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Suddenly Carbide 8GB will not open:

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beeje
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Suddenly Carbide 8GB will not open:

Please consult with your device manufacturer for assistance getting this device installed.~~

the above is now the message I am getting when trying to open my Carbide as of 2 days ago. No problems prior since purchase in Dec 2013. It is showing as Unknown Device in Device Mgr but not showing in Windows Explorer. I have data on it that I must be able to access so returning it under the warranty for a replacement is not an option. why would this suddenly be happening and what is the possible solution?

``

John T. Haller
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Unlocking, Backups

I'm sorry to hear you're having an issue with the drive. Are you able to unlock it normally prior to inserting it? Do the LED lights work as expected, etc? If so, perhaps you can try using it on another machine. It could be that the current machine's USB ports are out of spec.

Any piece of technology could die at any time. Portable technology is more susceptible as you're plugging it into different ports on different machines regularly, any one of which could be pushing over voltage power and short it. That's why we recommend regular backups, post about making backups on social media, and include a three click backup solution in the PortableApps.com Platform. It's not a matter of if you'll lose data, it's when. And it happens to everyone sooner or later (my first time: brand new laptop, Seagate hard drive died after one month, lost everything I'd been working on). If you have a recent backup, now would be the time to use it.

Other than that, you'll need to contact CustomUSB about warranty service. We don't support the hardware end here. I figured I'd see if I can help at all with those couple tips.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

beeje
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Unlocking, backups:

1. yes unlocks just fine with PIN

2. yes LED lights work as they should so WIN7 is recognizing the FD just not showing in WE

a. shows in Device Manager as 'Unknown Device' with the yellow ! saying it needs to be troubleshooted

b. troubleshoot says it needs drivers and since it is a driverless drive, I am just going in circles

3. all ports on my Dell Tower with WIN7 are working fine per 4 other flash drives

4. tried on another tower running XP, same problem

5. no did not do backup b/c the data on the Carbide needs to be 100% secure, figuring no other backup would be so did not go there.

6. lesson learned: if your data is so secure that you cannot access it, well...

7. called Carbide C/S. Told me to try the Admin PIN over the phone, no-go.

a. they said I would have to send my Carbide to them, supplying PIN over the phone for them to try to unlock it and transfer my data to a new drive

b. not exactly making me feel o.k. giving anyone access to my data even for a transfer but am against a wall now, no choice?

John T. Haller
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Encrypted Backups

For something like this, I'd recommend doing encrypted backups. The built-in tool doesn't, but Toucan and some other utilities do. I may add them to the platform at some point, too.

It sounds like the drive controller may be dead (based on my non-hardware-knowing guess). So, the data is inaccessible. Even the manufacturer can't open the drive to repair or replace it due to the security. The drive is filled with epoxy (the most expensive part of construction) so just opening it rips the chips apart.

As it has a 5 year warranty, you can send it in to exchange it for a new one through CustomUSB's customer service.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

beeje
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Encrypted Backups:

1. John, thx for weighing in

2. big repercussions for me as very critical data is now lost

a. devastating and expensive lesson here

3. thx for the heads up r.e. Toucan

a. might be a good idea, based on this tragedy for me, to include

a warning in the sending pkg to do an encrypted backup

and not to rely on the Carbide remaining functional even

shortly after purchase

b. the advertising makes it sound so reliable until one

finds out with devastating consequences that it is not

4. yes I can send it in for an exchange but once burned...

John T. Haller
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Backups

Yeah, that's why I said if not when. You've either lost data and do backups or you haven't yet. (Or you have and still refuse to for some reason). Sadly, it doesn't matter how reliable a given piece of tech is. Even if it's been individually tested before shipping out (CustomUSB tests and preloads it even after the manufacturer tests it). Every piece of tech will die at some point. And usually you have no idea when. My laptop that died, I ran a full test of the hard drive when I got it because it was going to be my only internet connection while I was recovering from donating a kidney in another state. I wound up losing that and some creative works I could never recreate.

Mobile tech that gets plugged in a lot happens to be subjected to quite a bit more bumps and bruises. That's why it's built with dust, shock, and water resistance. But opened up and plugged/unplugged from a PC, it's still susceptible to the usual voltage irregularities, static discharge, etc of any other piece of tech.

The Carbide is a reliable drive, that's why we warrant it longer than other FIPS drives, but individual units can still fail. Even if it hadn't failed, it could still be stolen, burned in a fire, etc. So, having both a backup on another device nearby as well as another backup at a secondary physical location of critical data is absolutely crucial. Granted, some of this thinking comes from running disaster recovery simulations with a corporate bank (that then had to use them post 9/11), but it still applies to us and our critical data.
Even though this website/database is run on a server with a RAID array of drives (one fails, everything keeps running and the drive can be hot-swapped) we still pay to do onsite backups every night and offsite once a week. Because you never know.

