USB Surges on Dell Laptops: Workarounds

If you are as unfortunate as I am, you have a newer Dell laptop that isn't so good at supplying power to “USB bus powered” devices. In windows, it reports surges on the bus and shuts them down.

I get this with my external GB firelite drive and my IPAQ 5550 when using the sync'n charge cable and fast USB charging enabled. The firelite drive can be powered externally, but they don't give you a transformer in the box. Instead they give you a cable that connects from your PS/2 keyboard port to the drives DC input. That would be great if my laptop had a PS/2 keyboard port.

When at home, I use a USB powered hub. If you are in the market, I recommend* the Promedia USB and Firewire Combo Hub Repeater. In addition to it being a USB 2.0 hub, it also supports firewire, over USB, which is great since my Dell doesn't have a built in firewire port. *I have ordered this device which is nice and cheap at $21 CDN, but still waiting for it to arrive - I'll let you know if I notice anything wrong with it.

When I'm on the road, I also used to carry around a Iogear Microhub 4-Port Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Hub. It's nice and slim and also can be externally powered which solves my IPAQ/Drive problems. I still hate carrying around stuff I don't have to.

Enter the Ultra Mini 2.5“ Hard Drive Enclosure (available at Tiger's outlet store in Markham, but not on their site for around $70 if memory serves). It is your typical enclose that supports both USB and Firewire (a nice addition if used on my older dell that is USB 1.0, yet has Firewire) and also offers external dc power (and they include a transformer). The cool part is the enclosed 10 Hour Li-ion battery. The back of the box says “ when not in use, the battery charges from your connection bus (both USB and 1394). I can't verify that (in fact, first time I've heard of something charging over 1394/firewire), but I can verify that when plugged directly into my Dell laptop, without the DC adapter, it works fine and without USB surges on the bus.