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Frequently Asked Questions on Universal Serial Bus

Questions

  1. What is USB?
  2. What is USB good for?
  3. What isn't USB good for?
  4. What is "hot-swapping"?
  5. What is "plug and play"?
  6. Hubs? Huh?
  7. Self-powered vs. powered hubs?
  8. How fast is USB?
  9. Can my computer use USB devices?
  10. How long can cables be?
  11. Type A or B / upstream or downstream?
  12. How do I daisy chain my USB devices?
  13. I just connected my External/Personal Storage Hard Drives to my Windows 2000 or Windows XP system. When entering Disk Management, I noticed the FAT 32 Partition and an area of the drive marked as unallocated. Why is there unallocated space on the drive?
  14. Why 1394 instead of USB?
  15. What is the difference between a Basic Disk and a Dynamic Disk?
  16. How do I determine if Windows 98 Second Edition has the updated drivers for my 1394 device?
  17. From my Windows XP/2000 System, why can't I create a FAT32 partition greater than 160GB using Partition Magic 8.0?
  18. How to partition & format your External Storage Devices for Macintosh Computers
  19. Can I swap my Personal Storage Device between a Mac and PC?
  20. How can I convert my existing FAT32 drive to NTFS on a Windows 2000 or XP system?
  21. 1394 Windows 98SE / Windows 2000 Installations.
  22. How do I format and partition my 1394 or USB Personal Storage device in Windows?


Answers

(1) What is USB?

USB is the simple way to connect peripherals to your computer. It can be used to attach a wide variety of devices like scanners, cameras, keyboards, speakers - almost anything to your computer.

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(2) What is USB good for?

USB for great for attaching medium speed devices to computers. It's maximum speed of 12 Mbps is fine for low speed devices like keyboards, mice, or joysticks. It is also well suited for medium speed devices like floppy drives, cameras, modems, or scanners.

Also, because it's "hot-pluggable" you can plug devices in or unplug them safely when you computer is turned on.

Using either multiple ports on your computer or a hub, you can attach an almost unlimited number of devices - theoretically up to 128 if you have them.

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(3) What isn't USB good for?

USB isn't a replacement for every connector on your old PC. It's maximum speed of 12 Mbps isn't fast enough for high speed networking, digital video, fast disks, and other high performance peripherals. Other solutions such as SCSI or Firewire/iLink can fill these needs.

Also, many older peripherals do not have USB built in. For these, there are a variety of USB adapters available.

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(4) What is "hot-swapping?"

One of the best features of USB is that it is hot swappable. This means you can walk up to a computer, plug in a new device using USB, and use it right away.

Most connectors on computers can only be plugged in when the computer is off. This prevents electrical shorts or glitches that can cause damage. USB doesn't have this limitation.

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(5) What is "plug and play?"

Plug and play refers to the ability to use a new peripheral without going through an elaborate configuration process.

Plug and play depends on the operating system used on your computer, Windows 98 and MacOS have a set of basic USB drivers built in that gives them true plug and play for a wide class of USB peripherals. Even so, newer types of USB devices may need additional drivers installed.

USB is well suited for plug and play operation. No jumpers need be set or id's selected. There are no interrupt conflicts or other messy configuration issues involved in using USB devices.

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(6) Hubs? Huh?

Most computers have two USB ports. If you need to plug in more than two USB devices you do so by using a USB hub. A hub plugs into your USB port and provides more than one additional plugs. Common hub sizes include four or seven ports.

Many USB devices have hubs build right into them. Most keyboards have another USB port in them so you can daisy chain a mouse, joystick, or other USB device to it.

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(7) Self-powered vs. powered hubs?

One important feature of USB is that the cables distribute power as well as data. This means that devices that use modest amounts of power don't need separate power supplies. So few big power cubes at your wall outlet and fewer cords running across your desk.

Still, the amount of power distributed over USB is limited. A unpowered (or self-powered) hub uses some of the power coming to it for it's own operation, and passes the remainder along to devices plugged into it. This is OK for small hubs with low power devices plugged into it. A good example is this is a keyboard with an powered hub built-in. This has plenty of power for plugging in a mouse or track pad.