I'm sorry again to hear about your data. And I hope you are able to recreate or recover most of it from other sources.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

OzPortableLongTerm
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similar failure

beejee,

We have a Carbide drive failing and generally unuseable with a similar (not identical) failure condition which I can write up when I have more time.

Did you find any resolution to your problem ?

John T. Haller
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Hardware Failure

The issue outlined above was a hardware failure requiring exchange of the drive. Like all flash drives, these can't be repaired. Unlike other flash drives, these are designed to be nearly impossible to disassemble as part of the anti-hacking setup, so they're impossible to repair.

If you're having similar issues even after reformatting and trying in another computer, please get in touch with CustomUSB to setup an RMA.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

OzPortableLongTerm
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maybe not so easy

John,

Thanks for your reply.

We now have two of these defective, one on arrival and now a second one dying.

I did communicate before with CustomUSB but I think they are full of it in terms of what they promise versus what they deliver.

Page http://worldsbestflashdrive.com/ says "If you'd like to exchange or return your order, please email store@customusb.com and we will email you a prepaid shipping label. That’s it, it’s that simple!"

I did that soon after receipt regarding the defective-on-arrival drive, and had to e-mail store@customusb.com more than once to get any reply, and then more again to get anything like a proper reply. Then the reply was super-casual, "so just send it back". No RMA number, no pre-paid shipping label, no nothing. At our expense.
I don't trust this "process". I get the impression that the e-mail support is outsourced to somewhere that doesn't care too much about the brands involved, and communication is poor. Also, I note that they use the one e-mail address for all purposes, so maybe warranty/return correspondence gets lost in the spam and noise.

I found it all a bit hard at the time and left that defective drive aside for later.

And on page https://store.customusb.com/info/ they say "Every order goes a through rigorous quality control process before being shipped from this location. Not that you asked about that part"
I don't think so. One drive had an obviously-defective pinpad button immediately detectable by just pressing it. Why do they talk about quality control when there isn't the most basic of such on an expensive drive like this ? (Or perhaps they quality-control the "order", but not the product.)

Regarding the second failed drive, I don't know (since the store gives no guidelines on the site nor by e-mail) what proof they need that the drive is defective. This drive works maybe one time in 10, and the failure occurs after it is unlocked with the PIN. Right now it is not responding at all, and I am unwilling to give anyone the PIN so they can test it is the same manner we experience the failure. Either they will have to take my word for it, or otherwise enter an incorrect PIN 10 times and have the encryption reset in order to test it, at which time I have no idea whether it will test as defective or not.

As a matter of interest, the failure symptoms are as follows:
1. unlock with the PIN as usual: the "open padlock" light starts flashing green as normal;
2. insert the drive into a USB port;
3. The "padlock open" light starts glowing continuously;
4. At this point, normally the blue data light should start glowing, but in the failure state it never glows, just stays dark, and Windows does not respond at all - Windows sees nothing, no device.
After some seconds the drive gives up, not having detected a USB port, and the two padlock lights flash red and green and then go dark.

When the failure condition is present (increasingly over time, and almost permanently now), this happens on all USB ports on multiple PCs, whereas the same USB ports having other USB drives inserted respond immediately and normally. It is not the computers, and not the USB ports.

Interestingly, I have managed to trick this drive into working. I PIN-unlocked the drive and then unplugged an active USB mouse and quickly plugged the Carbide into the USB socket which had just been active with the mouse, and it worked as normal. I'm not sure if this trick is fully repeatable. Once withdrawn and re-tested normally, it failed again as usual. Currently this is the only way to get this drive to work.

We have zero data loss because we back up obsessively after every data update. Backing up in a secure manner is a pain.
I tried your suggestion to beeje of possibly using Toucan, but found it a bum steer, I'm afraid. Toucan either does backup, or it does encryption, replacing files with encrypted copies of themselves in place rather than producing an encrypted backup archive as such, and this is neither easy nor obvious to manage in Toucan.
I think that something more like an encrypted 7Zip which could be run from the PA menu like the current unencrypted PA backup would be better, as long as it wrote the output file encrypted and did not leave unencrypted temporary artifacts lying around.

Thanks again. I'll have to take my chances with CustomUSB, but I am not confident I'll see these drives again once I "just send them back". These drives have cost a lot of wasted time.

beeje
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MAYBE NOT SO EASY:

OZ:

1. no resolution

2. took to BBY Geek Squad and also to Office Depot Computer repair

3. both had same result

4. after unlocking and upon insertion into USB Port, no recognition anywhere then lights go dark

5. both told me drive cannot be opened and is toast

6. this started only 2 months after arrival and not even daily use

7. did not do backup elsewhere as whole purpose of encrypted drive was to prevent possible hacking/entry to data

8. in talking with CustomUSB Store by phone, they tried to troubleshoot and told me to enter the generic PIN [ADMIN...] w/o reminding me that would delete all data if successful, not to mention the discomfort of knowing anyone else might know this if drive was stolen. I declined to try that so they then wanted me to verbalize my PIN to them there on the phone so they would have it when I sent the drive back. I said no way was I giving up the PIN and it did not matter anyway since it had been verified by the above 2 repair locations, independent of one another, that it was 100% unable to be opened since there was no way to get multiple computers to recognize it.

