Tape Drive Troubleshooting

Tape drives can be troublesome to install and operate. Any type of removable media is more susceptible to problems or damage, and tape is no exception. This section lists some common problems and resolutions. After each problem or symptom is a list of troubleshooting steps.

Can't detect the drive:

  • For parallel port drives, use the tape backup as the only device on the drive and check the IEEE-1284 (EPP or ECP) mode required by the drive against the parallel port configuration.

  • For USB drives, be sure you're using Windows 98 or higher and that the USB port is enabled in the BIOS; many systems originally shipped with Windows 95 have this port disabled.

  • For ATA drives, ensure that the master/slave jumpers on both drives are set properly.

  • For SCSI drives, check termination and Device ID numbers.

  • For external drives of any type, ensure that the drive is turned on a few seconds before starting the system. If not, you might be able to use the Windows 9x Device Manager to refresh the list of devices, but if this doesn't work, you must restart the computer.

Backup or restore operation failure:

If your tape drive suffers a backup or restore operation failure, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you are using the correct type of tape cartridge.

  2. Remove and replace the cartridge.

  3. Restart the system.

  4. Retension the tape.

  5. Try a new tape.

  6. Clean the tape heads.

  7. Make sure all cables are securely connected.

  8. Rerun the confidence test that checks data-transfer speed with a blank tape (this test overwrites any data already on the tape).

Bad block or other tape media errors:

To troubleshoot bad block or other types of media errors, follow these steps:

  1. Retension the tape.

  2. Clean the heads.

  3. Try a new tape.

  4. Restart the system.

  5. Try initializing the tape.

  6. Perform a secure erase on the tape (previous data will no longer be retrievable from the tape).

System lockup or system freezing when running a tape backup:

If your system locks up or freezes while running a tape backup, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that your system meets at least the minimum requirements for both the tape drive and the backup software.

  1. Check for driver or resource (IRQ, DMA, or I/O port address) conflicts with your tape drive controller card or interface; using the floppy drive while making a floppy or parallel port tape backup is a major cause of DMA conflicts.

  1. Set the CD-ROM to master and the tape drive to slave if both are using the same ATA port.

  1. Check the BIOS boot sequence; ensure that it is not set to ATAPI (tape/CD-ROM) devices if the tape drive is configured as a master device or as a slave with no master.

  1. Make sure the hard drive has sufficient free space; most backup programs temporarily use hard drive space as a buffer for data transfer.

  1. Hard drive problems can cause the backup software to lock up. Check your hard disk for errors with SCANDISK or a comparable utility.

  1. Check for viruses.

  1. Check for previous tape drive installations; ensure that any drivers from previous installations are removed.

  1. Temporarily disable the current VGA driver and test with the standard 640x480x16 VGA driver supplied by Microsoft. If the problem does not recur, contact your graphics board manufacturer for an updated video driver.

  1. Empty the Recycle Bin before attempting a backup. Files in some third-party Recycle Bins can cause backup software to lock up.

  1. Disable antivirus programs and Advanced Power Management.

  1. Try the tape drive on another computer system and different operating system, or try swapping the drive, card, and cable with known-good, working equipment.

Other tape drive problems:

Other issues that might cause problems in general with tape backups include

  • Corrupted data or ID information on the tape.

  • Incorrect BIOS (CMOS) settings.

  • Networking problems (outdated network drivers and so on).

  • A tape that was recorded by another tape drive. If the other drive can still read the tape, this might indicate a head-alignment problem or incompatible environment.