Updated by Tina Sieber on January 21, 2017.
Did you plug a USB drive into your computer yesterday, but today it doesn’t show up? Yet that drive works in the other USB ports on your computer. The problem may be the port!
This is one of those computer issues that happens so rarely, we tend to blame the USB drive itself; just plug it in somewhere else and carry on.
However, USB devices are still on the rise in popularity and show no signs of slowing down. USB flash drives, USB chargers for your phone, USB to connect your iPod, USB coffee warmers, USB is everywhere! So you NEED all your ports working.
Here’s what you can do to check out your USB port and some tips on fixing it.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to check the USB port for physical damage.
A simple test is to put your USB Flash Drive into the port and see if it wiggles up and down really easily. Be gentle doing this! You don’t want to create a hardware problem if you don’t already have one. If you’re not sure how sturdy the USB port should be, do the same thing in a port that you know works and compare the two.
In case it is definitely loose, you’ll probably want to move right to the end of this article where we talk about dealing with USB port hardware issues. Otherwise, follow the steps we have here.
Before you get carried away with Device Manager, try the old tech support standby: turn it off and turn it on again. Sometimes that works by forcing the operating system to scan for hardware, like the USB port, and makes it work again.
If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to get into Device Manager.
Check Device Manager
You can launch the Device Manager in a few different ways, but here’s the quickest one: Click on the Start menu and type devmgmt.msc then hit Enter. Device Manager should start up right away. You’ll see the following window:
Check Universal Serial Bus Controllers
Device Manager shows all the categories of devices installed on your computer. At this point in time, you want to look at the Universal Serial Bus controllers entries. Click on the arrow head to expand the selection. You will see something like the window below:
This might not make much sense to you, but there is some useful information here. See where it says Intel(R) 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset Family USB Enhanced Host Controller? That is the specific type of USB Host Controller for my computer. The key words are USB Host Controller. Find those in your Device Manager. If you cannot find any, this may be our problem.
Scan for Hardware Changes
Click on the Scan for hardware changes button in the toolbar. You can see it highlighted in the image below. This will force your computer to check all of your hardware again. If you’re lucky, this will pick up the USB port, and you’ll see a USB Host Controller in the list. If not, then the problem persists.
Uninstall USB Host Controllers
From here, things get a little tougher. You’ll still be working in Device Manager for now. If you are working with a desktop computer, with your mouse and keyboard plugged into USB ports, you may need to manually force a restart with the following steps. Uninstalling the USB Host Controllers will disable your USB devices.
Under the Universal Serial Bus controllers heading, you will right-click on the first USB Host Controller. That will bring up a small menu like this one:
Click on Uninstall. Repeat that process for any remaining USB Host Controller. Now restart the computer. This will force the computer to poll for these controllers and, hopefully, pick up the one that isn’t responding.
Clean Out Device Manager
While you’re in the Device Manager, did it seem like there were an awful lot of devices installed that might no longer be in your computer? Sometimes the drivers stay lingering on your computer, long after the device is gone. This is a good time to clean those out, and we have just the article on easily removing old drivers from Windows.
Did that work for you? No? Let’s go deeper then.
Disable Selective Suspend Feature
The USB Selective Suspend Feature is a power saving setting in Windows. What it does is suspend power being sent to a USB device, in order to save battery life of the computer. This is a good feature in theory, but on rare occasions the feature does not wake up the USB Device. If that’s the case, then it would appear that your port is dead.
You can disable the USB Selective Suspend Feature through a registry key. It’s a good idea to do this on any computer that always has power to it, such as a server or desktop computer. You might not want to do this with your laptop, but if you do, you’ll be able to turn it on again easily.
Find DisableSelectiveSuspend Registry Key
To get to the Registry Editor, click on Start and then enter regedit in the Search box and hit your Enter key. The Registry Editor window will open. It looks like this, if you haven’t seen it before:
Navigate to the DisableSelectiveSuspend key by clicking on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, then SYSTEM, then CurrentControlSet, then services, then USB. Where it says DisableSelectiveSuspend in the right-hand window, right-click and click Modify. In the Value Data field enter the number 1. This will disable the selective suspend feature and power will go to your USB ports constantly.
Create Registry Key
If the USB key doesn’t exist in your registry, it’s easy to create it. Just navigate to the services key, and in the toolbar click on Edit > New > Key. Call it USB.
In the USB key, right-click in the right-hand window. You’ll only have the New option. Click on that and select DWORD (32-bit) Value. It may just be called DWORD Value on your system. Name the new value DisableSelectiveSuspend. Just like above, right-click and click Modify. In the Value Data field enter the number 1. There! You have disabled the selective suspend feature. To apply the setting, you may need to restart your computer.
This is a good time to mention that if you ever feel the need to block your USB ports from working, there is a tool to help with that. It’s called USB Manager and we have a short article on how it works.
Is your dead USB port working now? No? Then you might well consider that the USB port suffers from physical damage.
Fix Damaged Hardware
If it’s still not working, it may very well be a hardware issue. USB ports are pretty fragile and USB Flash Drives can act as levers on them, wreaking havoc on the electrical connectors inside. This is seen very often in laptops, where the user will pack up the laptop and not disconnect the USB Flash Drive. It can usually be fixed. We have an excellent article on laptop repair that you can use as a starter on this project.
Here’s a great video on exactly how to do so:
If you are handy with a soldering iron, you can dismantle your laptop and try to re-solder the connections. I only recommend this for people who have fairly extensive experience with soldering components on a circuit board. You could really mess things up if you’re not proficient at soldering. If this seems a little scary to do , you may want to take your computer to your local reputable computer repair shop. Not everyone is comfortable with soldering on a motherboard.
There are several ways to try to repair your USB port. Hopefully, it’s just operating system or driver related as that’s the easiest and cheapest fix. Don’t dismay if it is a hardware problem — you can fix those fairly simply and inexpensively too. The point is, you can fix it.
Do you have any other troubleshooting tips for USB ports? Ever had to solder the USB port? Know of any software tools that would help in troubleshooting the USB port? We’d love to hear about it in the comments. The comments here are the only ones you should ever read on the internet. Ever.