Saturday, December 12, 2009

USB to ATA/SATA Bridge failure

Pre Scriptum:
Quick fix: disable your system protection. 
Want more details of what not to do? Read on to learn from my mistakes :)

This week I spent some time scanning the market for a 3.5 inch external hard drive that would serve as a warehouse for all my data. I focused on a Samsung box of 1TB as the elegant solution (no worries that the box-hard drive assembly would refuse to work), and on the other hand, a Seatage Baracuda 1.5TB hard drive with a basically unknown Hantol 35S enclosure as the more affordable solution. The Samsung solution was 110USD while the Seagate-Hantol solution was 120USD. The byte per dollar ratio went in favor of the Seagate-Hantol, with the up side of having 3 years of waranty on the Seagate, and no warranty on the Hantol; compared to the one year warranty of the Samsung assembly. So, just a few hours ago I purchased the Seagate-Hantol assembly, asked the retailer to create one large NTFS partition to make sure the assembly works well. I paid the money and went home happy, hoping that I will finally empty my laptop 320GB Seagate that got down to having only 20GB of free space.

And then I got a problem.
I plugged in the assembly, the recognition began and instead of a notification "Your new hardware is ready for use" I got a dialog box asking me for drivers, I chose the Automatic driver installation, which copied the generic USB mass storage drivers but at the end I got a notification that the USB to ATA/Sata Bridge failed to install with the dredded "Access Denied" at the bottom of the screen. CRAP! Now what do I do? Why bad things happen to good folks like me? Why is it that after the hours spent in research I ended up picking the non-solution, and paid for it? This fussing and gnawing continued for a few minutes and after the mandatory dose of IT anger, I started thinking of possible solutions.
I hooked up the hard drive to my wife's HP 6820 laptop, and the disk worked perfectly. I tried the same on my secondary HP 6710s laptop and of course the new disk worked there also. Not to mention that it also worked in the store where I bought it. But it refused to install on my primary Acer Aspire 7720z laptop. Of course, next step: Google. Usually if there is a simple solution, a knowledgeable search will yield a solution within the hour. I found several similar problems with Vista, but none on the well known and reliable XP Professional. All three laptops use the same version of XP, have the same updates, use almost the same applications (with exception to Civ2 and Cashflow games on my Acer) but that's highly unlikely that they would cause any problems (other than my wife's complaints that I shouldn't play any games after 8PM if I want to have a good night rest).

Alas, the search continues.
To recap, the hard drive and box are brand new, and known to be working on at least 3 PCs of which 2 are in my house. They all have the same OS and applications, they all use Avast antivirus and they all have Comodo Internet Security... or do they? Hmm... actually they don't. Only my Acer has both Avast and Comodo.... could that be the case? Comodo Internet Security is a good piece of security as it also monitors the Windows Registry and the defense level is set to Safe Mode. For this reason I always get notifications whenever I try to install some new programs. It's a great way to keep the system integrity at bay as the Internet is full of various scripts and self-installers that advertize as Must Have web updates, needed media codecs and what not. So... could the added security feature of Comodo cause the USB to ATA/Sata Bridge failure and the dreaded "Access Denied" summary?
Let's see: First, I go to the bottom right corner, put the cursor over the Comodo icon, I double click it, and the Comodo Internet Security Summary screen is on. In the right bottom quadrant, I set the Proactive Defense from Safe Mode to Disabled, hook up the new hard drive assembly, and voila, the recognition process finishes with the long awaited "Your new hardware is ready for use." Ahh... the sweet taste of victory over the IT traps set by paranoid users (me).
So, after almost two hours of searching for a solution via removing the hardware in Device Manager, transferring drivers USBStor and Disk.sys, several restarts, switching back and forward between IDE and SATA modes in the BIOS, the solution to the problem of failing to install the USB to ATA/SATA bridge due to denial of access got solved by a simple shut down of the Comodo Proactive Defense. After the initial install, I turned the defense back on Safe Mode and now the hard drive works without any problems, just like all my other external hard drives. So don't waste your time with looking for updated drivers, and for heavens sake, don't listen to the retailer's advice to reinstall Windows. Just get rid of any proactive defense you may have, plug in your hard drive and after it's neatly installed, you can turn the defense back on.
Happy computing everybody.

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