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

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   Dead USB Port? Heres How to Diagnose and Fix It!

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:

Universal serial bus controllers   Dead USB Port? Heres How to Diagnose and Fix It!

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   Dead USB Port? Heres How to Diagnose and Fix It!

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   Dead USB Port? Heres How to Diagnose and Fix It!

 

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   Dead USB Port? Heres How to Diagnose and Fix It!

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   Dead USB Port? Heres How to Diagnose and Fix It!

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.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

46 Comments -

Kure

In my world, 8 out of 10 non working usb ports (on a laptop) are the same old “over current on port” issues. Some notebooks were not capable of providing those standard 500mA per USB port even when they were leaving the factory. (macs are a shiny exception here, they need to be compatible with iPads who don’t mind 2.1A). Even if they do, the mboards are loosing their ideal properties over time. Two suggestions: do measure the power output of the usb & if concerned this is a sw issue, just make yourself a linux flashdrive and try in on different OS. If puppy won’t mount your drive it’s not likely anything will.

Kure

sorry….. CD would be more appropriate :D

Catx10

I had this problem recently. I fixed it by changing the drive letters, apparently they were confused. I don’t have any explanation as to why they got that way but it worked.

Brandon R

A simple method I use to determine weather it could be a hardware or software issue is to simply boot into Ubuntu using a live CD. If the port works in Ubuntu you know its a software issue if it does not work then its definitely an hardware issue.

anjan bhushan

Yes Brandon, Linux Live CD can be used to find out if USB works or not.

dragonmouth

What if you are using Ubuntu (or any Linux distro) as your regular O/S and you encounter USB problems? You cannot use a Live Windows CD as the different O/S.

It would be nice if someone wrote a similar article for Linux users.

barry

for unix-like computers:

disconnect usb device
use the ‘lsusb’ command.
get results
connect usb device
get results again
if results don’t change something’s wrong with device or cable.

Brandon R

dragonmouth most ppl use computers with Windows installed on it if you when I worked as a technician I didn’t ever get a computer from a customer to fix with Linux installed on it so it is a good method and however if a PC is running Linux you could use a Windows live environment from Hiren’s Boot CD where you can boot into Mini Windows XP and check if the port works or you could use a live Linux CD still and check as problem one of the setting in your installed Linux OS is causing a problem

Guy M

@Barry, thanks for that answer!
@Dragonmouth – I don’t get to work in the Linux world as often as I would like, so I’m just not an authority there.

mathews jp

thnx…………

Anonymous

Really like your stuff for us older it people

Elrick B

Google hirens dragonmouth it has a mini xp that you probably can use to test the usb if your on linux!

Guy M

The comments about using a Live CD to test a USB are good. The article was aimed more at those people who wouldn’t even know where to begin to check a dead USB port.

There’s a good chance that if you know what a Live CD is and how to use it, that this article is old information for you.

Stephanie S

Wow this is great info! You not only (you, as in Make Use Of) write great reviews but write informative how-to as well. My USB ports on the front of my tower work on and off. An example: I will use the USB connection for my iPhone (or iPad) and sometimes it works just great. I will make some changes on apps, etc. and then attempt another sync and nothing happens. This happens with other devices I plug in as well, such as my USB head phones. The port the head phones are using now has (fingers crossed and knocking on wood) has never misbehaved so I just leave them there. Prior to finding this reliable one, it was hit and miss. Sometimes I had sound and sometimes I didn’t. So, I will continue diagnose this and see if I can get them to work ALL the time or take it to my IT guy. :) Thanks for a great article.

Guy M

You’re very welcome, Stephanie.
Towers are even easier to work on for this sort of thing. It’s not a huge task to take out the USB ports on the front of a tower and pop in new ones, if the hardware is the issue.
Hope this works out for you!

Oron

Stephanie, the front ports on desktop/tower PCs are particularly prone to the “under current” problem mentioned by Kuran. If the same problem does not affect the rear ports, get a powered USB hub and use that instead!

Guy M

Oron, good call. I forgot about that. Haven’t done much tower work in years.

You can get a USB Voltage/Amperage meter for under $10, folks. Just do a quick search on the web. Amazon and DX have them. If you’re the go-to-tech-person for friends and families, this would be a handy tool to have.

sunshine

these all tips are good but not hand at all …

David S

Great info! Thanks Make use of!

Mayur G

One month ago, I tried to repair my loosen+damaged USB port of lappy. and got success too. btw, nice article for the ones who are newbie to the USB hardware issues.

Guy M

Thank you Mayur, glad you got your laptop working. We try to make technology accessible for everyone.

Marija

I have a problem with my USB port. I bought new ebook reader and tried to connect it to my computer. It stays connected for about 5 seconds and then gets disconnected. I tried restarting my computer, disabling / enabling port, uninstalling drivers, installing newest chipset drivers. Reader is working properly on another computer. When I tried to connect my mp3 player on “broken” USB port it worked ok as always. So I’m a bit confused now. Any ideas?

Guy M

Oddly enough, I’m having a similar issue with a Kobo right now. Once I get it figured out, I’ll get back to you through the comments here.

Marija

Thanks!

