Troubleshooting the Plugable USB3-SATA-U3 Hard Drive Docking Station

The Plugable USB 3.0 SATA Hard Drive Docking Station is a convenient way to connect SATA hard drives to any computer with a USB port. It’s compatible with both USB 2.0 and 3.0 and either 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives. Becuase the drivers are included in all major operating systems it’s as simple as plug and play so there’s nothing to install.

If you do have problems, there are many different issues that can cause your SATA Dock to misbehave – among them are drive format, disk failures, and permissions issues. This troubleshooting guide will help you through the process of getting your USB3-SATA-U3 up and running at USB 3.0 speed.

Initial Setup —

The first step is to connect your SATA Dock to AC power and to an active USB port. With no drive inserted you should see the green light illuminated like this:

The Plugable USB3-SATA-U3 dock will light up green when power is connected.

Make sure the green light is on before connecting to the computer.

If your dock is not indicating power with the green light, stop here, contact us at support@plugable.com. We’ll be happy to help.

Choosing your cable —

Your Docking Station comes with both USB 2.0 cable and USB 3.0 cables. The USB 3.0 cable has blue plastic inside the connectors.



USB 2.0 connectors

The ‘A’ and ‘B’ ends of a USB 2.0 cable.

USB 3 connectors

The ‘A’ and ‘B’ ends of a USB 3.0 cable.

We’ll start with the USB 2.0 cable. Once we have everything working on USB 2.0 we’ll move up to USB 3.0 – if it’s available on the host computer. Connect the USB 2.0 cable to the docking station and to a known good USB port on your computer. To verify that the port is working, test with a simple device like a wired USB mouse.

Windows troubleshooting steps — click for Mac.

First power off the dock and insert the drive. The Plugable USB3-SATA-U3 Hard Drive Docking Station is compatible with both 2.5″ laptop sized drives and 3.5″ desktop sized drives. Be sure to line up the connectors inside the slot with the connectors on the drive and push the drive into the slot firmly until it seats on the connector.

Once your drive is installed, power on the dock with the switch on the back. After a minute or so, you’ll see an “installing new hardware” message and if the drive is recognized and mounted successfully you’ll see this:

Win 7 Sata Dock Installed

The Windows 7 message alerting you that the dock is ready for use.

Windows Auto Play dialog

Select Open folder to view files to access your disk.

If the drive is formatted and working properly, you’ll be presented with the Windows Auto Play dialog. You can click on “Open folder to view files” to access your drive.

If not, we’ll need to start the Windows Disk Management Utility so we can initialize our disk.

Open the Start Menu and type Disk Management in the search box (for XP type drvmgmt.msc) and press enter. This will start the Windows Disk Management Utility.

Windows Disk Manager

click on image to enlarge.

You should see the disk listed, probably as unallocated space. Right click on it and choose “New Simple Volume”. Follow the wizard to format and initialize your new disk. Once the wizard finishes, your disk will be available to Windows.

Simply open Windows Explorer, it will be listed under “Computer” in the list of available drives.


If your machine is equipped with USB 3.0, we can now safely eject the drive and reconnect it with the USB 3.0 cable to a USB 3.0 port on your computer. To do this click on the USB icon in the lower right of the screen and select “Eject MassStorage Device”. Using the USB 3.0 cable that came with your USB3-SATA-U3 Hard Drive Docking Station, connect your dock to a USB 3.0 port on your computer. Your USB3-SATA-U3 dock should now be operating at USB 3.0 speed. If you are having problems getting your docking station working on USB 3.0, first make sure it’s working on USB 2.0. This will verify that the drive is properly formatted and functional, the power supply is good and the USB 2.0 cable and port are both good. Contact us at support@plugable.com if you have any trouble.



Mac troubleshooting steps —

Drive listed in Finder on Mac

Click on image to enlarge.

First, connect the dock to AC power and verify that the green light is on. Next, connect the dock to your Mac with the USB 2.0 cable. See the image above for the difference between the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 cables. Insert your drive being careful it seats fully, and power on the dock. If the drive is formatted for Mac and working properly, it will show up in finder under devices. In this example the new drive is labeled “New Volume”.




Click image to enlarge.

If your drive is not detected, use Disk Utility to investigate. First check that the disk is showing up, then click verify. If the system is able to verify the disk it should be accessible to finder. If not, select Partition. Be aware that this action will erase any data that is currently on the disk. Choose a partition layout and select apply. Your new disk should now be available.

If your Mac has USB 3.0 ports available, you can now connect your dock with the USB 3.0 cable.

If you are having trouble getting your SATA dock running, contact us at support@plugable.com. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts, suggestions or experiences, thanks!

[usb3-sata-u3

38 comments on “Troubleshooting the Plugable USB3-SATA-U3 Hard Drive Docking Station”

    • Bernie Thompson Bernie Thompson Reply

      Hi Bob – If you’re getting frequent disconnects, it’s likely a USB 3.0 specific issue. Try the USB 2.0 cable included in the box, and email us at support@plugable.com to tell us what the behavior is on USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. Either way, we’ll work to track down the problem and solve. Thanks!

