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USB media card reader drives disappear shortly after connection


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My WHS v1 box is presenting me with a puzzling head scratcher. Several folks have indicated to me that my add-in for WHS v1, Home Server SMART, suffers from a serious bug that prevents the add-in from functioning correctly, if at all. After much goings back-and-forth with folks, I've come to the conclusion that the folks experiencing these problems had DIY home servers with media card readers in them.


Media card readers present themselves to the OS as "hard drives" so to speak, in the format of \\.\PHYSICALDRIVEx (where "x" is an integer), accessible through the Win32_DiskDrive interface. If a card slot is empty, a lot of the values are null...things like sector size, sectors per track, tracks per cylinder, etc. Early versions of HSS did not do a good job checking for null, mainly because my EX490 doesn't have a card reader and so it never came up in my own tests.


And so I worked on making the code more robust, adding null checks even on values I thought could never possibly be null. And while this resolved some problems, others remained. The only way I was going to get to the bottom of this was to add my own media card reader to the server, and test it myself. So I went out and bought a USB card reader with 4 media slots.


The card reader works flawlessly on all of my computers...except the EX490! I have computers running Windows 7 and Vista (64-bit), Server 2008 R2 and Server 2008 (32-bit). And one running XP (32-bit).


The problem I'm seeing is that if I connect the card reader to the server, it loads just fine. Four lettered drives appear in Explorer under the heading "Drives with Removable Storage" (my C and D drives show up under "Hard Disk Drives"). And then after a few seconds, they disappear. Poof! Gone! Gone from Device Manager too. It makes no difference whether the slot(s) are populated with a card or not.


I tried rebooting the server. It makes no difference. If I disconnect and reconnect the card reader, the 4 drives come back, and then they're gone less than 10 seconds later. This does not happen on any other computer I connect this reader to. I tried different USB cables, a different USB port, but nothing works.


No errors or warnings appear in the event logs either. It's almost as if the OS is automatically performing a "safe removal" of this device for me.


So if I want to do any testing, I need to unplug the device, stop the HSS service, plug in the device and immediately restart the HSS service--and hope it enumerates all the devices in less than 10 seconds, because the card reader is "available" for only 10 seconds or less before it disappears.


What's up with that?

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I don't know what's with that, but I have a D-Link 7-port powered USB 2 hub that I can plug into my Acer H340 to see if I can replicate the problem.

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OK, so my H340 does the same thing that Win7 did when I first set it up; it 'hides' any USB ports that don't have anything inserted into them. My Win7 box does the same thing with the D-Link 7-port hub that's plugged into it. The multi-card reader built into my Dell 30" display behaves the same way.


The same thing happened on my work Win7 computer. IIRC, I found a setting that said not to hide empty slots. I don't recall where I found it, but I'll confirm that I 'fixed' it on my work machine and see if I can find the setting.

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