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We outgrew a few older external USB backup drives, and purchased WD My Passport 1 TB USB 3.0 drives to replace them.

When they are plugged into the front of our G4, it will blink forever after the BIOS (which is current, BTW) and never boot, even though the USB disks are not "bootable" per se.

Our old drives did not exhibit this behaviour (so I don't think it's this type of issue that I've read about other servers.) The old drives were USB 2.0, but this shouldn't make a difference, AFAICT--the specs say all of the G4's USB ports are the same, 2.0, anyway, so I'm not sure how one port would handle a USB 3.0 device better than another.

If we plug the new drives in one of the back slots, it boots fine.

What's the (most likely) cause? My concern is that the front USB port, and possibly the motherboard, might be starting to die.

(We are experiencing other strange issues with them, or were initially, like intermittent file permissions errors despite wide-open ACL on these local drives, but some serverfault users have me convinced they may be coincidental software/security related issues.)

Update: I found that there was a missing SES driver that Western Digital's site was able to provide. I installed this. After that, one of the two drives (which had had less problems so far) I could not get to prevent the server from rebooting using the front port. I plugged in the other one into the front port, which I had reformatted elsewhere, and it also allowed the server to boot. After reformatting again just for equal comparison and doing a backup--which this time had no issues--and restarting, however, the server would not boot with it plugged in. Since I am apparently getting a marked difference between the two drives, I'm wondering if one of the drives has an issue, although I do not exclude the possibility of the USB port or motherboard having issues. Another thing I noticed is that, contrary to the specs which only mention USB 2.0 for all 4 ports, in the BIOS's hardware list, there are 4 USB 1.1 lines and only 1 USB 2.0 line. That adds up to more than the total physical ports that I can see, unless there's an internal one like on a G5, so perhaps that doesn't mean that anything is necessarily running at 1.1.

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What are you using USB drives on a server for anyway? Oh and I don't know if you know but USB 3 is WILDLY different from USB 1 and 2, there's a good degree of backward compatibility but there are limits and if sounds like you may have found one. –  Chopper3 Jun 30 '13 at 21:33
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@Kev K. The motherboards failed at about 4-5 years for G3 servers. They typically went at 5 years for G4 300-series servers. –  ewwhite Jun 30 '13 at 22:29
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@Kev Always fan and DIMM errors first. Sensors, typically. The failure rate was high and replacement parts availability was low. Typically, the replacements had the same issues, so swapping a motherboard only bought time. HP never corrected many of the issues because they expected people to move to the next generation product. –  ewwhite Jun 30 '13 at 22:42
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Um...if it is any consolation, my DL380 g6s and G7s do the same damn thing. Nothing worse than leaving a flash drive in to move a file around, go home, remotely reboot it and not have it come back up, only to drive back to the office and discover that the reason was a flash drive plugged into the front port. Mine does it every time though. I never bothered to find a workaround for it as I don't have any USB drives plugged in full time. The last time this happened was with an external 1TB USB drive I was using to restore a very old backup from. –  MikeAWood Jul 9 '13 at 23:57
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@Kev, was the driver missing? support.microsoft.com/kb/955704 –  MikeAWood Jul 10 '13 at 1:21

1 Answer 1

It's a 9 year-old server... The DL380 G4 has been eclipsed by the G5, G6, G7 and now Gen8 systems. The model went end-of-life in 2006 or so. That's four jumps in processing and hardware technology.

Really, that's all there is to say. It's not a good platform to continue to troubleshoot or invest anything in. Why?

  • You are out of support!
  • The current BIOS your speak of is from 2007!
  • Replacement parts are also going to be old or of unknown status.
  • The street value of the server is so low ($50-$75US) that you could just buy a different chassis... but you shouldn't... because that would delay the move to more current hardware.

If you wish to continue using this system until it dies, use the rear USB ports. Don't depend on the front ports because they don't seem to work in this configuration.

See: HP Proliant DL380 G4 - Can this server still perform in 2011?

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To the question ...USB 3 generally has a bigger power draw, and the headers on the front ports just don't have enough. The symptom is likely the system "waiting" for a device that'll never respond. I see this occur if I plug in my passport into my desktop's front ports. –  Nathan C Jun 30 '13 at 21:44
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@Kev But you have no recourse. It doesn't make sense to troubleshoot this. When you get to the point where you can't call HP, can't draw upon other experiences (because the server predates USB 3.0) and question the health of the hardware (motherboard), it's time to move on. –  ewwhite Jun 30 '13 at 22:04
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Also, are small businesses on limited budgets not welcome here? Our budget rarely allows for current support. We buy off-lease and do the best with what we can. I'm asking for help with that, based on the experience of other users. I'm sure we're not the only ones with old servers out there, even that happens not to be you either. –  Kev Jun 30 '13 at 22:25
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@Kev What you are asking crosses the line from "limited budget" to professionally unsupportable. You can't reasonable provide any guarantee of functionality on hardware this old. Your time has value, and sinking more resources into an unsupportable platform is unprofessional, inefficient, and detrimental to the long term operations of the business you're supporting. I fully understand that your business may have accounting misunderstandings about sunk costs, total cost of ownership, or return on investment; but part of your job has to be understanding these and making proper recommendations. –  Chris S Jul 1 '13 at 15:46
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@ChrisS, so, basically, anybody who would be buying the products in ewwhite's link are to be shunned and their questions not even entertained here. Is there a serverfault lookalike for non-profits and educational labs and the like? Perhaps my question would be answerable there even if it's technically for business. You're making an awful lot of assumptions about me, my character, my job description, and the business I work for here, in response to a straightforward technical question. –  Kev Jul 2 '13 at 1:37

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