USB ports and enclosures dying/unreliable

I started multiple nodes confident about a certain stability in USB ports and enclosures.
So far, one of my USB3.0 ports on my motherboard completely died and twice my harddrives got corrupted. First one was easily fixed by copying all data from it and reformatting.
Second time I used zfs and now I can’t import my pool but I’m not sure if the HDD got corrupted or the enclosure is causing problems (I/O errors, when trying to access the hdd it gets removed from /dev/sda and reconnected as /dev/sdh…).

So what good alternatives are there? I saw a few 4-bay enclosures with eSata for ~100-150€ on amazon. Of course the other alternative would be to use a SATA card and get the HDD into my PC case (which is really small…).

If ports on the Motherboard are starting to fail I’d not rely on any external enclosures and the first thing I’d be looking at is replacing the board. That would hopefully let you use the drives.

Failing that shucking the drives (Removing drives form USB enclosures) and use the drives internally would remove issues you might have with USB devices if you have enough sata ports. If you don’t you can get small half height, dual port sata PCIe cards from around £/$40 ( OR pick up a mini-sas card and use 1 mini-sas to 4 sata connector cable. Check second hand /refurbished server sites to grab cheap sata/sas cards).

I used to experience silent data corruption on some of my USB-connected drives. It turned out I was using a bad USB cable between my PC and my USB hub. You might want to double-check all cabling with some explicit test. In my story I was using badblocks for that.

often most mobo today will have multiple controllers for stuff like usb… so they have like one that runs an older standart and one with the new standart or even 3 different usb controllers… it’s possible one of the controllers have gone bad, so if so then moving from one controller to another should atleast be a temporary fix… often the ports are color coded or otherwise marked by their usb speed, so its easy to tell the difference.

also usb connections are well weird at times… like when i install on my old server from usb… if i use a usb extender cable it will boot just fine, however if i don’t it won’t boot on the usb, even tho it can still detect it… which is weird… length of cables, power supply’s to external usb hdd enclosures also often go bad, tho usually i find that they will all run 12 volts and will fit from most usb enclosures to another…
so switching those around could also help identify problems, and provide possible temporary solutions.

to hook up many harddrives you will want something like a disk shelf and connect it through an hba card with an external esata or maybe even sas tho i’ve recently learned that running sata on sas backplanes can cause compatibility issues, especially if one connects both sas and sata drives on the same “enclosure” / backplane / hba not sure exactly how it would affect it.

but in any regard it would make sense to hook up some kind of external device to your network or directly to the computer, ofc if you connect over network, then you will have an easy option to connect other computers later, without the need for moving around PCIe cards from one computer to another and thus would provide a redundancy solution in case your computer breaks down and you have other computers on the network which could be make to temporarily run the node.

you can also get some pretty practical sata port multipliers on ebay which will split out 1 sata port into like 5, and since for a storagenode you don’t really need the bandwidth of a full sata port anyways, you coulld in theory build a very cheap very big storage solution, if you don’t mind it being a bit ghetto.
ofc you would need to figure out how to connect it, but if your mobo has esata then that might be a fine way of doing that, else getting a card for that… but i duno how reliable esata is… i really like that the sas sff8088 external cables hook in with metal brackets and such…

another major consideration i think many people without lots of practical experience or formal education in electrical engineering, forget is that when you connect multiple things via different power supplies there can be or will eventually be over time voltage differences between the power supplies…
this is for the most cases not really that important because most stuff we connect usually only have one power supply… and for temporary connections it doesn’t matter much… it will usually work until the voltage difference becomes to much and stuff stops working… people disconnect it and reconnect it which might reset the issue.

the solution to this is proper grounding, something which the usb most likely has in the metal cape around the jack, but that will only work if the computer is also grounded and the powersupply isn’t to cheap to actually skip this little nuance… which should really be an issue today, but… well i’ve seen it.

a way to maybe make the usb port work again, if its just “blown” a thermal fuse which will permanently lock stuff down until it’s lost all power, is to disconnect everything wait a good 5-10 minutes… tho usually i find a good 10 count is enough, but sometimes stuff just takes much longer, but the 10 count will take 99%

hope you find a solution to the issues.

Oh and GROUND the computer… if you don’t have ground… make one… usually doesn’t take much… in worst cases, all you want to do is to equal out the voltage differential and thus a common bus… a piece of metal / copper or alu you can hook stuff up to so that all the grounding is equal between the devices… ofc with nowhere for the voltage difference to go it will eventually arc or dissipate into the surrounding things… even wood will move low voltages at very low currents.
which is why you see plastic mounts on the back of older speakers, because connecting directly touching a wooded speaker box will created added voltage leaking and noise i guess… or wear on the amp

for my server and my 3d printer i hammered down a big alu pole and hook it up with stout copper wire and connected everything to that… because when the 3d printer head touched my alu build plate it would kill the usb connection and make the led display on the printer all weird… lol

It was only one USB connector out of 4 of the same color (USB3, one controller) that refused to recognize any devices. Well maybe it does work again now after having cut the power, didn’t try it again afterwards.

