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Why Won’t My External Drives Shut Down Automatically?


I just installed two external hard drive cases with two hard drives. When I shut off my system the drives keep running and they don’t power down when my PC is on after 15 minutes-the setting I use for turning the hard drives off.

Is this normal for an external drive or is there something I need to do to get them to power down.

I can shut them off when not in use but it would be more convenient if they just turned off according to my power schedule.

I’m a huge fan of external drives. I own many.

But, being the kind of guy I am, I leave my computers — all of them — running all the time. If you don’t, what you want to do depends on exactly what your external drive does when it gets “bored”.

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First, to my knowledge, the Windows power schedule for disk drive shutdown really only applies to internal drives. And it certainly only applies while the computer is running. If the computer’s powered down, it has no way to tell the external drives “it’s time to shut down now”.

Connected External Hard Drive
Connected External Hard Drive

That’s why I say it kind of depends on what your external drives do when they get “bored”, as I call it.

You didn’t indicate what brand of drive you’re using, so I’ll mention my Maxtors. Even with the power on, the drives themselves automatically turn off after some period of inactivity. I believe that’s just part of the drive’s configuration, and not something that’s controlled by the Windows power settings. In fact, in the morning when I fire up my MP3 player for the first time (all my MP3’s are on an external drive), it takes a few extra seconds for the drive to “wake up”, and spin up to speed before the files can be accessed. If you’ve ever noticed such a delay after not using the drive for a while, that’s probably what’s happening. I’ve also actually heard the drive spin up, if the room is otherwise quiet.

If your drive does that, then personally, I’d be totally happy just leaving it powered on, even if your computer is not. The big power sink for a drive it the motor that spins it, and the actuator that moves the disk head. If it’s spun down due to inactivity, it’s using just a little power to keep the circuitry alive and listening for requests, but not much more.

Now, if you’re uncomfortable with that, or you’re certain that your drive does not spin down when it’s not been used for a while, then as far as I know your only real recourse is the power switch on the drive itself.

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16 comments on “Why Won’t My External Drives Shut Down Automatically?”

  1. A lot of external drives have external power supplies and don’t take power cues from your PC, just from their internal controllers. That’s why Leo’s drive shuts off on its own and yours don’t. Yours are just made to spin up when you flip the power switch and turn off when you flip it again.

    I have an Acom that is just like yours… if it’s on, it’s on. Same with one I had that was an external housing you can slap any hard drive into (nice for migrating from an old computer to a new one – just slap the old PCs hard drive into an external case and hook it up to the new PC).

    If you want a drive that shuts down after X minutes of inactivity, you’ll need to closely examine the specs… or get the same Maxtors Leo has. Too bad he didn’t mention the model.

  2. Actually I have Maxtors in the external case.
    They are Maxtor 200 Gig Lo1P200 drives.

    I would like to know what the period of inactivity is before they spin down or turn off.

    What information that has been give so far has been useful.
    Thanks guys.

  3. Actually I have Maxtors in the external case.
    They are Maxtor 200 Gig Lo1P200 drives.

    I would like to know what the period of inactivity is before they spin down or turn off.

    What information that has been give so far has been useful.
    Thanks guys.

  4. I made a mistake on the model #-Hey, it was 4am and I was still half asleep.

    The # I gave was the new drives I installed.
    The two old drives were 80GIG and I installed those in the external HDD Firewire Case. The # for them is 6YO80L.

    On the Maxtor site it states that these drives can be put to sleep by sending them ATA commands to configure them.

    I have nom idea of how to do that so if anyone knows please let me know.


  5. I have three “OneTouch” drives from Maxtor – so they’re self contained, with external powersupply and USB/Firewire interface. I can’t say that I’ve paid attention to how long it takes for them to spin down, but I would guess 10 or 15 minutes of inactivity or so.

  6. Well, I also had a one touch external and it never shut off. It was a USB.

    It took a dump on me not long ago so I don’t use it anymore.

  7. For Maxtor external 1394/USB2 drives, the newer one-touch configuration software that you can download from the maxtor website has the ability to customise the timeout period before the disks will turn off. The choices range from 1 minute to never. The default is 15 minutes for my OneTouch if I remember correctly.

    I’ve now purchased a Seagate 400GB external 1394/USB2 drive, and it has a time of 5 minutes, after which it will power down if there is no disk activity. Unfortunately Seagate don’t have a utility which is able to customise this, and the Maxtor utility only works for Maxtor drives.

