again, have seen opinion vary tho generally good / has done the job
    • You can always find more doing online searches for things like problem after gparted vs. problem after acronis disk director)
    • Consider your own needs in documentation and types of support in assessing commercial vs freeware as well product cost vs functionality
    >>> If you want to post own experience be sure to include the product version used <<<
    Gparted Live-CD
    Its tools include
    Gparted. Gparted is the Gnome Partition Editor. (If you like interesting acronyms: Gnome is part of GNU). Use Gparted to help detect, manage and recover your disk partitions and data. More info at:
    ==> Gparted web site
    ==> Gparted documentation
    ==> Gparted FAQ
    ==> Gparted Screenshots

    TestDisk. TestDisk is a detect / some partition management / more-so-a recovery tool on the Gparted-Live CD. Since it’s freeware, you may want to simply try it and decide things yourself. More info at:
    ==> TestDisk website
    ==> TestDisk documentation (including screenshots)​
    Create then boot from CD
    To create CD
    • Click here for Gparted-Live-CD download page
    • The page lists current and past releases
    • Find latest .iso file release at top of list. Click and Save to disk. An ISO (pronounced EYE–so) file is an image of an optical disk's playable surface
    • Burn iso file to CD. Pretty much all CD burn software supports iso. Check your documentation (look for iso in the index or simply search for iso in the doc)
    To boot from CD
    • Power off. Disconnect all USB
    • Insert CD. Power on
      • BIOS boots from first device found containing bootable media. BIOS settings define the search order. Order should put CD before internal hard drive.
      • Some systems also provide a Boot Menu. When the boot device is manually selected via Boot Menu, the device search by BIOS is skipped
        ==> Check your system documentation for available methods
      • The CD boots into Linux (another Operating System). When prompted for startup values, hit Enter for defaults. Defaults work for most systems but you may need to select a non-default resolution if display problems occur with default
    Use Gparted to detect USB drive
    Device Names
    => Device Names – Linux device names start as either /dev/hd for IDE devices or /dev/sd for SCSI / USB
    => Device names for drives - Letters differentiate drives (/dev/had vs. /dev/hdb)
    => Device names for partitions - Digits differentiate the partitions on a drive (/dev/hdb1 and /dev/hdb2 are different partitions and on the same drive /dev/hdb)
    Quick USB detect test
    USB detect results are referenced by #. Result #’s are defined later below
    • Disconnect all USB
    • Boot from CD. Gparted’s first screen includes info about the partitions found on computer’s boot drive
    • Click Gparted->Devices. Identify other drives found at start up
    • Connect USB drive. Wait 30-60 seconds
    • Click Gparted->Refresh->Devices then Gparted->Devices
    • Does USB drive appear now? If yes, verify drive info is what you expect
      >> (eg. disk size, number and types of partitions) <<
    • If USB drive is now detected and drive info is correct see Detect Result #1 otherwise continue
    System-level USB detect test
    • Disconnect all USB. Reboot from CD. As above, verify which drives detected on boot
    • Open Linux window: double click window icon (top of Gparted window) type dmesg for system log
    • Connect USB drive
    • Open new Linux window, get system log. Compare new/old logs to find USB entries after connect. Verify new device name of USB device
    • Click Gparted->Refresh Devices then Gparted->Devices. Is USB device among the devices?
      => If USB drive is listed in Devices see Detect Result #1
      => If USB drive not listed in Devices and USB drive not found in system log see Detect Result #2
      => If USB drive not listed in Devices but USB drive does appear in system log see Detect Result #3
    USB Detect Results
    Different USB Detect results below along with indication what each means as likely problem source
    => USB Drive hardware can be: the internal disk, the case enclosure, AC power adapter, USB cable
    => Computer hardware can be: BIOS, internal boards, USB ports, etc.
    1. Drive detected by Gparted and recognized correctly
      Probably software issue, Windows or other software running (including a virus!)
      > Once Gparted sees the device name
      => you can use Gparted and TestDisk to manage partitions / attempt data repair or recovery
      => Still check system log for USB drive error messages as they may help identify problems if seeing the drive but incorrect partition info <

    2. Drive not found in system log or detected by Gparted
      Your drive isn’t even sensed by hardware. Could be USB Drive or Computer Hardware
    3. Drive found in system log but not seen by Gparted
      Sensed by hardware so computer tries reading. Log should reveal device errors (I/O, corruption, etc.) which are severe so Linux (and probably Windows) will not present the new device to other software to see/use. Problem is likely the USB drive or hardware or in system-level software (eg. drivers, driver filters, services)
    Using Testdisk
    => Connect USB drive
    => Open Linux window. Enter TestDisk
    => Follow tell prompts till choice of drives listed (along with drive’s info)
    => If USB drive not listed
    -----> Exit TestDisk
    -----> Unplug the drive. After a short wait reconnect the drive
    -----> Start TestDisk again
  5. brightguy

    brightguy TS Rookie Topic Starter

    From all the troubleshooting that I've done, I've narrowed down what I believe is the issue: the HDDs themselves - not the USB connections or the computers I connect them to.

    From experience, I know that if you replace a MOBO on a system, the existing primary HDD (C:) will not initially work because of the new config (blue screen comes up). I've had this happen so I did a repair install of the Windows OS so the HDD would work with the new MOBO.

    I am not sure if there are similar issues with secondary/storage HDDs once connected to a MOBO and later used as external drives on a different MOBO. I'm thinking that this is a simple formatting issue (so to speak). If these storage drives had been logical drives and did not have MBR partitions, I think maybe I wouldn't have this problem.
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