Powered hubs have their own power supplies and can supply full power to all the devices that can physically plugged into them. Of course, you do have an extra wire and power block plugged into the wall.

Some hubs can operate either way. If they don't have their power supply plugged-in, they operate as an unpowered hub - with a limited ability to power additional USB devices. When you plug-in their power supplied, they function as powered hubs.

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(8) How fast is USB?

USB has a "low speed" mode operating at 1.5 Mbps and a "high speed" mode operating up to 12 Mbps.

Low speed mode is often used by slower devices such as mice, keyboards, and joysticks.

High speed mode is required by faster devices like scanners and printers.

Today (1998) this speed range places USB firmly in the midrange. SCSI and Firewire are faster, serial and ADB are slower. A few years from now USB will undoubtedly be viewed as low speed...

Most computer with two USB ports place both ports on the same USB bus. This means that the bandwidth is shared between them. So, if you have USB speakers on one port, and a printer on the other, the printer will run slower when sound data is being sent to your speakers.

New computers, such as Apple's G4, are using separate USB buses on each USB port. This means that you can use the full 12 Mbps bandwidth on each port.

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(9) Can my computer use USB devices?

This depends on two things: hardware and software.

Hardware-wise, you need a USB port in your computer. This can either be built in (most PC's build in 1999 and Apple's iMac) or from a plug in card. A number of venders sell PCI and CardBus USB adapters which can add USB capabilities to your older computer.

Software-wise for Wintel computers, you need either Windows 98, Windows 95 OSR 2.1 (although Windows 98 has better USB support than Windows 95), Windows 2000. For Apple Macintosh computers you need MacOS 8.1 or later.

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(10) How long can cables be?

Five meters is the maximum cable length allowed by USB. You can achieve longer cable runs by inserting a hub every five meters. Companies are also introducing cables with repeaters built into them to allow longer cable runs.

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(11) Type A or B / upstream or downstream?

Type A plugs are the USB output port of a host system or hub. These are also know as upstream ports. The USB plug in your computer is a Type A plug. Your typical USB device with a single cable coming out of it plugs into a hub or host systems Type A port.

Type B plugs are the USB input ports leading into hubs. These are also know as downstream ports. They always connect to a Type A, upstream port, at the other end of the cable.

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(12) How do I daisy chain my USB devices?

USB devices are not daisy chained, rather they use hubs to connect more devices. If you have a single USB port on your computer and need to use three USB devices, you need to first plug a hub into the computer. The hub will then have four, or seven (or however many) ports available for you to plug in additional devices.

Hubs can be daisy chained, to provide even more USB ports.

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(13) I just connected my External/Personal Storage Hard Drives to my Windows 2000 or Windows XP system. When entering Disk Management, I noticed the FAT 32 Partition and an area of the drive marked as unallocated. Why is there unallocated space on the drive?

Older Operating Systems (before Windows 2000) disk capacity was shown on a partition basis. With the introduction of the Disk Management Utility (found in Windows 2000 and Windows XP), the total capacity of the hard disk was shown (see image below).

Note the Unallocated Disk Space shown on the External/Personal Storage Drive (Disk 1). Unallocated Disk Space will vary pending on the capacity of the External/Personal Storage Drive that you have connected to your Windows 2000 or Windows XP system.

NOTE: Windows 2000 and Windows XP do not have the ability to create FAT 32 partitions. It is also important to note that FAT 32 partitions possess a 4 GB file size limitation. If using the External/Personal Storage unit with these Operating Systems, it is suggested that you prepare the entire drive’s capacity using NTFS. Rocstor recommends that you backup any/all data on your External/Personal Storage Drive before starting the partitioning or formatting process.

Procedure:

In order to use the full capacity of the drive, you would have to either:

Create a second partition utilizing the unallocated disk space on the External/Personal Storage unit.

-OR-

Delete the existing FAT 32 partition on the External/Personal Drive, create a partition for the entire space of the drive and format the drive.

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(14) Why 1394 instead of USB?

