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Troubleshooting Tape Drives

The basic components associated with the tape drive include the tape drive, the signal cable, the power connection, the controller, and the tape drive's operating software. The tape itself can be a source of several problems. Common points to check with the tape include the following:

  • Is the tape formatted correctly for use with the drive in question?

  • Is the tape inserted securely in the drive?

  • Is the tape write-protected?

  • Is the tape broken or off the reel in the cartridge?

If any jumpers or switches are present on the controller, verify that they are set correctly for the installation. Also, run a diagnostic program to check for resource conflicts that might be preventing the drive from operating (such as interrupt request [IRQ] and base memory addressing).

The software provided with most tape drives includes some error-messaging capabilities. Observe the system and note any tape-related error messages it produces. Consult the user manual for error-message definitions and corrective suggestions. Check for error logs that the software might keep. You can view these logs to determine what errors have been occurring in the system.

Because many tape drives are used in networked and multiuser environments, another problem occurs when you are not properly logged on, or enabled to work with files being backed up or restored. In these situations, the operating system might not allow the tape drive to access secured files, or any files, because the correct clearances have not been met. Consult the network administrator for proper password and security clearances.

Troubleshooting Other Removable Storage Systems

Troubleshooting nontypical removable storage systems is very similar to troubleshooting an external hard drive or tape drive. The system typically consists of an external unit with a plug-in power adapter (anything with a motor in it typically requires an additional power source). These units typically connect to the system through one of its standard I/O port connections. This requires a signal cable that runs between the system and the device. Depending on the exact type of storage device being used, it might have a removable media cartridge or container.

A device driver must be installed for the device to work with the system. This is typically a function of the system's PnP process. The system should detect the external storage and load the driver for it automatically. If the system cannot locate the proper driver, it prompts you to supply the location where the driver can be found. For the most part, external storage systems do not need a support application to be installed. However, you should refer to the device's documentation and follow its installation procedures to determine whether the device can be installed with just a driver.

Check the power supply at the external unit to ensure power is being applied. Most external media devices have power lights to indicate that power is present. Next check the removable media if present, by exchanging it with another cartridge or tape. Next, you should open Device Manager to ensure the device has been recognized there, as well as to check for conflicting device driver information.

If Device Manager cannot see the device after the proper driver has been loaded, and the storage device has power, the final step in checking the system is to check the signal cable by substitution. The only other step typically available is to test the entire storage system on another machine (in most cases, there isn't a second storage system available to use a source of known-good parts).

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