Seagate FreeAgent Freezes on BIOS screen

So in the past, I’ve always had to tell my parents to start deleting stuff on the fileshare, since free space is quickly depleted mainly due to the fact it was only a 160GB drive. Most of my computers at home are ancient. I mean I can’t even watch 720p HD trailers on my desktop here.

Anyway, I thought it was time to upgrade the drive, however given that this machine is probably over 6 years old, it didn’t have SATA connectors. I figured I could probably pick up an external drive for about the same cost as a SATA PCI card + hard drive. The external drive would also be much easier to move to a different machine if mine died again.

I picked up a Seagate FreeAgent Desk 1.0TB External USB2.0 that was on sale at Staples. The drive’s actually quite neat. The Seagate Manager software that comes with the drive has a bunch of cool options such as telling the drive to automatically go into power-saving mode after a certain amount of inactivity. There’s also some security/encryption setting which I have yet to play with.

Anyway, everything was going fine until I needed to reboot. It just froze on the BIOS/POST screen after detecting all my hard drives. At first I couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but when it rebooted fine after I unplugged the USB drive, I started troubleshooting down that path. It was pretty ridiculous that every time I wanted to reboot, I had to unplug the drive, reboot, and replug in the drive. The boot process wouldn’t even continue if I unplug the drive and keyboard did not have any response, nor was I able to get into the BIOS setup.

After some quick searching, I found this thread: Free Agent freezes computer on restart? Turns out that it’s quite a common problem with certain motherboards that try to boot off USB drives. I don’t know what’s different about this drive since I have another external drive (using a generic external enclosure) and it’s never had problems at boot.

Anyway, I thought maybe it was due to the power-saving mode of inactivity so I disabled that, but that still didn’t help. According to the forums, there were a few things to try:

  • In BIOS, try to disable booting from USB
  • Connect drive to USB PCI card instead of motherboard’s USB ports

I search throughout my BIOS and there was no option to disable booting from USB. I even ended up disabling all USB support and my keyboard/mouse stopped working (it did boot without freezing though). This PC Chips M848A motherboard is pretty crappy and options are pretty limited. I ended up resetting the CMOS.

I was already contemplating if I should get a new CPU/motherboard combo at Fry’s or just pick up a cheap USB PCI card. I mean I’ve brought back a good PCI-E graphics card and DDR2 ram in preparation of the worse case scenario when my mom told me the scent of burning came from my computer and it stopped working (turns out the fan on my graphics card broke off and it just burnt out the GPU).

While looking at the internals, I noticed I already had a USB PCI card, which was not being utilized due to the fact a couple of the ports were dead. I guess that’s what you get from a $5 USB PCI card. I hooked up the Seagate external drive and reboot is working just fine now. No more hangs or freezes.

Update: I actually forgot to mention several things. I had tried to see if I could update my BIOS firmware, but it turns out I already had the latest (July ’04).

I didn’t actually see the mention of USB PCI card until later, and before that I was contemplating on ways to delay the start of my external drive or the USB hub that my drive was connected to.