I have an external USB 2.0 harddisk (Seagate 9SD2A2-500) that periodically "freezes" when files on the drive are not written to or read within approximately five minutes. The drive is formatted as ext4, and I am running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS 64-bit.

If I am editing a file that is stored on this drive, and I do not save the file every five minutes, an open application (such as gedit) will become unresponsive. I must wait for at least a minute before the external drive becomes responsive again and the file can be saved. I've also noticed this behavior when trying to access a file in Nautilus.

It appears that the drive is "falling asleep" and then "wakes up" after a certain time. What is happening here, and is it possible to change this behavior?

I have another USB 2.0 harddisk attached to the computer. The harddisk is formatted as FAT32, and does not show this behavior.


This is a "feature" rather than a bug related to power management of your external hard drive unrelated to formatting. Things you could try to do:

Disable harddisk power management from your BIOS. Ask Seagate on how to disable power management on their external USB drives.

This is entirely not an Ubuntu issue.

  • Seagate has a Windows application that allows for harddisk power management to be turned off. Apparently this feature ships on many of the drives manufactured by this company. I downloaded the "FreeAgent" software from the Seagate website and ran it using my Windows OS partition. Although the drive is a "Seagate Expansion Portable Drive," the software did work to turn off power management. Thank you for your response; if I wouldn't have posted here and received help from you and Vincenzo, I might not have resolved this issue. – Nicholas Kinar Dec 19 '10 at 1:51

I think it depends on hardware (controller) of external HDD. Possible issue: HDD suspending after 5(10) minutes. It could be also a specific management of USB controller in your computer system (USB inactivity time-out). Control in Power Management Preferences if 'Spin down hard disks when possible' is switched off.

Good luck, Vincenzo

  • I wish that I could mark both of these answers as the accepted one. I believe that this does depend on the hardware controller of the external HDD. You are right about the 'Spin down hard disks when possible' flag; this was set for when I was running on battery power (but not AC power), so I unchecked it. Thank you for your response. – Nicholas Kinar Dec 19 '10 at 1:42
  • Dear Nicholas ! Thank you for your comments. The most important thing is that your problem has been solved quickly !!! :) – Vincenzo Dec 19 '10 at 9:02

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