      • John L Reply

        Hi, I’m also having this problem on USB 3.0, using a WD 1TB Black. Has there been any solutions?

    • Rick Reply

      Hi just purchased one of these and connected a western digital but can not seem to access the files that are on the hard drive already, can someone help/

      Thanks

    • Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

      Hi Eric-

      I’ve had no issues with volume sizes up to 4tb in the lab. Please feel free to email your amazon order ID to support@plugable.com if you’d like to do some 1:1 troubleshooting, but it should be no problem whatsoever to recognize 1 terabyte and larger partitions. I’d double check the drive’s formatting.

      Hope this helps!

      Jeff Everett
      MCITP Enterprise Support Tech
      Plugable Technologies

  1. Ivo Shostenko Reply

    Hi,
    I’ve been using this dock for over 6 months now, but I have never been able to connect it at USB 3.0 speeds. I use Win 7 64bit, and my motherboard has 4 USB 3.0 ports, I also have an add-on card with another 2 USB 3.0 ports.

    Does not matter where I connect I always get a message saying “This device can perform faster.. etc”. Fastest transfer speeds I get are up to 30 MB/sec.
    Using a WD Passport USB 3.0 drive on the same ports I get 70-90 MB/sec.

    Recently the docking station started disconnecting every few minutes.

    I ran across some threads on the internet mentioning a firmware update. Could you provide a link to where to get this firmware?

    • Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

      Hi Ivo-

      Thanks for letting us know about the issues you’ve seen. Can you please contact us at support@plugable.com so we can work through the troubleshooting process with you?

      Thanks!

      Jeff

      • Ivo Reply

        Hi Jeff,
        Somebody from Plugable already contacted me through email. There is a tested unit on its way in the mail.

        What can I say, you guys are great and super efficient!! 🙂

        • Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

          Thanks for the kind words Ivo-

          Just for the public record, all units sold after December 2011 should have the latest firmware coming from the factory. This is why we’ve pulled the article talking about a firmware update for the U3.

          The official statement from the top of that page before we pulled it was:

          [Note: All Plugable USB 3.0 SATA docks purchased after December 2011 have this firmware version (or later). There is no benefit to updating. Contact support@plugable.com if you’re still having any trouble. We’re happy to help]

          Best-

          Jeff

  2. John Norman Reply

    I love this.
    It works great with my MacBook Air and USB 3.0 speeds

    One of my hard drives when I put it into the dock just continually beeps.
    Thoughts?
    John

  3. peter Reply

    I cannot connect using USB3 on windows 7. Error message indicates device driver software was not successfully installed. The harddrive works and is tested on other ports. Please help.

    • Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

      Hi Peter-

      You may have an issue at any one of 3 levels:

      1. USB3 cable
      2. Dock
      3. PC USB 3 Host Controller Driver/Firmware

      As a first quick test can you verify if you maintain a consistent connection via USB 2?

      If so, do you know what USB 3 host controller your PC uses? If not, please send the output from the DisplayLink Support Tool (please disregard any messages, the tool was initially designed for another purpose) to support@plugable.com attention Jeff. Also please mention your comment in our troubleshooting the U3 post.

      Instructions for use and download of the tool are here: http://plugable.com/support/tools/displaylink-support-tool

      Thanks and best wishes!

      Jeff

  4. Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

    Hi John-

    I’m unsure what to make of your report of a beep from the U3 since the dock has no speaker. Is it possible this beep is coming from another source? Does the drive work normally in other docks or when connected directly? Perhaps with a few more details I can offer a suggestion.

    Best wishes-

    Jeff

  5. Diego Reply

    I had just received my 2012 Mac mini and I’m copying 1tb from the dock to other disk.
    at 500Gb it says the drive had disconnected and stop the transfer. I can no longer see the drive and I have to remove and put it back to see it again.
    What do I do?

  6. Colin Mackie Reply

    Interesting in getting one of these, but for a Mac Mini. Saw a note on your Amazon page saying that using a 2012 Mac Mini was “not recommenced”. Can you shed any light on this? I have a Mac Mini on 10.8.2. Will it work?

    • Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

      Hi Collin-

      Thanks for your question!

      We’ve had mixed results on the USB 3 capable Mac Minis- several customers have reported that units were tested to be stable at transfer speeds above 175mb/sec on our Lab Mid 2012 MacBook Air were not able to maintain a connection on USB 3 on their Mini’s. Feel free to try one and contact support@plugable.com should you run into issues.

      Best wishes-

      Jeff Everett
      MCITP Enterprise Support Tech
      Plugable Technologies

  7. HongtaoZhang Reply

    Does it compatible with Windows 8?

    I have a Thermaltake BlacX and it worked fine until I upgraded to Windows 8. Now I am looking for a new one.

    • Bernie Thompson Bernie Thompson Reply

      Hi Hongtao – Yes, Windows 8 has been relatively problem free. It’s on the late 2012 USB 3.0 Macs where problems remain (but between Apple updates and device updates, progress is being made).

