A mass storage controller communicates between a mass storage device and a computer system. It acts as a driver to allow the systems to exchange information and commands with each other. The driver may be installed with the device, and it is also possible to replace it if it becomes corrupted, as may occur after a computer virus or hacking. Manufacturers of mass storage devices may make downloads of their controllers freely available for customers.
Devices used for mass storage can include internal and external hard drives, as well as equipment like flash drives, designed specifically for portability. In all cases, the device holds data in a consistent and stable fashion that includes a file structure and various security measures. The difference between “mass” and other kinds of storage can depend on the device and the use, as data capacity continually increases. An amount of data that may seem large for one system could be considered small for another.
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When users want to access their mass storage, they do so through the controller. The controller provides the computer with a list of the contents, organized in a file tree or other system. Users can select the individual files they want to transfer, copy, edit, or otherwise work with. Signals from the user are sent through the mass storage controller to make the necessary changes. Controllers can also temporarily stop operations while the device is busy, and may shut down the mass storage device to allow the user to safely remove it.
Operating systems often include a library of common drivers and controllers. When users plug in new components, the system may be able to automatically connect with them, install the right driver, and establish communication. In some cases, the computer’s library may not be sufficient and the user may need to install a driver package that includes a mass storage controller. If the computer uses the wrong device, it may compromise the stored data or provide inaccurate information, such as a message that a disc is full when it is not.
Computer users may occasionally encounter an error related to the mass storage controller, such as a message that it cannot be found or is not operating properly. Restarting the system may resolve the problem. Users can also work backward from the last major system change to determine if they did something that might have caused an issue. If these troubleshooting tactics do not work, the controller may be corrupted, in which case it should be removed and reinstalled.