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I'm in a situation where I have to leave something like 10-12 Pi's for more than a week, and I want to connect independent HDDs to each one of them. It seems impossible for me to obtain individual hubs for each machine, and I'm looking for a more cost-effective solution. Is there any piece of hardware capable of proxying USB connection while simultaneously increasing voltage of each USB current and keeping them separate from each other?

Here is a poorly drawn ASCII Art of what I'm looking for (numbers represent USB cords; numbers are different to differentiate I/O streams):

 Raspberry Pi (USB)
  1  2  3
  1  2  3
==1==2==3== <--HUB with power
==1==2==3== <--^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
  1  2  3
  1  2  3
 Device (mini-USB)
  • I don't think you can get anything more cost-effective than a simple usb-hub. With 12 Pis and 12 HDDs, 12 hubs aren't the most expensive part of the setup. A better solution might be to have one Pi with a HDD and have it share it via the network to the rest of the Pis. – Gerben May 28 '14 at 14:56
  • This is one of those questions where you might get better alternatives/answers if you described a bit more about your project and what you are trying to achieve. – Steve Robillard May 28 '14 at 18:44
  • This is possible what the OP wants, and it might be quite a requirement for people running clusters, who need isolated USB channels. – Piotr Kula May 28 '14 at 21:33
  • Read about power supplies here. raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/a/15400/894 – Piotr Kula May 29 '14 at 12:33
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It is possible but I have not seen anything like this before. But we are in a brave new era with the need for new things, just like running 12+ Pi's without using separate HUBS for power.

First it is essential to understand what a a USB cable is made up of. Thanks to Wikipedia for the image, please consider donating to them.

enter image description here

What you are interested in is the +5V and GND lines in the USB cables. You can get a seperate (best use a regulated 5A/10A/15A power supply)

Regulated is great because the power is cleaner and stable- so the more things you put, well, NO voltage drop basically. It stays 5V from 0% to 95% (or 99% on better PSU's) load! Cheap USB PSU's Voltage drops on higher loads.

You determine how many amps you need by adding up the total amps of the devices connected, more or less, but this is layman's terms. You really need to read the specification and check the operating wattage because this is after spin up, and spin up wattage will also be rated and some models how efficiency mode too. Using OHM's law its easy to calcualte.

I(Current, AMPS) * V (Voltage) = P (Power, WATTS)

So a 5A regualted power supply will be happy to provide you with 25WATTS of continuous power at ~95%, allowing peak overload currents (connecting devices, spin ups, initial start, etc) without Voltage drops!

The solution requires DIY

And in your case allot of it! Chopping into the USB cable, cutting the RED +5V and stripping the BLACK GND. You don't want to back feed the Pi's (But you could power the Pi's like this too! But that is another way) It is essential the GND stays connected as GND is used to filter out noise. As pictured in these steps, 1,2,3.

LEFT THE PI, RIGHT THE HDD, BOTTOM THE POWER SUPPLY

enter image description here

It is also important to keep the DATA LINES shielded as much as possible, as noise will degrade or completely kill communications, so don't cut away the shield, cut into the shield, avoid cutting or nicking the data lines too! Then connect the wires and re shield the original cable, leaving on only the +5V and GND sticking out.

This can be made easier by making a PCB board, it requires no complicated IC's, just some protection and shielding. I could make and assemble these pretty cheaply but anybody with experience can do it. This could be further expanded with USB HUB IC's, where 1 Pi connects to the board and provides powered USB to 3 more device, it increases the cost slightly but you could create a massive array of transparently powered USB hubs! Then you just need to find a cheap provider of USB cables :)

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Using trial and error method, I've found you may more or less safely attach 1 (one) low-consumption HDD to one Pi, provided you have an adequate power supply (5V 2A+).

Western Digital WD Blue series HDD has two reasonable priced models: WD10JPVX and WD10JPVT (older one), that have 0.55A current specification and could be easily accomodated with 2 USB slots on RPi.

enter image description here

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