External Hard Drive exceeding power limit
There is a possibility that when you connected the external HD to your laptop, the power surge might've been created by the HD motor trying to start up from a low RPM. When the motor is trying to accelerate the disks, the motor will draw more current than usual to get the disks rotating. However, when the disks are at full speed, the current drawn will be much less because all the motor needs to do it keep the disks spinning at a constant rate. Also, since your laptop was probably on at the time you plugged the HD in, your laptop might've already been seeing a certain amount of load being applied to the USB by other devices (if any were connected) and might've considered that load level to be normal. When you added a considerable amount of load from the HD trying to start up, it might've seen this load to be unusual and then give you the warning.
The solution I would try first is to already have the HD plugged in during boot...and then once the operating system is up and running, see if the drive works fine. If there is still a surge notification then I would try connecting an external powered USB hub. If this fails, there might be something wrong with the external HD because there are power draw specifications for USB ports and I'm sure that these HD manufacturers have paid attention to adhering to them
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