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Problem with Windows Server 2003 Standard and external USB hard drives

    Question

  • I have a customer with a Windows Server 2003 Standard installation that is using external USB hard drives as backup media, the backup software is Symantec Backup Exec 2010.  Several months ago, they began having an issue where whenever a drive was plugged in to the server, it would cause various issues on the server, including an overall lack of responsiveness, inability to access the Management MMC and issues with shutting down.  The system will not allow you to stop the USB device through the system tray icon and the only way to restore normal functionality is to power the server off and back on.  If the USB drive is connected at power up, the system will recognize it and appears to interact normally with it, as well as behaving normally in general.  If you remove it and attempt to add a different drive, the above behavior happens again, which is a major issue, since they change these drives out daily for the next backup.  I should point out that these drives have been used to backup this server since day 1, back in 2005.

    The server in question has all the most recent drivers and updates.  I have tried different external hard drives on this server (drives from two different manufacturers), different cables, different power sources, various OS tweaks of the USB system, added a 3rd party USB interface card and the problem persists.  Yet I can take one of these drives to a Windows XP workstation and connect/disconnect it with no unusual behavior caused.

    If anyone has any suggestions, I would be very interested in new ideas. 

    Monday, September 27, 2010 8:08 PM

All replies

  • Hi,

     

    As you mention “Yet I can take one of these drives to a Windows XP workstation and connect/disconnect it with no unusual behavior caused”, so it seems that there is no issues with the USB drivers, so the issue may related to the USB port on the problematic Windows Server 2003 Standard computer. However, you also mentioned “added a 3rd party USB interface card and the problem persists”, so you can try to boot the problematic computer into Safe Mode and then attach the USB drives to see whether you get the same issue.

     

     

    Best Regards,

    Vincent Hu

     

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010 2:33 AM
  • Thanks for posting this.  One of my client's servers has the same issue and we have not been able to resolve it.

    Some of my observations:

     - the problem occurs with any mechanical HDD, but not flash "thumb" drives

     - does not seem to be a "size" issue, 8GB flash=good, 1.2GB micro HDD=bad

     - we took an image w/ Acronis and restored back to the same system using the "restore anywhere" option hoping for a magical driver fix.  No change.

     - it's been a while, so I may be wrong on the next (2) points:

        - the problem still occured in safe mode

        - the problem did NOT occur while booting from a Knoppix CD

    I hope this helps, Mitch

     

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:11 PM
  • Our work around in the meantime is to attach the drives to a PC and share it out.  The horrible performance is not an issue since the backup occures after hours.

    Mitch

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:13 PM

  • Did you try driver rollback... it sounds silly but it may have the old original storage driver for USB devices.

    Do you have another server to connect to for testing?

    It has to be either hardware or software... if it works in another system, you need to check hardware or software on the server.

    Verify the motherboard isn't shorted by using a mouse or something in that same USB port.. another peripheral besides a storage device.

    If another device works in that port with no issues, you've eliminated both the hardware scenarios and you're down to a bad driver.

    Try to resolve in safe mode or perform a driver reinstallation with the OEM drivers and not Windows Update drivers.

     


    Steve Kline
    Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Server Administrator
    Microsoft Certified Product Specialist
    Microsoft Certified Network Product Specialist
    This posting is "as is" without warranties and confers no rights.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:34 PM
  • Some other things that we have done:

     - replace the motherboard (same model)

     - tried an add-on PCI USB card

     - tried an add-on eSATA card and drive (this was the showstopper that caused us to use the workaround in my second post)

    So, which driver(s) should I roll-back on a server that has been in service for (2) years now and otherwise runs fine?

