Note: The links in this post are affiliate links.
Question from Ariel: I have an HP dv6000t laptop that originally had Windows XP on it.
While my son was in for a weekend visit he installed Linux Mint on it after reading your article about replacing Windows with Linux.
I mainly use this laptop for reading my cooking groups on Facebook and printing the recipes that interest me.
The Linux is working out great but I’m having a problem with the USB ports.
This laptop has three USB ports and I’m using all of them for my printer, a mouse and the 3.5″ external hard drive that he copied my pictures onto.
The printer and mouse work fine but when I plug the hard drive in the laptop instantly freezes up. As soon as I unplug the hard drive the laptop starts working again.
Do you think I’m using too many USB ports? I really need both my printer and my mouse but I need to access the photos on the external hard drive too.
Any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated.
Rick’s answer: Congrats on making the switch to Linux, Ariel. I believe you’ll be very happy with it in the long run.
To answer your question, the fact that you’re using all of your laptop’s USB ports isn’t what’s causing the problem with the external hard drive. I can tell you that right up front.
USB can support up to 127 devices per controller, and obviously 3 isn’t anywhere near that number.
I believe what’s happening is your laptop’s older USB 2.0 ports aren’t capable of supplying enough current to the 3.5″ external hard drive to properly power it up.
USB 2.0 ports typically only supply a maximum of 500mA of current, and many external 3.5″ hard drives require more than that in order to operate correctly.
You’ll probably need to purchase a powered USB 3.0 hub to connect between the hard drive and the laptop.
When I say “powered hub” I mean a hub that comes with it’s own power adapter that plugs into an electrical outlet to supply power to the hub and all the devices that are connected to it.
These hubs aren’t very expensive at all. In fact, you can probably pick up a good one at your local electronics store for around $20 or so.
If you prefer to shop online, Amazon has a great selection of powered USB hubs as well.
After you’ve purchased your hub, simply follow these steps:
1 – Connect the hub to one of your laptop’s USB ports.
2 – Plug the hub’s power adapter into an electrical outlet.
3 – Plug the external hard drive into the hub.
That’s all there is to it. Once everything is connected the hard drive should work just fine.
I hope this helps, Ariel. Good luck!
Bonus tip: You mentioned that you use this laptop mainly for reading Facebook and printing recipes, but Linux is quite capable of doing much more than that.
If you’re interested in seeing what’s available I recommend that you check out this post that lists Linux alternatives for several popular Windows programs.