USB frustrations with linux

Today I thought I’d blog about one of the most annoying problems I’ve had since migrating to linux at home.  FYI I only use an 8.04 HP Ubuntu laptop and have a spare dell ubuntu laptop at home for general domestic use.

I back up all my files (tens of GB) whenever I can , and when I was a windows user I used a removable USB hard drive.  Since migrating to linux, this has proved almost useless as its NTFS not EXT3 or similar, and it sometimes mounts, then demounts without warning.  And it wont work with USB2, only a USB1.1 hub which makes it really slow.

So, what I’ve decided to do is to have an old desktop running as a server with a 160GB hard drive in it, and use ethernet to access it.  Once I finally get all the data off the USB drive, I’ll retire it.

I’ve also found that USB memory sticks (and an iplayer MP3 player) work with my dell 8.04 laptop, but not myHP 8.04 laptop.

Perhaps someone could tell me (and the world) why windows can mount and demount drives via usb automatically as you plug them in and out multiple times, but linux dosnt have this function?  This is a really annoying functionality drawback that does frustrate people when they are used to windows USB handling.

  • Weird, since my experience is that ‘standard’ USB devices work flawlessly on Linux and not always flawlessly on other systems. My scanner / printer, phone (to get pictures or hookup 3G), and backup drive (ext3), and portable drive (fat32) are all plugged in and out multiple times a day. All but dialing 3G are automatic.

    I guess part of the problem with your external drive is that it’s NTFS which isn’t well supported in my experience – although that doesn’t explain why you have to use a USB1.1 hub. I would just get another external USB drive, they are only slightly more than bare drives typically, and format it as ext3 (or perhaps fat32 if you need to transfer files to Windows/OSX).

    I can only assume that the HP laptop has some weird USB controller bug that’s stopping USB keys working.

    Feel free to ping me if you need help reformatting your external HD.

  • Make sure you use the ntfs-3g userspace driver (which I think Ubuntu uses now by default).

    But as Paul also said, I see almost zero problems with USB devices on various bits of Linux hardware. (Our work with Elonex and the 3G dongles has given us quite a bit of exposure recently … )

  • Julian

    I can only concur with what’s written above. I have no more problems on Linux with USB devices than windows. My 3G modem is always recognised in linux and works quite well, but in one of my Windows pc’s it refuses to install the drivers properly – on other windows pc’s its fine ….

    NTFS support has come a long way on Linux, but yes, reformatting as FAT32 if you have to share it, or just ext3 would be better.

    I remember trying USB2 drivers with linux about 5 years ago when they were termed ‘experimentle’ – that was fun, it worked mostly, but absolutely broke the hard drive at last once.

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