How to Fix a Dead USB Port

How to Fix a Dead USB Port

So you’ve plugged in a USB flash drive into your computer and for whatever reason, it didn’t automatically show up on your computer. Then you plug the device into another USB drive, and immediately it pops right up. At this point, the problem is most likely the USB port. This is one of those computer issues that occur so rarely, most people end up blaming the USB device itself, just plug it in somewhere else and carry on. But these days that fix just isn’t enough. USB devices are getting more popular everyday and are showing no signs of slowing down. You have USB flash drives, USB chargers for your smartphone, USB to connect your iPad/Tablet, even USB hand warmers. USB has integrated itself into many aspects of our daily lives. So for the most part, you’ll need as many USB ports. Here’s what you can do to diagnose problems with your USB ports and a couple of ways you can fix it.

The very first thing you want to take care of is inspecting the USB port itself. You want to check if the USB port is physically damaged. Here’s a simple check up you can do. Put your USB flash drive into the USB port and (lightly) see if it wiggles up and down really easily. Remember to keep it light. You don’t want to create an additional hardware problem if you don’t already have one. If you don’t really have a feel for 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, we’ll talk about dealing with USB port hardware issues later.

Before anything else, try the oldest trick in the book. Turn your computer 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 use your Device Manager.

You can launch the Device Manager in a few different ways, but here’s the quickest way you can go about this. Click on the Start menu and type devmgmt.msc then hit Enter. Device Manager should start up right away. The Device Manager will show you all the categories of devices that can be installed in your computer. At this point in time, you want to look at the USB controllers entries. Click on the arrow head to expand the selection. The next window might not make much sense, but there’s a lot of useful information here.

Look for the specific type of USB Host Controller for my computer. The key words are USB Host Controller. You’ll find those in your Device Manager. If you cannot find anything like this, this will probably be the issue. Click on the Scan for hardware changes button in the toolbar. This will force your computer to check all of your hardware again. If you’re super lucky, this will probably 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.

From here things get a little bit more complicated. You should still be working in the Device Manager at this point. If you’re on a desktop computer, (with your mouse and keyboard plugged into USB ports), you may have to manually force a restart. Uninstalling the USB Host Controllers will disable your USB devices. Under the USB controllers heading, you will need to right-click on the first USB Host Controller. That will bring up a small menu. Locate and click on Uninstall. Repeat that process for any remaining USB Host Controller. Now reboot the computer. This will force your 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 quite a few USB devices installed that are probably no longer on your computer? Sometimes various drivers stay lingering on your computer, even long after the device is gone. This is a good time to clean those out. If this does not work, try to disable the USB Selective Suspend feature.

The USB Selective Suspend Feature is a power saving setting in the Windows operating system. Basically this option suspends power being sent to a USB device, in order to save battery life of the host computer. In theory, this is a great feature, but sometimes it will also prevent the USB Device from either being recognized or launching. If that’s the case, then it will obviously appear as if your USB port is dead, when in fact it is being blocked by a Windows feature. 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. Navigate to the Disable Selective Suspend key by clicking on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, then SYSTEM, then Current Control Set, then services, then USB. Where it says Disable Selective Suspend 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. 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 Disable Selective Suspend. Just like above, right-click and click Modify. In the Value Data field enter the number. That’s all there is to it. You may need to restart your computer for the setting to be applied.

If you’re USB port is still not working, then you might well consider that the USB port is physically damaged, (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.

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Vincent Clarke

Vincent Clarke is the Universal Serial Bus (USB) Guru for USBtips.com. When he's not writing tutorials and catching up on the latest USB news, Vincent is busy preparing his next blog post and answering USB questions from his readers and subscribers.

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