• My issues with SSDs in external enclosures used for image backup

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    #2525941

    After a long time putting it off, I’ve done the prep work prior to carrying out a clean install.

    I’ve been using a bootable Macrium Reflect 7 Free rescue USB stick to boot devices and save/restore images to/from a bright red external 1TB 2.5″ WD My Passport HDD. It’s proved reliable over the years but I wanted something better.

    Someone (@Paul T?) mentioned Ventoy a while ago which sounded interesting, basically a method of having a whole bunch of ISOs all available via a boot menu. I tried Ventoy with a load of ISOs on a 250GB SanDisk USB stick and it worked wonderfully. Then I had an idea… why have a bootable USB stick AND an external storage device? Why not just the one that did both jobs?

    As luck would have it I had bought 2 x 1TB Samsung 870 QVO SSDs in the sales at an amazing discount. I’ve been using one ever since, encased in a clear plastic enclosure and it has been invaluable.

    HDDvsSSDsml

    Multibao USB 3.0 to SATA External Caddy – Clear Case

    So I bought another clear enclosure and decided to use the other Samsung 870 SSD as the basis for my new 2-in-1 backup/restore device using Macrium Reflect 8 Free running from Ventoy.

    At first all went well. From within Macrium Reflect 8 Free I created a ‘rescue media’ ISO file. Then I used Ventoy’s Ventoy2Disk tool to make the Samsung 870 (in its shiny new case) into a bootable USB drive. Then I added a bunch of ISOs to it including the Macrium Reflect rescue ISO (and Linux Mint Cinnamon, etc.)… job done!

    Only one slight problem… it didn’t work. I had just carried out a clean install and wanted to take a disk image before the laptop rebooted into OOBE. No matter what choices I made in the laptop’s ‘one-time’ boot menu, sometimes I couldn’t boot Ventoy and other times I could but couldn’t go any further reliably.

    I managed to boot Linux Mint to completion once and Macrium Reflect to completion twice… but on the second time of getting Macrium Reflect to run, the disk image backup failed 14 minutes later at 99%.

    A clean/decrapified Windows 10 Pro comes in at just over 5GB at OOBE (before Windows Update then dumps several more GBs of additional data), so 14 minutes to backup 5GB was a ridiculously long time, even if it had been successful.

    After many, many unsuccessful attempts I gave up, moved all the existing Macrium Reflect 7 backups off the My Passport and used Ventoy to configure it as bootable. I moved the bootable ISOs off the Samsung 870 and onto the My Passport.

    Then I tried Macrium Reflect 8 Free from Ventoy again… and it flew like a bird. Four minutes and four seconds later I had my first Macrium Reflect 8 Free disk image of the clean install.

    I’ve been thinking about it throughout the day. I cannot be 100% sure but I suspect Ventoy running on the bootable SSD was thrown by the not one but two sets of electronics it encountered. Not only does the Samsung 870 have a connection interface but so does the Multibao clear plastic case, both with all manner of tiny wee electronic chips on them. The My Passport doesn’t. Even though it’s also USB3 like the Multibao case, it only has a very simple pin-for-pin plug to connect its USB cable to its My Passport drive controller.

    So, after a lot of head scratching, I now have a single pocket-sized USB3 external storage device that is not only bootable with a whole jukebox of ISOs but can also act as a disk backup repository.

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    • #2526023

      Internally, the HDD inside your Passport’s case is surely a SATA device too. The cords for host-powered externals usually have a USB type A or C on one end of the cord and a type B micro-USB on the other, but inside the case is a converter that translates USB-3 to SATA.

      On one of my external HDDs, I found it was possible to pull on the bit where the USB cable plugs into the drive, and the whole converter popped off. I could see the SATA ports on the drive that was still inside the plastic case. On my other external drives, there is no externally accessible converter that can be unplugged, but it is there inside the plastic case.

      Back when there was a HDD shortage a few years ago, it was common for people to buy externals, crack them open, and use the SATA drives they found inside as if they had been bare drives. They were completely standard models from the HDD makers.

      As for why your external SSD did not work well with Ventoy… it could be that WD did a better job with its USB to SATA converter. A lot of hardware out there isn’t all that great, but the one you get from WD (and that WD has to cover with the warranty) is not going to be like that.

      I use Ventoy too, but I have never tried it with anything but USB thumb drives.  It works quite well on the ones I have tried.

      Dell XPS 13/9310, i5-1135G7/16GB, KDE Neon
      XPG Xenia 15, i7-9750H/16GB & GTX1660ti, OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

    • #2526194

      I use Ventoy too

      It may well have been you who suggested Ventoy, not Paul T. I can’t remember. I just remember thinking “I’ve never heard of Ventoy… what is it?”.

      Back when there was a HDD shortage a few years ago, it was common for people to buy externals, crack them open

      A couple of years ago WD in the UK had a sale of 1TB My Passport drives that had been returned but found to be without fault. (They are labelled as ‘Recertified in Vietnam’ or ‘Recertified in Poland’.)

      my_passport_recert

      I bought 3 for the price of 1 new one. One did actually fail… after I dropped it. I cracked it open to see if I could recover the data from the bare drive (I couldn’t) which is how I know the USB-to-SATA interface is just a thin plastic plug adapter.

      My current lineup of high-capacity drives is:

      portable-high_storage

      This will keep me going until I can find an alternative enclosure to the Multibao clear case in order to take advantage of the impact durability of the SSDs over the ‘spinners’.

