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Troubleshooting USB Devices

There’s nothing more frustrating than plugging in a USB device and watching as nothing happens. The device does not appear at all or fails to install. In an ideal world, you would plug in a device, Windows would recognize the new hardware and then install the software to run it. If you’re having issues with any of your USB devices, try these tips to fix your USB problems.

diagnosing USB problems
diagnosing USB problems

FIX USB PROBLEMS

Below are some common fixes for USB issues. When troubleshooting USB problems, you always want to first determine whether the problem is software or hardware related.

CHANGE THE CABLE

While it’s not common, there is a chance the cable connecting your device to your computer is bad. Cables can become twisted, crimped or have bad connectors. If you plug a device, such as a printer or web cam, into your computer and nothing happens, try a different USB cable and see if that works. If the device is a USB mouse or keyboard, try a different mouse and keyboard and see if the computer recognizes it. If your computer does see it, discard the faulty cable and replace it with a known good one.

TRY THE DEVICE ON ANOTHER COMPUTER

Just as with a faulty cable, we are trying to do a process of elimination on the hardware. If you have another computer you can test the cable or USB peripheral on, this will help determine if the problem is the USB device or the computer itself. If you plug the cable into another computer and Windows suddenly recognizes the new hardware, you know there is some type of problem with the original computer. Even if the original computer didn’t have the drivers to run the hardware, you should have seen it recognize the device and at least try and install it.

UNINSTALL USB HUBS FROM THE DEVICE MANAGER

You can uninstall hardware from the Windows Device Manager to force it to find and reinstall the driver. You will need to have admin rights in order to do so.

uninstall USB hub

Go into the Device Manager (located in the Control Panel) and then scroll down to the USB Controllers. Next, right-click and then select Uninstall. This will remove the USB hub from your computer. You may find there are several USB hubs listed, as in the example above. Remove all of the hubs and then scroll back up to the very to of the Device Manager and then click Action from the top menu. Click on Scan For Hardware Changes and Windows will then recognize the USB hubs you just removed and then reinstall them.

Plug the USB device in again to see if this fixed the issue.

SEARCH FOR UPDATE DRIVERS

Windows needs software to be installed in order for the hardware connected via USB to function. This is true whether it’s a keyboard, mouse, printer or webcam. In many cases Windows will already have the drivers loaded for your common USB devices. But if you have a newer printer, for example, Windows may not yet have the drivers in its database. When you plug that printer in, you will see Windows recognize it and then fail when attempting to install the device.

The first thing you should always do when you get a new USB device is install the manufacturer’s driver software. This will often come in the form of a DVD included in the box. Software should be installed before you plug the USB cable in. If you install the drivers but Windows is still having a problem loading the device, unplug it again and then go to the manufacturer’s website. Chances are the disk you have has an outdated driver. The latest drivers can be found on the manufacturer’s website. Download and install the USB drivers, and then plug the cable in again to see if the newer drivers resolved the issue.

THE USB PORT IS DEFECTIVE

It’s not uncommon for USB ports to go bad–especially on laptops. If you have a protruding USB dongle, it’s easy to bang it while moving the laptop around. This can physically break the USB port. In addition, putting in and removing a thumbdrive repeatedly can eventually damage the port. Fortunately, computers often come with many USB ports, so try another and see if your device is recognized. If you find you are down to only one or two good USB ports on your computer, you can avoid the costly motherboard repair by adding a small USB hub.

The above steps should help you fix your USB problems. If you need further assistance, join our free forums here on PCTechBytes.com and we’ll help you troubleshoot in more detail.

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