Monday, November 10, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Jump Drive

I like that title because it sounds like a Hardy Boys book. Although in my youth I always preferred the Bobbsey Twins.

Yes, I'm secure enough to admit that.

I had a puzzling computer problem yesterday. Here's what happened and how I eventually fixed it. This will be deathly dull to non-techies, and only slightly better for those who understand what I'm talking about. Those in the latter group will see the end of this story coming long before I get there.

As background, I have a home LAN with two PCs, Rueben (misspelled, I know, but I'm too lazy to do the work that renaming it would require) and Simeon. Simeon, the newer PC, had mappings to the four logical drives on its big brother Rueben, showing up in Windows Explorer as G, H, I and J.

I had just put another hard drive, a 40 GB IDE drive that had become surplus from another machine, into Simeon. Everything seemed fine, until I plugged in my MP3 player last night to reload it and it wouldn't show up in Windows Explorer (WE from here on, because I'm already sick of typing it out). I got the "Donk" noise of Windows detecting it, and the USB connection icon in the system tray, but nothing in WE.

I tried a jump drive - same thing. "Donk", system tray icon, and nothing in WE. I tried the MP3 player with a different connector cable, and I tried different USB ports. Same thing. I tried plugging my other USB devices (printer, mouse, Plextor ConvertX video capture box) into different USB ports, and they all worked fine. I tried plugging the jump drive into Rueben, and it worked there. The MP3 player has never worked in Rueben, who's simply too old and cranky to deal with these newfangled digital audio players.

So, by process of elimination (the PC troubleshooter's credo), I determined that the jump drive and USB ports were not the problem. As noted, I couldn't rule out that the MP3 player and/or both of the connector cables I tried had gone bad, although that wouldn't explain why the jump drive worked in Rueben but not in Simeon.

After working on this throughout all the commercial breaks in The Simpsons, King Of The Hill, and Family Guy, I had a breakthrough during American Dad. Even before installing the new hard drive, Simeon already had logical drives named C and D (only 1 physical hard drive, but I practice safe partitioning in case I need to reinstall my operating system). E was the DVD-RW drive, and as noted I had mapped network drives in slots G to J.

When I installed the new hard drive, it was assigned the letter F. That means that every letter from A to J was in use (with B being reserved for a 5 1/4" floppy drive, which even I don't use anymore). When I tried to plug in a USB drive, for some reason it was trying to use G, instead of going to the next available letter. Since G was already in use, WE couldn't figure out how to show me the USB drive.

I tested this theory by disconnecting the mapped G drive. Lo and behold, the USB drives would then happily grab that letter and show up. I wound up simply reassigning the mapped drives to letters further down the alphabet, and my LAN lived happily ever after.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son doing some supersonic headbanging. Stryper's Reborn album rocks mightily.

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