    Mitch

    Thursday, October 07, 2010 4:49 PM
  • I actually have observed the same thing as Mitch, the problem does not happen with a USB flash drive and does seem to happen in Safe Mode.  I didn't have access to a Knopix CD, so I'm not sure what the results there would be.  And I did not want to muddy the water with this in my initial post, but the server I posted about actually experienced a catastrophic crash right before I made that post and has been replaced.  Once the brand new replacement server was set up and the USB drive with the most recent backup was connected to it, it began exhibiting the same symptoms.  As before, that same drive can be connected to an XP Professional workstation without experiencing the same issues.  I thought about malware, but I can't find any evidence of that and the drives have frequently been reformatted before use.
    Monday, October 11, 2010 1:48 PM
  • If you are running Windows Server 2003 and you are wondering why your USB Hard Drive is not seen by the Operating System after you plug it in, here is the answer to this common problem. Windows Server has a tendency of attempting to assign a drive letter to the USB hard drive that is already in use. If you have plugged in a USB hard drive and checked in Device Manager to see if it is working correctly, and it is, the next step you need to take is to open DISK MANAGEMENT and look at the current disks. You will see that there is your standard C drive, your cd / dvd drive and then you may see your USB Drive but there is not a letter assigned to it. Go to that device that does not have a letter assigned to it, right click on it, and then click on CHANGE DRIVE LETTERS AND PATH. You will then see a place to change the drive letter. Simply change it to a letter that is not being used already (example C or D) and then CLICK OK. You problems are not resolved. The operating System will assign the letter of your choosing and from then on, you will have total and complete access to your External Hard Drive. Also, the operating system will indeed remember the letter that you assigned to it and when you unplug the hard drive and plug it back in, the system will assign it the same letter again.
    • Proposed as answer by S. M. Rahmani Wednesday, January 26, 2011 10:21 AM
    Monday, November 22, 2010 11:26 AM
  • I have a customer with from what I can tell the exact same problem.  The difference is my customer is running storage server 2003.  Usb hard drives when plugged in lock up the device manager and disk management and normal shutdown is no longer possible.  Usb flash drives appear to work fine.  Motherboard replaced today which made no difference.    My customer has tried many different external drives with the same result.  Also these same drives work fine on another Server 2003 SBS. If I boot storage server 2003 with usb hard drive already connected everything works fine.  If I unplug it or plug another in I may as well pull the power plug.  Did anyone ever find an answer to this question?
    • Proposed as answer by kkohlmeier Wednesday, November 23, 2011 8:52 PM
    • Unproposed as answer by kkohlmeier Wednesday, November 23, 2011 8:53 PM
    Friday, January 07, 2011 5:57 AM
  • And your net result ???
    Saturday, February 26, 2011 7:42 PM
  • Hello everyone. I had this exact problem trying to plug in a new WD Elements external drive to an elderly Windows Server 2003 running on a Dell Poweredge.

    I got lucky, the solution for me was simple. I can't promise it works for anyone else. I had to have the drive plugged in before booting up.

    Normally, with a USB device, I like to pre-install software then plug in the drive, or if no software is available, make sure windows has finished booting before plugging it. In this case, I had to do it backwards. If I plugged in the drive after booting, trying to view the drive in disk manager or getting the drive's properties in device manager would result in a hang. After that, mmc and other apps would hang, and eventually windows explorer. By plugging it in first, then powering up, the drive appeared and had a letter assigned. Worked fine.

    It may be the issue mentioned earlier - windows was trying to assign the drive a letter that was already taken. By booting with the drive, windows gave the drive a letter at the same time as all the others. Just a guess. Good luck to anyone else with this issue. Transferring over the network isn't a bad workaround.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2011 12:26 AM
  • I had this exact same issue on a clients Windows Server 2003. For me, it was the anti-virus!! When connecting a new external hard drive, or swapping from one to another, the AV was scanning the hard drive on connect and freezing Windows. I turned off the AV and could connect and disconnect the hard drives with no issue. I tried a lot of these other trouble shooting ideas first. Found this by connecting a USB drive and watching the task manager, it was devoting a high percent of the CPU to the AV as soon as I connected the drive, but since the USB drive had only 3 GB used vs. 150 GB the hard drive had, it did not freeze the server. I upgraded to the new file security software rather than running the client software to fix the issue.
    • Proposed as answer by kkohlmeier Wednesday, November 23, 2011 8:53 PM
    Wednesday, November 23, 2011 8:51 PM
  • Having problems related to this issue on Windows 2003 Server. We have an Internal e-SATA PCI card connected to a drive bay which allows 2.5" disks in a caddy to be inserted/removed for backup purposes. This has been working fine until recently when removing/inserting the disk causes the following issues :

    1. USB freezes up, anything connected to USB ports freezes, inc keyboard.

    2. OpenEdge Database service shuts down, locking all users out of main server application

    3. Cannot ping or remotely connect to server.

    I tried using a PS/2 keyboard to work around the USB lockup but even this locks up. The only solution is to power the server off.

    Paull.

