USB HDD Pi MusicBox

WARNING: NOOB question. Installed Pi MusicBoc on RP-3. All good. Can see MusicBox on network and use interface on Win10 and Android devices. MusicBox sees and plays files from USB flash, but will not recognize 4tb HDD. Formatted HDD exFAT. No data on HDD other than test flac files. Some forum posts elsewhere say not enough voltage from RP-3 to run external drive; have to get one with own power supply. Others say, sudo blah, blah, blah. Is there an issue with voltage? Or, is this an issue with Pi or MusicBox that require me to boot to some linux distro and sudo blah, blah, blah? Thanks.

Entirely depends on your hdd. 3.5 inch desktop drives always need their own power supply. Laptop drives are sometimes OK but often not - in which case you’ll need to connect it via a powered USB hub. This is a limitation of the raspberry pi USB ports and is independent of what distribution you are using (pimusicbox / normal raspbian / whatever).

Thanks for your response. I don’t see how Pi MusicBox is worthwhile if RP can’t handle off the shelf storage. I could easily build a Wintel device with junk parts and run kido to stream music and it’d handle a USB HDD without issue. Flash drives of equivalent scale would be cost prohibitive…

OK, sounds like that’s a better plan for you. Good luck.

Thanks again for your quick reply. I’m going to try the powered USB and see how that works before chucking the whole project. Are there other mass storage solutions that avoid the USB bottleneck?

One more thing to add is that SSDs are low power and should be fine to use straight off a pi USB port.

Desktop USB drives, especially those bought in an enclosure (rather than bodged together yourself with a USB-to-sata adapter) should always come with their own power supply so there just isn’t a problem there. Just plug in to the pi and to the wall and use.

As I said before, some (most?) small “portable” hdd don’t come with their own power supplies. You might get these to work straight off the pi usb but it’ll depend on the particular drive. Lower capacity, slower drives will be more likely to work. The workaround for those is to get a powered USB hub and connect the drive to the pi via that. They are not expensive, it’s a valid solution.

Some USB-to-sata adapters include an extra USB cable that you can use to power the drive. It’s often got a blue connector. These should be fine.

Big USB flash drives are getting cheaper so that might be an option, especially with 4 USB ports to play with but that’s a bit clunky.

Big SD cards are a bad idea. Consumer cards often have bad firmware and can easily be corrupted. Don’t use these for archiving.

Lots of people keep their stuff on a file server and access it through a network share. The network speeds of a pi should not a problem for streaming audio, but even if they are, the latest pi 3B+ has a faster network interface than the old models. And you can actually use a cheapo USB gigabit network adapter with an old model and get similar faster speeds (but not gigabit speeds).

If you are going to try powering a drive directly from the pi USB then ensure you have a good micro USB power supply.

Thinking again, I’m going to have to double check that the auto mounting functionality in pimusicbox does actually support exFAT. I don’t think I’ve personally ever tested that format.


Thanks again for your replies and ideas. So if not exFAT for formatting, then what? NTFS? I think FAT32 cannot be applied to drives larger than 2TB. Is this wrong? I tried formatting as FAT32 on a Vista 64 machine, but it only could see a 2TB partition. Had to install WD software and reformat to exFAT using that. Could have done NTFS. If I go with NAS, what do you recommend? Thanks again.

  • exFAT is an usual format, hence it’s not enabled by default in Raspbian (or PiMusicbox). I will see about adding it to the next release since it seems trivial to do so.
  • FAT32 has a 4GB maximum file size limit and also a maximum partition size of 2TB. However, I don’t see why you can’t just have two 2TB partitions on a 4TB disk…
  • NTFS is best if you are mostly using it with Windows (faster than FAT32 and no size limits). It is supported under Linux to varying degrees, reading is generally fine.
  • ext3/4 etc are best if you are only using it with Linux.

Which format is best for you depends on what systems you want to use the drive with. If the drive is always going to sit inside a Linux NAS (Synology etc) then I’d personally go for ext4. But note that if you later wanted to connect the drive directly to your Windows PC it won’t be able to read it.

If you don’t have files larger than 4GB then there’s nothing much wrong with FAT32 since it works with everything. If you do have files greater than 4GB and you want to plug it into Windows then go with NTFS.

There’s lots more opinions and info elsewhere online so you might find better info elsewhere but the above should be roughly correct.

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OK. Reformatted HD as NTSF. Added powered USB hub. Nothing different. RP does not see the hub when I plug it in. Please help if you can.

I had trouble getting NTFS working with Raspbian Stretch. I recommend exFAT. The smaller laptop HDDs will fail more quickly than a larger drive that requires an external power supply. I also got tired of hearing the mechanical drive. Unless you really have immense data needs, I recommend a reasonable flash drive for storage. I’m using a 128GB and I’m not approaching its limits as I encode my CD library again. I’m using a pretty high resolution encoding scheme because I don’t want to do this again. If you have much higher capacity needs, consider an SSD USB (probably hard to find) drive in the 512GB range or a larger flash drive…

Nick is THE guy on this right now. You may need to dig in and get to Linux to find where the problem lies.

Thanks for your reply, but if you read the thread–e.g “exFAT is an usual format, hence it’s not enabled by default in Raspbian (or PiMusicbox). I will see about adding it to the next release since it seems trivial to do so.”–you’ll see why your ideas, especially exFAT, have been considered and rejected. Linux is fun for hobbyists who like frustrating themselves.

It was easier for me to get exFAT working than NTFS. You are looking at a solution to fit your needs, you may need to look for a solution that requires customization. It was not that difficult to get exFAT going. I encourage you to follow your own path to satisfaction.

If you’d care to share and explain, I’d be happy to hear of your success with exFAT and what you did to get it working even though “exFAT is an usual format, hence it’s not enabled by default in Raspbian (or PiMusicbox)”.