Backing up important data provides essential access to business files and records in the event of a system failure or disaster. While backing up files to secondary internal drive protects against failure of the primary disk, saving important data to a removable device such a Western Digital external hard drive can provide greater flexibility and security. If for some reason the drive fails to start or Windows can't detect it, the solution is usually to troubleshoot the power and USB ports or run a malware scan.
AC Power Problems
Not all Western Digital external hard drives require AC adapters. However, for those drives that do need an AC power source, not connecting the adapter may cause the drive not to spin up properly, or Windows may fail to detect the drive and assign a drive letter in File Explorer. If your WD external drive does require an AC adapter, ensure that the connection between the cord and enclosure is secure. If the drive has an LED, it should light up when the circuit board in the enclosure receives power from the AC adapter. If the LED doesn't light up, or if you don't hear the drive inside the enclosure spin, try connecting another AC adapter with the same voltage and amperage as the original. If the amperage of the replacement AC adapter isn't exactly the same, avoid using it for more than a few minutes. Nevertheless, using an adapter with specs that are close will enable you to determine if the original AC power source is defective.
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Hub and Port Power Issues
A WD external hard drive may also experience voltage or current problems when connected to certain USB ports. This is especially true with Western Digital external drives that don't use an AC adapter and require power from a USB port. If Windows doesn't detect the drive -- or if the lights don't come on after connecting the USB cable to the computer -- plug the device into one of the ports on the back of the PC. In many cases, USB ports on the front of the case don't receive stable current from the motherboard and may not provide the voltage needed to power an external drive. Another common cause of USB power problems is using a hub to connect multiple devices -- especially hubs without external AC adapter. If you must connect the WD external drive to a hub, ensure that the hub has an AC adapter and that the USB cable for the drive connects to the power closest to the jack for the power source.
USB Controller Drivers
Problems with a WD external drive may be the result of USB issues with the computer. Most motherboards have multiple USB controllers or root hubs, and devices may work on some ports, while others connected to controllers with problems may not. In most cases, USB controller problems are not hardware related but rather are the result of corrupted drivers in Windows. A way to tell if you have driver problems with one or more USB controllers is to check in Device Manager. Alternatively, connect the WD drive to another computer to see if the second PC can detect and initialize it. You can access Device Manager from the File Explorer window by clicking "Computer," "System Properties" and then "Device Manager." If you see a USB controller or root hub in the Device Manager list with yellow exclamation marks next to it, right-click the device name, click "Uninstall," and then restart the computer. Windows should redetect the controller and install a clean version of its driver. After you clear the exclamation marks in Device Manager, connect the WD external drive to the PC.
Malware and Viruses
Some malware programs and viruses disable USB functionality to hinder their removal by portable applications or those installed from external or flash drives. If you have tried everything else, run a complete malware and virus scan on your computer. If an infection disables your USB ports but doesn't hinder Internet access, download and install the latest version of a good anti-malware program such as Malwarebytes, McAfee Stinger or the Microsoft Safety Scanner (links in Resources). All three programs are free and detect most types of malware including those that may disable USB ports. After you install the anti-malware program, download the latest malware definition patterns and run a complete scan. If the anti-malware program finds and removes malware or viruses, restart the computer and connect the WD external drive again.