9. this has been a VERY expensive learned for me

10. I am of the opinion that CUStom USB has an ethical obligation to include a warning that though thoroughly tested [??], there have been instances of immediate and shortly thereafter failures so proceed at your own risk

11. they will be lucky if they do not eventually get tagged with some product liability suits [it crossed my mind...]

OzPortableLongTerm
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try my method ?

beeje,

If you still have the drive, would it be worth trying my method of PIN-unlocking and then quickly plugging USB drive into port in use by a mouse ?

beeje
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try my method?

OZ:

I am going to give that a try right now. It's a long shot but I will come back here and let you know if it has worked. Thx a bunch for the suggestion. I did not send it in b/c I am still considering if I will do some type of follow-up r.e. this situation so I still have it. And not interested in a replacement since I now have Zero % faith in the product.

beeje
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try my method:

OZ:

1. just ejected a flash drive from a functioning port

2. quickly entered PIN

3. a-ok on that---solid green

4. put immediately into port that F/D has just been functioning in

5. no recognition

5. solid green went to red in a few seconds and then out totally

6. but I am glad this work-around is working for you at the moment

7. if I were you I would not expect that to last though as it sounds like a neat quirk you have discovered as it marches toward catastrophic failure

8. please keep me updated r.e. your'saga'

OzPortableLongTerm
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sorry

Sorry it didn't work for you.
Perhaps try it a few times - it doesn't work every time for me.

Your fault is probably different to mine.

John T. Haller
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Tested

I'm sorry to hear about the issues you're having.

The drives are tested before leaving CustomUSB. They have to unlock them (with the default PIN) in order to load the platform and suite of software as part of the prep process. This is handy as it ensures the drives lock and unlock properly and they're then written with over 25,000 files totaling over 1GB of space. And this is all after the manufacturer in the UK builds and tests them initially. So, they are working at time of shipment. My personal Carbide drive that I've had since before we started selling them is still working like a champ.

As for CustomUSB's response, I dropped a note to their business development lead and linked this thread in, so they're aware. I'm going to discuss some more streamlined guidelines with them. Nothing is outsourced. It's all handled internally at their main offices and assembly division outside Chicago. They handle far more B2B orders and B2C is relatively new (and comparatively small) for them, which is why I'd wager it may not always be the best person handling the email responses. We'll get that sorted.

As for backups, I personally just back mine up to my local PC which is already using whole-drive encryption. Backing up to an encrypted PC (or even an encrypted TrueCrypt virtual drive) means you don't have to worry about a specific backup/copy tool handling the encryption at all. It makes things a lot easier on my end.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

OzPortableLongTerm
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tested & backups

"The drives are tested before leaving CustomUSB."
They may well be, but in the case of my drive#1, whoever was pressing the buttons chose to ignore an obviously-defective one.

"...back mine up to my local PC which is already using whole-drive encryption"

I cannot see that working for secure data. What about the day you press the power button, the blue smoke escapes, and the PC has to go off to the repair shop. The tech can't boot the machine without your PIN, and you have just given away the keys to the kingdom because all your confidential data is there.
Or do you first replace the FDE drive with a dummy drive so the tech can suck on that and then you swap back the encrypted drive when you get the machine back after repair ?

I'm still not sure what to do with CustomUSB.
- Just mail the two drives off with a letter and hope ?
- go three more rounds in the ring by e-mail with their hopeless staff ?

Thanks again.

John T. Haller
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Backups and Responses

I'm unsure how a tech could miss that and can't speak to it personally as we are not involved in that process.

It works fine for secured data. I service my own PCs. If I didn't, I'd swap the drive. If I was uncomfortable with that, I'd have a 1TB desktop external drive that was fully encrypted (either Bitlocker or TrueCrypt) and backup to that. It sounds like this would be your best option as it would be PC independent, fully secured, but still removable from the area in an emergency.

As for CustomUSB, as I said, I contacted their head of business development, so I will have an answer for you likely by tomorrow.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

molotalk
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Contact me for assistance

My name is Vadim and I'm the VP of Business Development at CustomUSB. My email address is vadim [at] customusb [dot] com. My phone number is 847-205-5200 x 7114. Whoever is having issues with the Carbide drives, reach out to me directly and I will personally assist you.

Vadim with CustomUSB

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