My laptop eats USB flash drives
January 14, 2013 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Macbook Pro, running 10.6.8 seems to render any USB flash drive unreadable, be it new or used.

Brand new, out of the packet or used with data on it, the results are the same. I put the drive in the USB port, it boots and I can see the device name. I try and either read from it or write to it and the operation stalls, and I then get an error message saying that the device is unreadable. It disappears from the Finder menu. If I launch disk utility I can sometimes see the device again, but if I attempt to reformat it, the operation stalls again.

The USB drive is unusable in other computers after this process.

Any ideas as to why this might be happening or what I might do to fix it?
posted by tim_in_oz to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
It might be NTFS formatted. See this.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:38 PM on January 14, 2013

It's probably obvious, and I'm sure you've tried it, but have you physically powered down & restarted the Macbook?

My uni laptop (a mid-2010) started doing this early last year; powering down & restarting (not just rebooting) fixed the trashing USB stick issue, but I still couldn't see/reformat the trashed sticks on OS X. I managed to format them using Disk Management in the Windows control panel (Win7, IIRC, though may have been XP); OS X could then see them & reformat as HFS.
posted by Pinback at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2013

Do you still have AppleCare? They may have some advice if so.

I'd be inclined to reinstall the OS on my laptop in this case after testing after doing the standard "repair permissions" voodoo.

There should be nothing physical that causes damage, so think is likely a software issue.

I'd check for any non-standard kernel extensions:

e.g. have you installed anything to Write to NTFS disks?
Are you running Windows in a VM at the same time?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:47 PM on January 14, 2013

Does your computer have more than one USB port? Does this happen in all of them?
posted by procrastination at 7:01 PM on January 14, 2013

Sometimes your Spotlight or fseventsd can cause problems with removable media. You may benefit by trying the suggestion here.
posted by jet_silver at 9:03 PM on January 14, 2013

Best answer: I had a similar problem, and after reading up on it, I came to the conclusion that there were probably voltages spikes on the USB power supply line damaging the chip inside. I got a USB hub with its own power supply, and never had this problem again (basically, I used this port to "filter" the power). Here's one.
bitdamaged: It might be NTFS formatted.
The OP tried reformatting it, so this can't be the problem.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:24 PM on January 14, 2013

If you tried to reformat it in Disk Utility and it stalled, this might explain why the USB disk is unreadable on other computers.

Nonetheless, you should still be able to see the drive in Disk Management (under Windows), just not a properly-formatted partition since the formatting on your troubled Mac stalled.

Don't have an answer as to why your Mac is facing problems, though.
posted by titantoppler at 3:01 AM on January 15, 2013

Has your machine ever been on a corporate network? My corporate machine does something to encrypt all removable drives - USB, cameras, phones, iPads.
posted by 26.2 at 11:06 AM on January 15, 2013

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