Last year I purchased a very portable external hard drive, the SmartDisk FireLite 40 GB USB model. Over the course of the year I used it somewhat regularly, perhaps maybe a couple dozen times. Up until this past fall I was satisified with it, so much so that I ordered another one for my wife, but an 80 GB model.

Just about that time I noticed my Firelite started giving me a few fits... It has an LED light that turns purple if it can connect at USB 2 speed such as when connected to a Windows XP workstation, or green if it can connect as USB 1.1 speed when connected to a Windows 2000 machine. If it has a connection the light is steady, and if it has trouble where Windows won't show the drive for the Firelite device then the light blinks rapidly.

Well, more times than not the light was blinking on mine just about the time I ordered the one for my wife. I thought it was just me. I tried Linux as well to mount it as /dev/sda1, for example, and even under linux it sometimes blinked and couldn't connect.

While using Windows, I'd plug into the USB port and Windows would give me an error:

Power Surge On Hub Port -- The USB Mass Storage Device has exceeded the power limits of its hub port.

So I click on the pop-up box and I get:

The USB Mass Storage Device has malfunctioned and exceeded the power limits of its hub port.  You should disconnect the device.The device cannot start. (Code 10)

Christmas arrives, and not long after my wife tries her FireLite Model # USBFLB80 for the very first time... IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

So I try hers on another Windows machine, still no luck. I try it on her laptop, no luck. I try it on my laptop, no luck. I try it on my laptop booted into Fedora, no luck. Nada, nada, nada.

After a bit of research and googling, we find out this this is a pretty common problem, and one hit turns up a suggestion to buy an external power supply since without one the USB device just runs off the power from the USB port. Ok, I put in an order for two power supplies from SmartDisk.

This was my second mistake. A week passes, the power supplies arrive, and with baited breath we plug them in and with much fan fare.... nada. Again. Nada.

So my Firelite USBFLB40 is working from time to time, but its risky enough that I don't want to get stuck leaving anything important off it.

My wife's USBFLB80, well that's a doorstop now.

In total, I think I've spent in the range of $350 on the two devices and their power supplies.

My advice: Don't walk, ... Run away from FireLite hard drives.

Now for my next trick, I'll test the limits of the Smart Disk Technical Support return policy.