    I find that 5 minutes is way too short, and while actually using the computer, the drive will constantly wake-up then go back to sleep. Simply double-clicking the my computer icon wakes it up, simply composing email for 5 minutes puts it to sleep. Because this constant spin-up and spin-down can’t be good for the drive, and because it annoys me too, and there was no way to adjust this time peiod, I had to come up with a solution. I wrote a visual basic script which simply writes to a file (on the drive) every 4 minutes, which is enough to keep it running continuously.

    The script is attached below, and you can use Microsoft’s InstSrv.exe and Srvany.exe to make this script run as a system service.


    ‘ The purpose of this script is to keep external hard
    ‘ drives awake which would otherwise turn off after their
    ‘ 5 minute timers detect no disk activity.
    ‘ To use, simply place this script on the hard disk
    ‘ you want to keep awake, e.g. in a sub folder.
    ‘ Double-Click to run the script, there is no GUI.
    ‘ A file will appear that has the same name as the script
    ‘ with the extension “-timestamp.txt” appended.
    ‘ This script writes to this text file every 4 minutes
    ‘ Simply create a shortcut to this script in your
    ‘ startup folder so that it runs everytime your PC boots.
    ‘ Advanced technically minded users have proven good
    ‘ results can be achieved with SrvAny.exe and InstSrv.exe
    ‘ from the Microsoft Resource Kit, to create this as
    ‘ a service.
    ‘ This script is in the Public Domain 2006

    Const ForWriting = 2
    Dim fso, f
    Set fso = CreateObject(“Scripting.FileSystemObject”)

    Function WriteToFile
    Set f = fso.OpenTextFile( Wscript.ScriptFullName & “-timestamp.txt”, ForWriting, True)
    f.Write Now
    End Function

    Wscript.Sleep (240000)

    To install as a service, use instsrv.exe (from the Windows Resource Kit Tools for Windows Server 2003) as follows:

    instsrv TimeStamperScript “c:\Program Files\Windows Resource Kits\Tools\srvany.exe”

    Then add the these registry keys:

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    As you can see, the script itself is on the external drive, in this case in the TimeStamper directory.

  8. There is something wrong with my computer. It was working fine, then every time i turn it on, it wont start up. I have to take off the power from the back and put it back on for it to turn on. What is wrong with my computer

  9. My computer keeps shutting down automatically, when I’m playing computer games and if I walk away for more than 10 minutes.

    What’s wrong?

    I have a Windows XP professional, with comcast.


    :) Paulette

  10. Hmmm…ok, “power options”…is this somewhere on the Windows screen? Your talking to someone who’s not really computer savvy…sigh…

    Help x 2…:)

    :) Paulette

  11. I got a maxtor a usb2.0 300GB 3100 i believe the model before the one touches. It came with no manual or drivers just plug in and play as the saying goes, i’m currently just turning it on and off at the powerpoint as it seems to have no auto shutoff or powerdown and makes a fair humm when everything else is off, so i’m unsure should I be doing something to ‘ready’ it for shutdown? am i quickly setting this drive up for failure? It does take a second or two to shutoff once i disconnect the power, does anyone know if they use capacitors or some stored power to shut itself down without harm to itself or data?

  12. You can shut down your computer in a particular
    time(Like a sleep timer in TV) for that U need to write code in Visual C++ (MFC).. and the API to shutdown system is ExitWindows(); search in MSDN you can get more….
    you ca post your queries to always 4 U from MKU

  13. hello
    I have hdd Westerd Digital 15EADS (1500GB) in external enclosure connected via usb to my pc (win xp system). I read about this series of hdd (caviar green) and I know that this model have something like spinning down however I read about jumper settings and it looks that my model have it disabled (no jumpers from beginning). I also turn off saving energy on my usb controller.
    Often after few minutes of inactivity I see that hdd is turn off or slowing down so much that I don’t feel any vibration at enclosure of hdd. Hdd is then still visible in “explorer” and I can even see structures of main catalogs, when I go “deeper” to some catalogue hdd speed up so I have 2 questions regarding this – is disk only slowing down (to some low speed rpm) or just totally stops (0rpm) ? and how about lifetime after such operations – is this good for hdd or bad ?
    thank you for answer and sorry for my poor english :)


    Normally they spin down completely. It doesn’t really affect their lifespan dramatically either way – it’s a power saving feature.


  14. External drives are normally supplied with a drive software utility, This usually has functions such as turning any external lights on or off, disk test and ability to set a “time period after inactivity” which puts the drive in sleep mode. Seagate external drives are supplied in this way.


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