USB devices MAY halt computer boot

Photo: André Karwath aka Aka

If your computer won’t start, try removing USB devices.

I was engaged by a New York-based VAR (Value Added Reseller) to replace a server in a busy Miami environment. The symptom was that the server (only a few months old) wouldn’t boot. The VAR’s tech support personnel had remotely diagnosed the server and concluded that it needed to be replaced. The new server had been drop-shipped to the customer site, so I just needed to copy the data from the old server to the new server. I removed the drive from the old server and copied the data to the new server within an
hour; the new server started fine. Then the VAR’s technician logged on remotely to the new server and fine-tuned the VAR’s application.

The VAR had provided an external hard drive, connected via a USB cable, for routine data backup. We plugged it into the new server, and while it seemed to run okay, it made some odd squeaking noises for about 30 seconds. I tidied up the site as the VAR’s technician tidied up the software. When he tried to restart the new server, it wouldn’t boot. Neither of us liked the sound from the external hard drive. Turning off the external hard drive and removing its USB cable from the server allowed the new server to boot just fine. The USB-attached external hard drive wasn’t playing nice with the server, so the new server refused to boot. The technician asked the customer to return the old external hard drive and ordered a replacement external hard drive.

Moral of the story: When trouble-shooting a computer that won’t boot, don’t assume that all of its USB-connected devices are okay. Temporarily unplug any unnecessary USB devices and then try restarting the computer. It may just work!

p.s. I’ll bet that the old server was fine. We just needed to replace the external hard drive. D’oh!

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695


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