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Unable to Boot Windows with External Hard Drive Attached?

I recently bought a 2TB Western Digital My Book and connected it to my Windows home PC. Everything was going fine until I decided to restart my computer. Instead of loading Windows, I just have a black screen and nothing else. I can’t boot into Windows!

At first I thought that something went wrong with Windows and I would have to do a system repair or something. However, due to my external hard drive in front of my DVD drive, I unplugged it to insert the Windows DVD. When I did this, the computer suddenly booted up!

I checked it again and realized that it was the external hard drive that was preventing Windows from booting properly. After playing around with a lot of settings and doing quite a bit of research, I was able to solve the problem. In this article, I will go over the various methods I have tried and hopefully one will work for you and suit your needs.

Method 1. Install any drivers

First method – install any drivers

In the case of Western Digital My Book, I had to download and install the Windows SES driver in order to boot Windows correctly. This driver provides a special connection between your PC and Windows and includes some additional functions on the hard drive. This seems to fix the problem of Windows freezing on boot as well!

You can download the 32- or 64-bit WD SES driver here. Go ahead and install it and see if that solves your problem.

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Method 2 – Legacy USB Support in BIOS

The second method – support for the old USB in the BIOS

Another possible way to fix the problem is to go into BIOS and configure the settings for Legacy USB Support or USB Device Legacy Support. Some people have suggested turning it off, but that also means you won’t be able to use a USB keyboard or mouse when booting up your computer, which can be a problem if Windows stops booting one day and you have to navigate through DOS prompts.

Another way you can try instead of disabling it is to set it to Auto. If Auto doesn’t work, you can try Disable, but note that you won’t be able to use your mouse / keyboard until Windows boots.

Method 3 – Boot Sequence

The third method – the boot sequence

While you’re in the BIOS, you should also check the boot order. If the USB has somehow been moved up in the boot sequence, you will also face this problem whenever you plug any USB hard drive into your computer.

The boot order screen is usually found somewhere on one of the advanced options pages, so you’ll have to wander around a bit to find it. Remember to move the USB-HDD or USB all the way down. Let the system reboot and see if you have a black screen stuck or not. Read my post on how to change the boot order in Windows

Method 4 – Remove hidden files

Fourth method – delete hidden files

You should also open your external hard drive in Windows Explorer and check what hidden files are stored in the root directory. If you accidentally find boot.ini or similar files, try deleting them, then restart your computer. Sometimes when you copy files between computers, etc., some system files can be copied to an external drive and therefore Windows considers your USB device to be bootable.

If that doesn’t work, you can try something more aggressive, this is method 5.

Method 5 – Format External Hard Drive

Fifth method – external HD format

If the boot hangs only when using one USB external hard drive and not another USB device, then it’s definitely a hard drive issue. In this case, you can copy all the data and fully format the external hard drive using the Windows Format Tool. If you’ve connected your USB HD to a different operating system like OS X or Linux, or if it’s just formatted using a different filesystem that’s causing Windows issues, you can completely format it and see if that solves the problem.

I would advise you to try FAT32 as it is an external hard drive and leave the “Quick Format” checkbox unchecked. This will ensure that everything is removed. Read my post on how to format your external hard drive as FAT32. If you want to be hardcore you can always use a program like dban to clean up the disk completely.

Method 6 – Another USB Port

Method 6 – A different USB port

As we’re running out of options, you can also try simply unplugging the HD and plugging it back into a different USB port. The chances are slim that it will work, but you may be one of the lucky few who actually works. In theory, it doesn’t matter what port you plug it into, but for some strange reason, it worked for some people.

Hopefully, one of the above methods will lead you to a state where you don’t have to unplug your USB hard drive to boot Windows properly. If you fixed the problem in another way, post it in the comments and let us know. Enjoy!

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