Portable USB hard drive power starvation…

If you are having connectivity problems with your portable USB hard drive read on. These problems may manifest themselves in a variety of ways. It may not be recognised, be ticking (disconnect immediately) or hanging when trying to access or write large files. Typical USB ports are capable of delivering 500mA@5 volts and each port has a semi-conductor that disconnects when too much power is drawn. Newer USB3 can deliver 1000mA and have a self-healing fuse.

As a remedy you can clean the connectors in the first instance. These can get very dirty and are subject to wear out. Once the gold plating connectors are worn, the copper shows throw and this degenerates quickly. To clean, use an artist’s brush soaked with isopropyl alcohol. Before reconnecting, make sure all the connectors are completely dry. Similarly, replace any old USB cables. On many desktops PCs the front USB ports cannot deliver enough power due to the motherboard design. Always attempt the back USB ports on the motherboard itself.

Connecting and disconnecting USB ports regularly can cause problems over the long term. Connections will become loose and worn. Don’t use the same cable for all your USB devices. Whilst you can replace a cable it is not so easy to replace a female connector. If your portable hard drive gets a lot of mobile usage, one useful tip is to use electrical tape over the connector when not in use.