1394 is fast becoming an industry standard for consumer electronics products. It offers customers the same ease of installation as USB, with the added benefit of a faster data transfer rate and more bandwidth. Maxtor's 1394 Personal Storage data transfer rate is up to 400 Mbps - 30 times faster than USB connectivity!

Unallocated Disk Space shown on External/Personal Storage Hard Drives in Windows 2000 and/or Windows XP Disk Management Utilities.

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(15) What is the difference between a Basic Disk and a Dynamic Disk?

There are two different types of disk storage available to the Windows 2000/XP Environment:

Basic Disk Storage

Dynamic Disk Storage

Basic Disk Storage

Basic storage uses partition tables that are supported by MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me), Microsoft Windows NT, Microsoft Windows 2000, and Windows XP. A disk initialized for basic storage is called a basic disk. A basic disk contains basic volumes, such as primary partitions, extended partitions, and logical drives.

Dynamic Disk Storage

Dynamic storage is supported by both Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional. A disk that is initialized for dynamic storage is called a dynamic disk. A dynamic disk contains dynamic volumes, such as simple volumes, spanned volumes, striped volumes, mirrored volumes, and RAID-5 volumes.

Reference Microsoft KB Articles 175761 and 314343 for more detailed information on this topic.

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(16) How do I determine if Windows 98 Second Edition has the updated drivers for my 1394 device?

This FAQ applies only to Windows 98 Second Edition.

If the file, ohci1394.sys, is version 4.10.2222 or earlier, it must be updated. Please get the latest 1394 update from Microsoft's website by clicking here.

Below are step-by-step instructions on how to verify the 1394 driver version.

  1. First you want to access Device Manager. To do this click on Start, Settings, and Control Panel. Once in Control Panel double-click on the System Icon.
  2. A new window, System Properties, will appear. Click on the Device Manager tab. Click on the + next to 1394 Bus Controller. Highlight as illustrated below and click on the Properties button.
  3. Click on the Driver Tab as circled below.
  4. Click on the Driver File Details Button as circled below.
  5. If the File version is 4.10.2222 or earlier then it must be updated. Please get the latest 1394 update from Microsoft's website by clicking here.
  6. If a new driver is determined please download the 1394 Storage Supplement found on Microsoft's Website by clicking here.
  7. You should see the 'Disconnect or Unplug' Icon in the system tray when or if you have the most recent driver as shown below.

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(17) From my Windows XP/2000 System, why can't I create a FAT32 partition greater than 160GB using Partition Magic 8.0?

Problem:

Cannot create a FAT32 partition greater than 160GB using Partition Magic 8.0. The following are examples from a 250GB External Hard Drive while attempting to create a FAT32 within Windows XP Pro:

Note how the drive decreases in size when attempting to create a FAT32 Volume.

Partition Magic's Help File States the following:

What is new in PartitionMagic 8.0?

• New file management features that include the ability to browse files, and view and manipulate files or folders on multiple types of file systems.

• New NTFS features enabling you to choose the cluster size on creating a new NTFS partition or changing the cluster size of an existing NTFS partition, and NTFS format versioning (NTFS 1.4 to the latest). (This feature requires 256 MB of RAM for drives over 120 GB in size).

Enhanced Copy Partition functionality letting you choose the partition type (logical or primary) for the destination partition and whether that partition is to be resized.

Changes in the UI, primarily in the main screen, that adopts a Windows XP look and feel.

Support for Linux EXT2 and EXT3 file systems.

Support for partitions up to 160 GB, containing up to 145 GB of data.

...etc

Cause:

Partition Size Limitation of Partition Magic.

Solution:

Contact PowerQuest for more information.

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(18) How to partition & format your External Storage Devices for Macintosh Computers?

Rocstor Storage devices are shipped with the FAT32 Windows file system installed. The drive will mount as a Windows-formatted disk on the Macintosh desktop; however, the Macintosh disk repair/recovery tools cannot repair or recover data from Windows-formatted drives.