      However, I’ve just restored the first image I took (5.1GB after decrap, before Windows Update) as a test. Not too shabby even for a slow 2.5″ spinner.

      macrium_reflect_8_restore

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      • #2526412

        I cracked it open to see if I could recover the data from the bare drive (I couldn’t) which is how I know the USB-to-SATA interface is just a thin plastic plug adapter.

        I see what you are saying. But it is still a SATA drive inside the plastic housing, so the translation from the SATA that the drive knows to the USB 3 that the PC knows has to happen in there somewhere. Even if the adapter inside the Passport doesn’t have the extra electronic components the Multibao has, it’s still undergoing the same logical translation from USB to SATA.

        Perhaps the conversion is done via the firmware on the drive itself on the Passport, so that no additional components are needed other than a hardware link, pin to pin. That’s smart engineering… less components needed means less cost, and less potential points of failure.

        That presumably works with a drive programmed to do that translation, but it would not work with all 2.5 inch SATA drives, as many of them were never meant to connect to a USB 3 interface. The chip in the Multibao presumably does the same translation that happens in the onboard processor on the drive logic board.

        If so, and if that extra stuff in the Multibao turned out to be the cause of the issue (I read ahead in the thread, so I know it turned out to be the cable), that was what I meant by the WD setup doing a better job of translating.

        FWIW, I use this cable for connecting 2.5 inch HDDs to a PC via USB. There is some kind of chip onboard, as the cable identifies as “152d:1561 JMicron Technology Corp. / JMicron USA Technology Corp. JMS561U two ports SATA 6Gb/s bridge,” even with no drive connected.

        I have a bunch of old laptop drives that I no longer need, and with this I can use them for backups too, without having to get a separate enclosure for each. I keep them in a fire resistant locking box when not in use.

        Another thought:

        If the SSDs you use have M.2 versions, you could also buy them in that form factor and select adapters that convert M.2/SATA to USB 3. If there are M.2 versions of your preferred SSDs, this would allow the same functionality while taking up less space.

        These adapters come in NVMe versions too. I have one of those, as I have also  accumulated a few extra NVMe drives, given my proclivity for buying laptops with 250 to 500GB SSDs and immediately replacing them with something bigger. It makes these SSDs useful once again, but it is limited to USB 3.2 speed, ~1100MB/s. If I had no USB 3.2 port, the USB 3 speed would limit the throughput to where it would be no different than a SATA SSD.

         

         

        Dell XPS 13/9310, i5-1135G7/16GB, KDE Neon
        XPG Xenia 15, i7-9750H/16GB & GTX1660ti, OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

    • #2526285

      This may seem like a dumb question but…

      Did you verify the partition on the SSD in the Multibao clear case is actually set as Healthy (Active, Primary Partition)?

    • #2526292

      This may seem like a dumb question but…

      Did you verify the partition on the SSD in the Multibao clear case is actually set as Healthy (Active, Primary Partition)?

      Not specifically, no. Unfortunately I’ve now wiped it with Diskpart. There were only two partitions on it – an EFI one for Ventoy and an exFat one for the ISO images and Macrium backups that never happened.

      I should have compared the two before wiping the Evo 870 in its Multibao case. I’m going to stick Ventoy back on it to see what happens.

      Update:

      Here’s the Evo 870 in Disk Management:

      evo870-ventoy

      It booted very slowly then showed SECURE BOOT DISABLED for at least 30 seconds before displaying the ISO list (I only put the Macrium ISO on for the moment). I then choose WIMBOOT mode and, minutes later, it’s still only loaded 4%. I’ve turned the laptop off.

      I tried again but it won’t boot. Instead, for the first time ever, I got a big GRUB error:

      Failed to start grubx64_real.efi: (14) Not Found

       

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    • #2526307

      I re-did the Evo 870 in Multibao case with Ventoy and this time swapped the USB cable with the one from its twin.

      Success… booted amazingly fast and completed a backup (including image verify) in 3 minutes 59 seconds. Hmm, that’s only 5 seconds faster than the ‘slow’ My Passport ‘spinner’ (4 mins, 4 seconds).

      The same backup was restored in 4 minutes and 25 seconds. That’s *slower* than the My Passport.

      I don’t believe it. It was the Multibao-supplied connection cable all along. Why didn’t I do a swap test before! However, I’m going to stay using the My Passport, at least for now until I get the time to do some more comparison testing.

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    • #2526324

      I don’t believe it. It was the Multibao-supplied connection cable all along.

      Glad to hear you got it sorted out!

      I’ve had that happen to me a few times as well and my first response whenever I encounter problems with an external USB drive is always a cable swap with a “know good” one of the same type (I keep tested good spares of each different type on hand for just this reason.)

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #2526347

      Resolved – It turns it was a connecting cable fault which hadn’t shown itself before.

      • #2526421

        I had an issue in my WD-supplied cable too… but in this case, it probably has something to do with all of the cat-tooth puncture wounds along the cable’s length. Adored that cat, but he did like to destroy cables. Fortunately my current kitty outgrew that. I’d hate to have one bite into a power cord.

        I bought this to fix it. The USB-3 type B micro-USB connector is kind of an oddball these days, and I would have thought external drives would all have switched to straight USB-C at this point. They haven’t, though, and even if they had, it would not automatically update my existing drives.

        With this style of adapter, if a cable gets lost or ruined, it’s just a type-C, and I can replace it with any of the many type C cords I have around, and the adapter should be much more durable than a cord (that flexes all the time and will eventually wear out, even if a cat doesn’t bite it).

        Dell XPS 13/9310, i5-1135G7/16GB, KDE Neon
        XPG Xenia 15, i7-9750H/16GB & GTX1660ti, OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

    • #2526443

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