The main issue is that all that USB stuff isn’t working reliable enough. There is always something breaking after 1-3 month.

The motherboard does not have eSata but I have some SATA cards for PCIE. They didn’t work on my other motherboard but I hope they will on that one. However, the case is so small, I probably can’t fit another HDD in there. And changing HDDs would be a major pain.
So I might need an external enclosure that I can connect by eSata/Sata directly and not use USB anymore.

So far I only found one for 100€ which is still quite an investment.

The mentioned SATA splitter sounds interesting. Or I could connect the HDDs directly to SATA and PSU SATA power.
But in any case I would need an external enclosure (or a cheap “ghetto” rack) I can put the HDDs in.

(No idea about the grounding of the PC. I think it should be correctly grounded because the case is screwed to the PSU and the PSU casing should be connected to the ground, otherwise it is trash…)

Thats not a bad option. I used all SAS/SATA enclosures for my drives (8-12 drives) - but I have a 4-drive enclosure as well laying around (not eSata however)

Its more reliable, but if you by accident unplug the cable its no difference

well atleast here EU standart… most stuff really isn’t grounded pr default… in the case of a pc, it will support grounding, but one needs to use a cable with 3 connectors, tho in the uk i believe one of the two wires connected is also a ground and neutral… which is why their connector cannot be set in either direction, which the eu standart plug will… until it gets 3 connectors then it will only fit one way… this usually means there are extra wires dedicated for ground which is hooked up to a grounding rod nearby the building.

if you don’t have a proper ground, maybe thats a way to start if you can get the usb setup up and running again… long story short… ensure that your building / plug that you connect your computer to has proper grounding, if it doesn’t then that will doom your usb long term, even under the best of conditions…

upgrades are often expensive, and often figuring out the root cause of an issue can be the most economical solution, tho time isn’t cheap either… and nor is skill at problem solving nor experience with the technology one is working with…

changing everything will add new problems… i will say almost without a doubt.
but yeah i wouldn’t expand further on usb if it isn’t working well thats for sure…

the option of dumping the usb and just hooking up sata port multipliers an extra psu to power the hdds… just remember the common ground when you hook up multiple power sources… its a critical point and will always bit you in the arse eventually.

and what to mount the hdds in… well thats just a matter of how cheap you want to go and how you want it to look… basically anything metal will most likely do fine… like a metal cabinet with some cable holes and maybe some air holes… but really so long as they can get rid of the heat they generate anything will do really… just needs to fix the drives a bit… or atleast rest them on a shelf or in rows on their sides… how fixed they are really depends on how much you plan to bump the case around…

the real question becomes… how long is a regular sata cable good for… and i assume esata is better for distance or most likely also supplies power. duno really never used esata.

50cm sata cable would make it pretty easy to hook up something external even if it isn’t really made for it… else you would need some sort of controller inside the box to hook it onto like 1gbit networking which you can pull on even old cables up to like 40-50 meters hell you can pull 10gbit 30-40meters using old 1gbit rated cables.

seem like you might be able to do 3 meters on sata cables lol good luck finding one tho… and better make it a good one and then max it a 2… lol

In Germany you can plug the cable either way but there is a 3rd wire for ground. So my PCs should be grounded correctly.
However, I can’t remember having seen a single power supply for external HDDs using a ground wire.

With a SATA PCIe card I can plug an (e)SATA cable directly on the backside of the PC. The rack could then be directly next to the PC or on top of it, so 50cm should be fine.

Anyone using external HDD racks/enclosures with eSata connectors he can recommend?

if you assume that the ground in the wall actually goes to ground… might not always be so in older buildings, should be pretty easy to test tho or find out.

like i mentioned earlier in my long rants, i would guess the metal cape on around the usb connectors are actually a ground, so if the computer is grounded and everything is connected correctly then it should have ground via the usb connection… most likely for the same reason that i stated.

That is very true sadly :smiley: Encountered way too often…

Yes, which also means the device and the PC share a common ground, no matter if the PC is grounded correctly or not.

true but the grounding makes excess voltage drop else it will just keep accumulating until it jumps into something else, so if your usb is fked then i would bet it’s really your computer ground thats fked.
atleast that would be my guess, and it might also be one of cheapest things to fix… depending on where you are… not always easy to get ground on the 13th floor…xD

but if you are on the ground, just hammer in a 50cm or so alu or whatever good conductor you got hook up a wire, cut a 3 wired ground cable and hook it back together and pass the ground to the one you made… worked great for my server when i couldn’t find a ground wire that actually worked on my very antique 3 phase 380volt plugs… which i wanted to borrow a ground from…
had so much trouble with my 3dp and when i upgraded the heated bed to an external powered 600 watt silicon heater mat stuck to a alu plate, then it just ended up being even weirder… grounded it and the server and it’s been running like a charm ever since.

wouldn’t pass an inspection… i think the alligator clip ground connection on the alu heated bed might just be to ghetto.

Our appartment has proper grounding. So that shouldn’t be an issue.