For the highest performance and compatibility, we recommend you reformat the drive using the Mac OS Extended format. However, if you will be transferring files between a Windows system and a Macintosh, leave the drive in the FAT32 format, you will have to either:

• Limit the FAT32 Volume sizes to no more than 32GB in capacity.

• Format the drive with a Mac OS Extended Volume. Use a Third-Party Utility that allows you to view (read/write) Mac Volumes from a Windows PC.

Caution: Formatting the drive destroys all data contained on that drive. Make a backup copy of all your data before formatting your drive.

Answer For Mac OS

Below are procedures on how to format the drive for Mac OS 9.x.

To format the drive for Mac OS 9.x

  1. Plug the drive into the Macintosh computer using either the FireWire or USB cable. The drive appears as a single drive on your desktop.
  2. Disable the File Exchange control panel.
  3. From the Apple () menu, select Control Panels -> Extensions Manager.
  4. From the list that appears clear the check box next to the File Exchange control panel. c. Click Restart. As the computer restarts, a message appears saying the drive is unreadable and asks you to initialize the drive.
  5. Enter a name for the drive in the Name field.
  6. Select Max OS Extended from the drop-down list and click Initialize. The new drive appears on your desktop as a Macintosh drive with the name you assigned. To confirm the drive is formatted properly, select the drive and then select File -> Get Info -> General Information. The drive format should read Mac OS Extended.
  7. Enable the File Exchange control panel.
  1. From the Apple menu, select Control Panels -> Extensions Manager.
  2. Select the check box next to the File Exchange control panel.
  3. Click Restart.

To format the drive for Mac OS X (Jaguar & Panther)

NOTE: The way in which Mac OS X mounts the hard drive depends on the drive's capacity.

  1. Plug your drive into the Macintosh.
  2. Launch the Disk Utility.
  3. Select your new drive from the list on the left. A description of the drive appears in the right window.
  4. Select the Partition tab at the top of the window.

Enter a name for your drive in the Name field.

Select the Mac OS Extended from the Volume Format drop-down list.

Select the check box next to Install Mac OS 9 Drivers. This will allow your disk to be recognized if you start your system with Mac OS 9.

Click Partition to continue. An alert dialog appears to confirm the Partitioning/Formatting process.

Click Partition to start the Partitioning/Formatting process.

When complete, the drive will Mount to the Desktop.

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(19) Can I swap my Personal Storage Device between a Mac and PC?

Problem:

Sharing an external hard drive between Windows and Macintosh systems has been an issue that has caused much difficulty in the past. End-Users that delve into both the Windows and Macintosh system see this problem on a daily basis; they cannot share files between their Windows PCs and Mac Computers.

Cause:

The problem stems from the fact that the file systems used by Windows Based PCs (FAT, FAT32, NTFS) differ from those used by Macintosh Computers (Mac OS Extended, HFS+). These differences make it a difficult task to share files between Mac and PC users.

Resolution:

Click here for ways to use Windows formatted external drives with Mac Systems. It is worth mentioning that Mac OS X (Panther 10.3.x) can now read NTFS Volumes; this means that you can copy files from an external drive (formatted with NTFS) to a Mac running Panther. However, you cannot write files from the Mac to the NTFS Volume.

The following 3rd party software products available that allow external disk drives formatted in the Macintosh file system (Mac OS Extended, HFS+) to be used on Windows systems.

MacDrive from MediaFour

MacOpener from DataViz

NOTE about 3rd Party Software:

Fitness for use in your specific application and support of these products are the SOLE responsibility of their respective publishers.

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(20) How can I convert my existing FAT32 drive to NTFS on a Windows 2000 or XP system?

You can use the CONVERT.EXE file to convert a FAT32 partition to NTFS partition without the need to reformat the drive, data on the drive will be intact. Reference the Windows Help File for more information.

NOTE: We suggests that you backup any/all data before running this utility.

To convert a volume to NTFS from the command prompt

  1. Open a Command Prompt by clicking on "Start" -> "Run" -> then type in cmd. Click "Ok".
  2. In the new window, type:

    convert drive_letter: /fs:ntfs

For example, typing convert D: /fs:ntfs would format drive D: with the NTFS format.

