Dead USB Port? Here’s How to Diagnose and Fix It!

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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.

Physical Examination

The first thing that you want to do is to see if the USB port is physically damaged. 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. If 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. If not, follow the steps we have here.

Restart Computer

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:

device-manager

Device Manager shows all the categories of devices that can be installed in 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:

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Universal-serial-bus-controllers

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.

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 isn’t fixed yet.

scan-for-hardware-changes

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:

uninstall-usb-host-controllers

 

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.

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.

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:

registry-editor

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.

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.

edit-new-key

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. You may need to restart your computer for the setting to be applied.

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 is physically damaged.

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.

The Takeaway

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 – those can be fixed fairly simply and inexpensively too. The point is, it can be fixed.

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.

Image Sources: Asus Eee PC USB Ports via Flickr, Large Blank Tombstone via Clker.

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Comments (143)
  • Roger W Dawson

    I “upgraded” to Windows 10 some good features but now my 2000 Outlook won’t run “unable to find Wab Dll” which is a pain but then my Saitek Eclipse lll wired illuminated keyboard stopped working. I did a shut down reset and checked all the ports. The keyboard lights up for about 3 seconds then goes off. I plugged in an old Dell keyboard which works. I went to the device Mgr. as it seems the ports work but are not powered so the Saitek keyboard won’t light up or work. The listings show two (2) “Standard enhanced PCI to USB controller”s and (5) “Standard open HCD USB host controller”s. I scanned for hardware changes and checked each listing for “properties” which said “this device is working properly” I tried plugging the keyboard in again–same thing; lit up for 2 seconds then lights out! Went to regedit and there is no ” DisableSelectiveSuspend” on this desktop (SYX) so now I’m headed to uninstall all 7 of these devices and will let you know what happens.
    Why does properties say all these controllers are working? I would think this has to be a software issue with the new Windows 10 installation as the cause.

    Guy, I tried it; much time reloading but still I plug in the keyboard it lights up for three seconds then goes dark and does not work! BTW I checked out the Keyboard on my laptop and it works fine!

    Guy, SO NOW WHAT? What do you think? Roger

    • Kyle Winton

      I have the exact same problem to you and still no fix after installing windows 10 god damit :(

    • Guy McDowell

      Windows 10 is just scaring me now. What the hell happened Microsoft?

      I have no more ideas for anyone on what to do where Windows 10 is involved, other than rolling back to your previous Windows.

  • Roger W Dawson

    I “upgraded” to Windows 10 some good features but now my 2000 Outlook won’t run “unable to find Wab Dll” which is a pain but then my Saitek Eclipse lll wired illuminated keyboard stopped working. I did a shut down reset and checked all the ports. The keyboard lights up for about 3 seconds then goes off. I plugged in an old Dell keyboard which works. I went to the device Mgr. as it seems the ports work but are not powered so the Saitek keyboard won’t light up or work. The listings show two (2) “Standard enhanced PCI to USB controller”s and (5) “Standard open HCD USB host controller”s. I scanned for hardware changes and checked each listing for “properties” which said “this device is working properly” I tried plugging the keyboard in again–same thing; lit up for 2 seconds then lights out! Went to regedit and there is no ” DisableSelectiveSuspend” on this desktop (SYX) so now I’m headed to uninstall all 7 of these devices and will let you know what happens.
    Why does properties say all these controllers are working? I would think this has to be a software issue with the new Windows 10 installation as the cause.

    • Guy McDowell

      With some of the things I’ve been hearing, that sounds like the most likely cause. Seems like there’s something going on with Win 10 and drivers. I can’t say that for certain, but it sure seems like it.

  • Karen Rowland

    Hi guy, I found this in the middle of the night, I can’t sleep because my laptop is playing in my mind!! I’ll give the drivers thing a go in the morning failing that it’s a costly trip to the repair shop for me :/ my problem has come from installing windows 10, I contacted Microsoft support because my USB ports seemed to stop working but they wanted to charge me £95 for a years support upfront to fix it but when I asked if the problem would correct itself with a roll back to windows 8 I was told yes, which I did, which didn’t fix the problem. So now I’m back in windows 8 with a 2 month old laptop and no working Ian ports :/. I’ll update you if I get the drivers working. Thanks for the initial post :)
    Karen

    • Christan Middleton

      Hey! Don’t pay for tech support! Follow the steps above to the T and you’ll be alright. I suggest that you go back to Win10 then, uninstall all of your old usb drivers and force your BIOS to pull new ones. Good luck!

    • Guy McDowell

      Seems like Win 10 is breaking lots of things for people.
      You may need to get the original drivers from the laptop maker again.

      Please do let me know how it goes.

    • Karen Rowland

      Hi, nothing worked, had to resort to Microsoft remote assistance who, basically because it was their fault, have remotely reinstalled windows 8.1. Its actually installing now so fingers crossed :)

    • Guy McDowell

      Wow. That’s kind of big news about Win 10.
      I’ve never heard of MS Remote Assistance rolling back someone’s OS for them.

      Let’s hope it works again and they get this resolved in Win10.

    • Karen Rowland

      Yeah well that didn’t work even though they reinstalled the operating system and all the drivers, I’ve got to speak to the laptop manufacturers Lenovo but they aren’t open until Monday :/

    • Guy McDowell

      Ouch. I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it works out in the end for you.

  • stephenkmanda

    Solved, thanks a lot.

  • adejumo oluwatoosin

    i can’t uninstall.talking about descendant approval.i dnt understand

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.