  8. Matt Sayler Reply

    Having problems with a 2012 Mini + 2 of these enclosures (bought at different times). The problem only seems to happen with a 3TB Hitachi drive (which is a Time Machine volume for several computers). The 2GB WD Green volume (mostly R/O access) doesn’t have any problems. Problem seems to occur with USB 3 or USB 2 cabling.

    I’ll be writing for a while and then *boom*, the drive disappears. These worked fine in USB 2.0 on a white macbook running Lion previously.

    • Matt Sayler Reply

      (not sue if this is germane or not, but the used space on the volume that’s having problems is 2 TB (1,999,859,412,992 Bytes). Might/might not be a coincidence.

    • Bernie Thompson Bernie Thompson Reply

      Hi Jan – Thanks for commenting. USB SATA drives like this (which use the USB Mass Storage Class standard) use the drivers built into the operating system. There are no drivers to install. The most common cause of a message like that (especially if the SATA dock is working), is there’s another device somewhere on the USB bus that does need a driver, and doesn’t have it…

  9. Toan Le Reply

    I received a brand new Communicator U3 today. Plugged in my 3.5 in Sata drive, turned the power on, saw the green light, and after 5-6 sec, the green light turned off and power is cut off… I tried with different known good drives and the behavior is the same… pls help.

    • Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

      Hi Toan-

      Thanks for posting, sorry to hear your U3 doesn’t seem to be working properly. Please contact support@plugable.com with your Amazon Order ID and we’ll be happy to help.

      Best wishes-

      Jeff Everett
      Plugable Technologies

  10. akabaka Reply

    Has this dock been tested with any routers that support plugging in external hard drives? I want t know if this dock will work with my Asus RT-N66U router. I currently have an external drive connected which I use as a network drive.

    • Jeff Everett Jeff Everett Reply

      Hi-

      Thanks for posting with your question!

      I’ve been able to use the U3 when connected via a WNDR-3700, as well as a Synology NAS with USB 2.0 support. Other users have reported getting it to work (after some troubleshooting) with both a USB 3.0 capable Synology NAS, and an AirPort Extreme. If you run into other questions let us know!

      Best wishes-

      Jeff Everett
      Plugable Technologies

      • akabaka Reply

        Thanks for the reply. One more question, my router is Linux based and lets me run commands through telnet/ssh. I manually spin down my external drive by sending the the command “scsi-stop /dev/sda” or “sdparm -C stop /dev/sda”. The router passes the stop command to the hard drive enclosure and the enclosure powers down the drive. I’m assuming if my 10 year old enclosure can understand the commands the Plugable will as well?

  11. Kirk Gittings Reply

    Windows 7 Dell Precision T 5500 with StarTech.com 4-Port PCI Express SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Controller Card Adapter with SATA Power PEXUSB3S4V. Started having trouble with one of my two Plugable docks. Seems as though the HD and the dock failed at same time. Replaced the drive and the drive works fine in a BlacX eSATA dock but does not show up when I put it in the Plugable dock. The green light comes on but the HD doesn’t show up-put it back in the BlacX and it works fine. Thoughts?

    • Joshua Henry Joshua Henry Reply

      The BlacX and our dock might be running different firmware causing drives written in one dock to not be readable in another. Many docks use what is known as sector emulation to allow drives larger than 2.19TB to be seen by 32bit Windows systems. Older versions of our USB3-SATA-U3 did use sector emulation while newer versions do not.

      When the drive that is visible in the BlacX is in our dock, if you look in the Windows Disk Management console, does the drive show up there?

  12. stempdog218 Reply

    So I’m trying to take off the old data for a friend on her hard drive. It sees all the different drives on it “E, F, G & H” but the main drive, Drive E, doesn’t let me see anything. it says “This drive is empty” when I double click on it. What in the world am I doing wrong?

    • Joshua Henry Joshua Henry Reply

      Sorry to hear you’re having troubles seeing the data. I’ve seen this happen before and we’ll want to check whether files are not in hidden mode.

      Click on “Start” –> In search box, type cmd and press “Enter”.

      A Command Prompt window will open.

      Let’s assume for the following example that your External hard drive letter is G:

      Enter this command:

      attrib -h -r -s /s /d g:\*.*

      Note: Don’t forget to replace the letter G with the proper drive letter.

      Now press “Enter”.

  13. Brian C. Reply

    Hi. I’m on a Lenovo T400 Win7, Fujitsu ATA, ACHI Controller, USB 2. Dock powers up. I’m using USB 2 cable, port works. Can’t open. Even tho I’m not supposed to need a driver for the dock, Windows troubleshooting claims it needs driver.Disk management doesn’t show drive in dock. Can’t partition, need drive content. Please advise.

  14. Ian Reply

    Just got a new single SATA dock and am trying to format a new 2.5″ 750GB disc. Drivers installed OK when I connected the docking station and opened the Disk Management window in WIn 7. Selected that I wished to format the disc and then left it running – 12 hrs later and it was still running with no movement on the progress bar. Have now tried it in both quick and full format modes on 2 different laptops but with no success (sometimes get the message that WIndows was unable to complete the format). The blue power light is on the unit and I get an alternating blue / red LED while it is formatting. Any suggestions?

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