Note:

Convert.exe only works on Windows 2000 and XP.

You can convert FAT or FAT32 volumes to NTFS with this command.

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(21) 1394 Windows 98SE / Windows 2000 Installations.

There are two sides to a successful 1394 Windows installation - software and hardware.

Software:

Drivers for the 1394 External Storage Unit and 1394 PCI Adapter card come directly from Microsoft. A sign that you do not have these drivers installed would be if you do not see the 'Disconnect or Unplug' Icon in the icon tray of your start bar located on the right side. To obtain the Microsoft Critical Updates:

• Click on the START button located on your tool bar.

• Select the Windows Updates option. (This will launch your browser to the appropriate URL for your Operating System in the language that you are using).

• Click on Product Updates option. (This option will examine your system and prompt you to download the necessary updates for your system).

For 1394 PCI Adapter Cards:

If you are using another brand of 1394 card or computer with an integrated 1394 interface and have the Microsoft Critical Updates, you will need to obtain the 1394 drivers from the manufacturer of that card or system.

Further driver troubleshooting from Microsoft is available as follows:

INFO: 1394 Device Not Being Detected

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q221/8/23.ASP

1394 Host Controller Driver Does Not Retry Busy Devices Properly (Win98SE)

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q252/1/83.ASP

Connectivity Problem with IEEE 1394 OHCI Host Controllers (Win2000)

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q268/3/47.ASP

Hardware:

The following power sequences MUST be followed for your system to properly detect your 1394 External Storage unit

Initial installation - or - If you move the 1394 External Storage unit from one computer to another.

  1. Ensure that your computer is on and running one of the required operating systems.
  2. Plug the 1394 External Storage power supply into your wall socket. If needed.

  3. Ensure that the power switch on the 1394 External Storage is in the "O" (power off) position.
  4. Plug the black round power plug into the back of the 1394 External Storage unit.
  5. Turn the power switch to the "I" (power on) position (Note: The light on the front of the unit will glow).
  6. Plug one end of the 1394 cable into the 1394 port in your computer. Be sure to do this before Step 7.
  7. Plug the other end of the 1394 cable into your External Storage unit.

Power up sequence after initial setup:

  1. Turn the power on to your 1394 External Storage FIRST and then to your computer - your system will automatically locate the Maxtor 1394 External Storage unit.

For further details of the basic installation steps, please see the installation guide.

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(22) How do I format and partition my 1394 or USB Personal Storage device in Windows?

The 1394 and USB drives are pre-formatted in FAT 32. To format and re-partition the 1394 or USB Personal Storage in Windows XP or 2000 use Disk Management. To format and re-partition in Windows 98 SE or ME you should use FDISK.

How to format and re-partition the drive in Windows 2000 and XP

Note: This procedure is data destructive. Backup the data before performing this procedure.

  1. Access "Administrative Tools" through the "Control Panel". XP users might have to click on "Performance and Maintenance" first to access "Administrative Tools".
  2. In "Administrative Tools" click on "Computer Management", "Storage", and "Disk Management".
  3. Right-click on the Drive Letter assigned to the Personal Storage device.
  4. Select "Delete Partition..." and "Yes"
  5. Right-click on the "Unallocated" space.
  6. Select "New Partition".
  7. In the "New Partition Wizard", click Next. Select the type of partition you want and follow all on-screen instructions.

How to format and re-partition the drive in Windows 98 SE and ME

Note: If you are running either Windows 98 SE or ME edition, it is recommended that you obtain an updated version of the FDISK and FORMAT utilities included with Windows. The update allows the FDISK and FORMAT utilities to report the correct disk capacity on the screen. Update information is available on Microsoft's support web site at:

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q263/0/44.ASP

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q263/0/45.ASP

  1. Click on "Start", "Programs", "Accessories", and "MS-DOS"
  2. You will need to run FDISK from the DOS prompt.
  3. For information on how to format using FDISK please refer to:
    Microsoft's Knowledge Base Article Q255867 Or,
    FDISK Simulation by Computer Hope at
    http://www.computerhope.com/sfdisk1.htm

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