Anonymous

Thank you so much!!!!!! This worked :)

Cheryl Folston

Thank you so much for supplying this information and in such a simplistic fashion. I’m a 60 year old female who doesn’t know much about computers but I was able to ascertain that the problem might be with my power settings and sleeping and hibernation and all that. I checked everything else you supplied as far as uninstalling the host etc. and it didn’t work, so I tried having my power settings checked. My USB port would not work but after having the power settings checked, I plugged in my mouse and viola’…..it began to install the driver for my mouse! Thanks sweety. I’m putting you on my facebook page and God Bless YOU!

Guy M

You’re very welcome!

Anonymous

I have a whole bunch of usbs in the services folder which one is it?

Guy M

The key words are USB Host Controller.

Farouk Mansur

hello i disable my USB ports for my Mouth and Keyboard. and then now i want enable it to become working. please can u help me.

Guy M

Need a little more detail. You disabled the entire USB port, or just the keyboard and mouse?
If it’s just the keyboard and mouse, you should be able to plug them in again, and the computer should pick them up automatically. If not, leave them plugged in and restart the computer. It should pick them up then.

Mitchell Miller

This appears to be a gigantic flaw in this otherwise very clear tutorial. Disabling all USB controllers will disable your mouse and keyboard. At some point you will not be able to disable any more controllers if your mouse is not working! And bottom-line, wow to restart the computer properly without use of mouse and keyboard?

I would warn anyone not to use these hints without understanding how to work through this problem.

(This problem is actually mentioned in the tutorial, but no solution given ).

Guy M

The solution to the problem was given, it just happened to be a preventative one – don’t disable all of your USB controllers! The focus was given to disable, one by one, those USB controllers with the key words ‘USB Host Controller’.

At the point that the user’s keyboard and mouse no longer works, what is the harm in forcing the system to restart by holding the power button in for about 6 seconds? Slight degradation of the operating system? Which is worse? No keyboard or mouse, ergo no computer or forcing a hard restart?

The gigantic flaw is in not following instructions explicitly and heeding the warnings. If I tell you to press any button but the red one, and you touch the red one, why should I have provided a solution for you doing that?

Tom

I would greatly appreciate help. Here is what I get in device manager: http://s28.postimg.org/8nuw4e5gd/usbissue.jpg

My laptop has 3 usb ports, only 1 works fully. The other 2 only provide power, but not data (i.e. I can use them to charge things such as iphones, but that’s it). I did swap the hard drive of my previous different-model laptop into this one. I had to install a lot of drivers, but I got everything to work perfectly except for these 2 usb ports, which I’ve now done without for ~9 months.

I notice in device manager there is an “other devices” section, with the only 2 being ‘USB controller’, which have a yellow triangle warning/not working icon on it (see image link). And, like I said, I have 2 ports not working, so I wonder if that’s where it lies. Also, it is the 2 ports on the left side of the laptop that is not working while the one on the right is working. I am using windows 7 64 bit. The laptop is an HP Pavillion g7-2275dx. I have tried installing more and more drivers, but this has not fixed it.

Tom

Nevermind. I tried installing more AMD drivers and now it works.

Guy M

Cool, glad you got it worked out. You were definitely working in the right direction by looking at driver issues.

Adeola Adeniyi

Mine is Hp530, i have instlalled drivers but my usb ports are not working! I dnt knw if its a software or hardware problem! Physically my ports are intact but its nt charging anything nor recognizing any usb devices!! Please i really help. My email address is Adeola2231@gmail.com. Tnkz will b grateful

Kevin

Wow your awesome!
1 of my usb ports stopped working. I read through your instructions. My ports all showed up, but 1 was showing a problem & windows had disabled it. I did as you said & uninstalled the problem 1. Then just scanned for hardware changes, it put the port back & it worked. I didnt even have to restart my computer.
Again thats, & good job on your getting to the top of the google search.
Have a great 1

Guy M

Always glad that we can help!

Ponderosa

Thank so much for the article!
I do have a problem though… after uninstalling the USB host controller and restarting the computer my wireless mouse no longer works in the USB port that worked all along. My flash drive does however work in the port.

Any idea how to the functionality of my mouse? (It does work on another computer).

Btw, I think the orginal USB is damaged physically and also doesn’t work.

Guy M

@Ponderosa (great name btw)

Does your USB flash drive work in the port that the mouse worked in? If so, you should be able to plug in the mouse and Windows should autodetect new hardware.

If not, in the Device Manager, scan for new hardware and that should pick it up and enable it again.

Please let me know how it goes.

eclectikat

Hey Guy M. I have a problem in that I am operating with a new laptop and one of the usb ports is broken, the little black tab has snapped off, I have the use of two others, but I use a cad program that requires a physical key and when the program was installed I was told the software would not work unless that physical key/memory stick was in the port which it was in when the software was installed. OF course that is the port. Is there a way to change the port information so that I could use an alternate port but re-assign the name of the broken port to one of the remaint two? the software was a bitch to install because of how old it is, and not being compatible with the windows 8 platform… Imy laptop is an acer aspire V any help would be greatly appreciated.

kiran myageri

my pc does not install any program and does not recieve usb except wireless mouse drive
this caused after Uninstalling Microsoft essentials and some regular updates but it also not updating so please help to fix this problem

Guy M

You may want to restore your system to a time before you uninstalled Microsoft Essentials and see if that fixes the problem.

Pablo

What if my usb ports don’t recognize my devices but instead they active the device, for example a mouse. When i plug in a mouse, the ligth of the lazer turns on but the usb dont recognize the mouse. That’s a software or a hardware problem?

Guy M

Perhaps go into Device Manager and check if the driver for your mouse was installed.