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Surface can't initalize external HDDs, other Surfaces can


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#1 sildave94

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 02:54 PM

Hi everyone,

 

I’ve bought a WD My Passport Ultra yesterday, to use it with my Surface Pro 3 (Windows 10). I’d already bought another drive before, not realizing that a lot of external HDDs without external power supply can’t get enough power from Surface’s USB. I found a list of “Surface compatible” external HDDs that recommended the My Passport Ultra and I also tested the this one in the store, with a Surface Pro 3 they had on display and it worked perfectly well.

 

Unfortunately, my own Surface won’t initialize the drive. However, it appears in the disk management (as uninitialized) and it is clearly recognized as a drive. Being only 1TB, it’s too small for GPT and when I try to initialize it with MBR, it gives an error that translates to something like “severe hardware error”. Strangely, it worked on every other PC I tried it with (Windows 10 and Ubuntu).

 

I’ve also tried connecting some other HDDs without external power supply to my Surface, none of which worked. However, I can’t remember if they were also “partially recognized” like the WD or just not recognized at all.

 

The USB port is fine, by the way. It works with USB sticks and HDDs with external power supply.

 

In a forum I came across similar posts, one of which said that iTunes or virtual CD drives could be a problem but I don’t have iTunes and I also uninstalled Virtual Clone Drive, to no avail. I’ve also tried turning off my antivirus, in case its blocking all autoruns would be the problem.

 

Can anyone think of a reason why this thing works fine on every PC and even on a different Surface Pro 3 with Windows 10 but just can’t be initialized on my device? As far as I can tell, my Surface has to be the problem here.

 

I’m thankful for any help!

 

Best,

Silas



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#2 JohnC_21

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 03:10 PM

Usually you get the not initialized error on a clean unformatted/unpartitioned disk but on a drive like the WD Passport, it is already partitioned/formatted and should be recognized when attached. You may want to try using a powered USB hub or there are Y cables that will allow you to use two USB ports for increased power. 

 

Download Partition Wizard. Run the program. Does it detect the disk and does it show it partitioned and formatted? 



#3 sildave94

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 03:34 PM

Usually you get the not initialized error on a clean unformatted/unpartitioned disk but on a drive like the WD Passport, it is already partitioned/formatted and should be recognized when attached. You may want to try using a powered USB hub or there are Y cables that will allow you to use two USB ports for increased power. 

 

Download Partition Wizard. Run the program. Does it detect the disk and does it show it partitioned and formatted? 

 

Thanks for your reply! The disk is partitioned and formatted correctly. I've just tried hooking it up with a powered USB hub and that worked! Now we definitely now it's an insufficient power supply. Unfortunately, I actually bought the HDD as a "giant USB stick", i.e. to use it without a power supply  :rolleyes:

 

But still, it worked with an identical deivce in the shop, so I guess I should be able to make it work with mine either, right?



#4 JohnC_21

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 04:02 PM

This tell me your USB ports are not putting out sufficient power. The next thing I would try is the Y cable I mentioned. Does the Surface 3 had 2 USB ports next to each other? Otherwise the Y cable would not be that practical.



#5 sildave94

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 04:07 PM

This tell me your USB ports are not putting out sufficient power. The next thing I would try is the Y cable I mentioned. Does the Surface 3 had 2 USB ports next to each other? Otherwise the Y cable would not be that practical.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that before. The Surface Pro 3 unfortunately has only one USB port overall.



#6 JohnC_21

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 04:19 PM

I would contact Microsoft support and explain that the only way the computer detects a 2.5 external hard drive is with a powered hub. Explain that you tested it on a Surface 3 in the store and it worked.

 

See this thread. A poster uses a portable power pack to provide portable power. From the thread is seems the Surface 3 under powers the USB port. It's possible your Surface is putting out less amps then normal. If so, I would complain to Microsoft and see how they handle it.



#7 sildave94

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 04:23 PM

I would contact Microsoft support and explain that the only way the computer detects a 2.5 external hard drive is with a powered hub. Explain that you tested it on a Surface 3 in the store and it worked.

 

See this thread. A poster uses a portable power pack to provide portable power. From the thread is seems the Surface 3 under powers the USB port. It's possible your Surface is putting out less amps then normal. If so, I would complain to Microsoft and see how they handle it.

Alright, that sounds good. Thanks for your time!



#8 JohnC_21

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 04:25 PM

Your Welcome, Please post back an update when you get a chance.



#9 sildave94

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Posted 03 October 2015 - 07:52 AM

Alright, I have a Y-Cable now and it works perfectly well with my power pack or the USB socket integrated in my Surface's charging cable. I also got to check the HDD with another Surface Pro 3 with the same specs as mine and it worked normally with that, so the problem definitely has to be my Surface. Therefore I opened a support case with Microsoft and expect the problem to be solved within the next couple of weeks. I don’t think there are going to be any problems with MS support, otherwise I’ll post an update here. Thanks again for your help, @JohnC_21!

 

So, to sum it up for people with problems with a Surface and external HDDs:

 

Refer to this page first: http://bit.ly/1jF5I8P. It has some basic troubleshooting tips and most importantly a list of external HDDs that should work with Surface Pro 3 (yes, it actually does provide less power to the USB port than other devices, which is why some external HDDs without auxiliary power won’t work).

 

If that doesn’t help, your USB port probably provides less power than normal, which is a hardware error. You can verify this by testing your external HDD on equal devices and see if it works there. If so, you should consider one or both of the following options:

 

1. Use a Y-USB-Cable (like this: http://amzn.to/1FLYs59) and plug the non-data side into either the USB charger port on your Surface charging cable or a portable power pack (like this: http://amzn.to/1jF5PRM). This will allow you to use the external HDD with your damaged device but obviously it’s just a hack. Note that you can also use a powered USB hub. That’ll work just as well but it will certainly reduce the HDDs portability.

 

2. Send your Surface back to Microsoft. They have an option where you “buy” a new device first (via their repair process, not just on your own!), then send your old one in and get a full refund if the damage is covered by the warranty (i.e. warranty not expired and the device does not show any hints of physical damage or manipulation). Check the Microsoft website for more information: http://bit.ly/1hh2re2.

 

Hope this helps!



#10 JohnC_21

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Posted 03 October 2015 - 08:21 AM

Your Welcome, Thanks for taking the time to post the informative update.


Edited by hamluis, 15 October 2015 - 04:30 PM.





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