     

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011 10:26 AM
  • I have also seen this issue occurring lately on a Dell Poweredge 2800 running SBS2003.  The server is past due to be replaced so I have not put a lot of effort into troubleshooting it, but the symptoms are the same.   If anyone has any ideas, I am curious as well.  The server has NOD32 ESMX which is configured not to scan external drives.
    Thursday, December 29, 2011 1:45 AM
  • This is the PROPER FIX for this problem.I run win ser 03 enterprise which i stepped up to after running standard for years.I can not rember ever having this problem with the standard edition but upon install of enterprise this began immeditly.As i run a asus m4t-880-evo usb-3.0 with a quad core 645 processor i went straight to the 3.0 stuff thinking the problem was there.Like everyone else on here i spent countless hours trying everything i could when all the while it was a simple fix.If you run server os's to power your everyday life surfing,work,play and everything a client os does then you probaly already know that most of the time stuff like this is just a click away from being fixed and most of the time it is not a very complicated fix so basicaly look at the smallest and simpliest choices first.Thanks from the depths of my existance lotuseater for after 4 days of reprogramming my 7 cpu network after a major crash it had came down to just attaching my media drives and launching my office system again but this stopped me and cost me thousands of dollars for my entire biz was shutdown but now im back to rolling thanks again and to all who reads this the fix is simple 1.open disc managment 2.right click on the drive that is visual but not operational.3.click on change drive letters and paths.4.assign it a new drive letter.5.youre done.
    Wednesday, July 18, 2012 8:58 PM
  • This is the PROPER FIX for this problem.I run win ser 03 enterprise which i stepped up to after running standard for years.I can not rember ever having this problem with the standard edition but upon install of enterprise this began immeditly.As i run a asus m4t-880-evo usb-3.0 with a quad core 645 processor i went straight to the 3.0 stuff thinking the problem was there.Like everyone else on here i spent countless hours trying everything i could when all the while it was a simple fix.If you run server os's to power your everyday life surfing,work,play and everything a client os does then you probaly already know that most of the time stuff like this is just a click away from being fixed and most of the time it is not a very complicated fix so basicaly look at the smallest and simpliest choices first.Thanks from the depths of my existance lotuseater for after 4 days of reprogramming my 7 cpu network after a major crash it had came down to just attaching my media drives and launching my office system again but this stopped me and cost me thousands of dollars for my entire biz was shutdown but now im back to rolling thanks again and to all who reads this the fix is simple 1.open disc managment 2.right click on the drive that is visual but not operational.3.click on change drive letters and paths.4.assign it a new drive letter.5.youre done.

    I too have the same problem and the above is not "the properfix" what every seems to loose sight of is that the server actually "hangs" and becomes unresponsive. there is no access to the disk management to apply the "proper fix" - the machine has to be rebooted- that is the only way -

    Yes my external usb disks was working fine until last week and is vissible and works normally in safe mode. I have not tried booting with it. I have deleted the partition on a xp machine ( Yes it has no problem with the drive) - I could then connect it to the SBS 2003 server and partition it in disk management- but as soon as i started formatting it the same thing happend - the server became totally iresponsive and had to be restarted.

    Has anybody got a solution to this? I cannot do any backups!!!!!

    Wednesday, October 03, 2012 3:32 PM
  • I had this problem with one of the Dell Poweredge server. Followed this link

    http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/servers/f/956/p/19292597/19546025.aspx

    I formatted my USB hard drive as FAT32 solved the problem. Use Fat32Formatter if your hardrive bigger than 32GB.
    Thursday, November 01, 2012 12:47 PM
  • I'm running Windows Server 2008 with 2 WD external USB drives that always get lost on a reboot.   I have been told that you have to boot the machine with the drives plugged in, but this does not work for me.  I used to just keep rebooting, including powering down server, recycling power on the usb drives, etc., until they were magically picked up again.  I hate doing this every time there is a Windows Update.

    The one thing that works EVERY time for me is to physically unplug the power cord from the server for a few seconds, then boot fresh.  This always works for me.  The server boots and recognizes both drives as it should.  It's not a fix and it's still a pain, but I'm tired of searching for a fix.  I'll just keep walking to the next room to unplug the server.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012 5:51 PM
  • This was very insightful we had the same problem with an old windows 2003 server as well.  Windows would claim it was done installing the drive but failed to assign it a usable drive letter.
    Thursday, February 28, 2013 8:20 PM
  • I did have a problem with drive letter assignation on a PE2950 under 2003 standard.

    The solution was to re enable the automount (http://technet.microsoft.com/fr-fr/library/cc753703(v=ws.10).aspx)

    As I don't have any eSCSI volume attached to this server it has no consequences except having letters automatically assigned to my USB HDDs.

    Hope it may help someone.

     

    Wednesday, April 03, 2013 9:36 AM
  • Thank you so much, you have made my day!!!
    Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1:13 PM