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Uber Slow External HD transfer speed

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I've got a couple of external HDs and once upon a time they worked fine but now they transfer data really slowly. The status bar might start out at 2 minutes and work it's way up to 198 minutes and then back down to two minutes etc. It can take ten minutes and more to transfer a 1 gig file. Sometimes I get "file could not be transfered: the path is too deep."

I watch movies off of the drives but they'll often stutter badly that I often have to transfer them to my internal drive. I've tried uninstalling and reinstalling my usb drivers to no avail.

Relevant Specs: usb 2.0, XP SP2, crappy presario with a msi ms-6577 mobo, "cavalry" brand HDs using Western Digital WD2000 sata drives.

If anybody could help me fix this they would totally rock!

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Are you sure the ports you're using are USB2.0, if not that will certainly slow things down? And have you been consistenly using th Remove Hardware function? If the ports are faulty you can get a USB2.0 add on card, they're pretty cheap and I've had very good results with them.
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