How to Selectively Disable USB Ports (Save Power)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Bob C. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I just read your CryptoPrevent Review in regard to the CryptoLocker virus. Good job! You are so right with your comment 'If you do become infected [with CryptoLocker], the only 100% fail safe way to undo the damage is to restore your files from a backup -- but only if you backed up your files in the first place.'

I have a question regarding my USB hard drive which I use for backups. Can you recommend a program that will allow me to disable and enable USB ports that my USB hard drive is plugged into, but still allow my USB keyboard, mouse and camera to work? I am looking for a program that would allow the backup program (such as Acronis True Image) permission to turn on the USB hard drive when it's time to backup, and then turn the USB hard drive off when it's finished the backup. Any suggestions? "

My response:

It's possible to achieve what you're asking through Windows settings in Windows Vista, 7 and 8, and backup settings using Acronis True Image, though it wouldn't shut off the hard drive quite in the manner you describe. Instead, the hard drive would wake up when the backup is to start, and then sleep when it becomes inactive after a specified time. Here's how:

First, Enable USB Selective Suspend

"USB Selective Suspend" allows certain peripherals (such as your USB hard drive) to enter a low power state without affecting other peripherals (such as such as keyboard and mouse), thus conserving power. To enable the feature in Windows 7 and 8, click Start and type in "edit power plan" (no quotes) and then click on the Edit Power Plan link. The "Edit Plan Settings" window will appear. Next, click the link that says "Change advanced power settings". A window entitled Power Options will appear with an Advanced tab; scroll down until you see the USB Settings option, then click USB selective suspend setting, then click Enable. Do not close the Power Options window yet as we'll be editing another option in Step #2 below.

Caveats: depending on your computer's configuration, the USB selective suspend setting may not be available to you. Also, if this feature is enabled AND your USB hard drive is plugged in AND if you reboot or shut down, the computer may get 'stuck' at the shut down / reboot screen. This is a 'bug' and has been a major complaint from many people (based on Google searches); if it happens, you can disable the feature to avoid getting 'stuck' at the shut down screen.

Second, Enable Hard Drive Sleep

In addition to enabling USB Selective Suspend, you can enable the Hard Drive Sleep feature. To do so, scroll up in the Power Options window (described in Step #1) until you see the "Hard Disk" setting. Click it, then click the "Turn off hard disk after" setting, and set it to 20 minutes or so. Then, click apply, OK, and close the Power Options window.

Caveats: depending on your computer's configuration, the hard drive sleep setting may not be available to you. Once the feature is enabled, the hard drive will enter a lower power state after a specified interval, but only if the hard drive remains completely inactive during the specified time. Also: during a reboot or shut down, any idle hard drives may need to 'wake up' before allowing the computer to finalize the shut down or reboot procedure; this will add extra time to shut down, but only if the drives are idle to begin with.

Third, Edit Acronis True Image Schedule Settings

If your computer is set to sleep after X minutes, Acronis True Image has the option to wake the computer to perform a backup. To set this feature, launch True Image, then edit your backup settings. Next, click on the Schedule link and go to the Advanced settings, then enable "Wake up the sleeping / hibernating computer" and "Prevent the computer from going to sleep / hibernate".

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (5 votes)

Comments's picture

I have a 4 port USB 3.0 hub that has individual power switches for each USB port. I have a portable drive on one of them which I can switch on/off as needed. Could this be an alternative?

Dennis Faas's picture

What you're suggesting wouldn't work if running an automated backup because the USB hard drive won't turn back on automatically the next time the backup runs.