USB 2.0 10-port Hub - Kernel Panics with Catalina 10.15.3

I had one heck of a time trying to install and use a new, external SSD on my Mac mini (Late 2014), finally determining that the Plugable USB 2.0 10-port hub was the source of the problem.Over three days of configuring and troubleshooting I had many kernel panic crashes with the USB keyboard and mouse dongle connected via the Plugable hub. On startup from the external drive, the system would crash and then reboot from the S-L-O-W internal HDD drive. When they were connected directly to the mini, there were no crashes and I was able to run Catalina 10.15.3 off the fast external SSD.

Is using this Plugable hub with Catalina 10.15.x a hopeless cause, or is there a fix or workaround?

It sounds like you’re trying to use an external USB drive as the primary boot device, is that the case?

If so, we do not recommend doing this, as any corruption in the data path will result in either hard drive corruption or crashes, as you have observed. Every additional communication point between the computer and the storage device inherently increases the risk of issues.

That being said, there are no known issues with this hub and any Mac machine. This uses a common USB hub chipset (Terminus FE series) that has been widely used for decades on millions of systems.

Have you tried resetting your PRAM and/or SMC? Odd issues like this are often resolved by one or the other. Here’s an article from Apple on how to do that:

There’s also a follow-up link on how to reset the SMC at the bottom of that page (only do this if PRAM reset doesn’t help).

Note: If you’re trying to get increased performance, an external hard drive is the wrong approach. A USB 2.0 attached hard drive, no matter what type of drive it is, cannot ever out-perform an internal drive. Your Mac internal drive is attached via SATA 3.0 6 Gb/s, which is 12.5 times faster than USB 2.0 speeds (480 Mb/s).

Let me know if any of that helps!

Thanks for your reply.

Yes, I am using external SSD as boot drive:

  • Catalina with original HDD unusably S-L-O-W; e.g., 30 minutes to reboot, 4-5 minutes to return from a right-click
  • 2x30-step internal drive replacement proc too complex/risky (for me, anyway)
  • USB ports on mini are 3.0 (and SSD/enclosure are 3.0, 6G)
  • short, special-purpose USB cable
  • perhaps (?) using a 2.0 hub added to the problem (verified, again, with only the keyboard and mouse dongle plugged in to the hub)
  • have alternative solution for getting other devices that were connected to the hub on the LAN

Now, on to solving the Catalina - Time Machine backup problem (any suggestions?)


  • Tom

Thanks for the additional details!

I’m a little confused as to the status of this issue at this point, as your comments can be interpreted in several ways. You’ve mentioned Time Machine backups, LAN connectivity, and (most concerning) a special USB cable. Can you clarify what specifically you’re trying to achieve presently?

Also, did you try the PRAM/SMC suggestion I mentioned?

If your internal hard drive is that slow, it is likely failing and needs to be replaced, or the OS install on that drive is corrupt. Relying on an external drive as your main boot drive is inherently risky, as simply disconnecting the drive by accident can corrupt the drive, resulting in data loss.

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