Friday, October 24, 2014

USB 3.0 Hub Driver Fix & How to Bypass USB Hub Size Limit!

In my last article, I explained how I had just purchased two Toshiba Canvio 3TB external HDD's. Part of my learning process involved getting a new USB 3.0 hub that could take advantage of their speeds. Therein my journey took place to fix my USB 3.0 problems.

USB 3.0 Hub
I have been looking for a good USB hub for quite some time, and buying the two Canvios prompted me to purchase one since only two of my four USB 3.0 motherboard ports currently work. I had bought some USB 2.0 hubs on clearance a while back, but the first started having problems whenever it was moved. This indicated a cable irregularity, but nothing could be done since it was part of the product. It is now a toy for my young daughter who likes to chew on things (disconnected of course!).

I went through our local shops and priced a few USB 3.0 hub brands. I found the cheapest and it did look aesthetically pleasing. I bought it and brought it home. I connected the hub only to find it would not recognize my drives. On the fine writing on the hub itself it states that it cannot support drives higher than 2TB! True to form, my Canvios were not recognized when inserted and turned on.

USB 3.0 Hub Driver Fix!
The easiest thing to do is ensure that you have checked the motherboard's manufacturer's website, downloaded and installed any USB 3.0 drivers (I'll explain why later). The next would be to check the cables and try different ones, as well as different USB items. If that doesn't work, continue on...

The first thing to do is go into Windows 7's Device Manager and open the USB items. I found the generic hub and right-clicked to access Properties. I clicked on the Drivers tab and noted the Driver Provider, WHICH IS IMPORTANT!

I then found this site: USB3.0 Drivers
I should note that I had a 4-port hub, not a 2-port hub. Yet, I installed the 2-port driver for AsMedia. I uninstalled the driver (also under the Driver tab) for the generic hub within the device manager, but YOU SHOULD NOT TO DO THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE TO!!! Installing the downloaded driver, if it has a setup executable file, should work fine. If you do uninstall the driver, make sure you have drivers for your motherboard from the manufacturer.

Once the driver was installed the hub immediately found both of my drives. If you do not have a setup.exe file, you will need to have Windows browse to the folder where the USB 3.0 drivers are and hope that it sees them. (Check the subfolders option just in case.)

USB Hub Limit Fix!
If you're USB 3.0 hub does happen to state it does not allow external HDD's higher than 2TB (or possibly some other amount), you're not out-of-luck yet. I fixed it by installing the drivers above. It was able to recognize the 3TB Toshiba Canvios, BUT this may only be a viable solution for USB 2.0 hubs as described directly below...

Fake USB Hub!
I did some tests with AS SSD, and yes, it does work with HDD drives. My findings were unacceptable, but not that shocking for a generic Chinese brand. The speeds I was getting is indicative of a USB 2.0 hub, not a USB 3.0 hub. I tested each drive directly connected to my PC and to my hub, and the results were too large to be a mistake. So, I went back to the shop I bought it from and traded it in for another, slightly more expensive, 4-port model.

Driver - Different Amount of Ports?
My new hub worked, but I thought that the USB hub could be faulty, since only two of the ports were working. I then remembered that the driver was meant for a 2-port hub, so I thought I would seek out another driver and try my luck before returning that model too.

I found a newer version of the AsMedia drivers here on a French site that had a ton of drivers for whatever you can think of. I used the executable setup file to install the drivers and tested the two ports that had not been working. Voila! The USB 3.0 hub is now fully functioning on all 4-ports. BUT, after testing the drive speeds again, the transfer rates have been downgraded to USB 2.0...

So, at this point in time, I had the option of using two USB 3.0 ports at full speeds; or all four USB 3.0 ports at USB 2.0 speeds.

Note: These drivers may work for other hubs of different providers, or you may need to look elsewhere as I had to.

Motherboard Manufacturer USB 3.0 Drivers
When I originally uninstalled my USB generic hub drivers, I inadvertenly took away the ability for Windows to recognize my Seagate external HDD which is connected directly to my PC via USB 3.0. This created a lot of trouble, hence why I learned about all the driver information here!

Uninstalling the last set of drivers I installed for USB 3.0 forced my computer to do a reboot. (You can double-click the setup.exe file - if you got one - and it should hopefully give the option to remove the drivers in addition to repairing.) It hanged on booting, but a restart quickly fixed that. Once in my PC I reinstalled my motherboard drivers (which I had not been able to do before for unknown reasons), and the USB 3.0 hub immediately recognized my drives. On further testing, the speeds are what they should be, so the USB 3.0 hub is now fully functioning.

Motherboard vs. Provider Drivers
If you read through the horrors above, then you're probably thinking, "There's no reason not to use the motherboard manufacturer drivers." However, there are a couple reasons. The most obvious are that your motherboard manufacturer doesn't offer any with your computer, or, like me, you were unable to install them.

Maybe more importantly was the information I got from the tests I ran. While only one of the drivers above worked for USB 3.0, it did have an amazing speed increase on write-to-disk. I gained about 10-15MB/s on each Toshiba Canvio. However, the motherboard drivers gives my USB 3.0 Seagate a push of around 5MB/s for read-from-disk, and 2MB/s on write-to-disk.

So the toss up for me is having all four ports functional as USB 3.0, with a bit slower Toshiba Canvios and a slightly faster Seagate; or having only two functioning USB 3.0 ports with faster Toshiba Canvios. I have opted for the latter since I could really use the extra ports, and I did pay for four.

Note: I am using a motherboard that no longer gets updates from the manufacturer, so a newer motherboard may still be getting updated USB 3.0 drivers which may increase your transfer rates.

What Have We Learned
The knowledge set forth should allow you to get a USB 3.0 hub working (partly), or at the very least, have the knowledge on how to go about trying to fix one. In addition, it is possible to breach the limit of a USB hub, for better or worse. These things never seem important until they actually are, so if you feel you have wasted your time, trust me, you haven't. Will you remember what I have written is another matter.

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