The USB ports on your computer help you customize and control your PC experience. Do you need a mouse? A new keyboard? Just plug it in. This can make working and playing on your computer a much more pleasant experience – unless one of your USB ports is not working properly. Here’s everything you can try to get things working again before you call in the pros.
Exclude the alternatives
(Photo: Aleksandrs Muiznieks / Shutterstock)
If your computer has more than one, try a different USB port first to see if the problem is specific to one port. You can also try a different cable with the attached peripheral device; Make sure the existing one is not torn, melted, or otherwise damaged.
Another possibility is to change the device. If a mouse isn’t working on a particular port, try a keyboard or printer instead to see if there is a problem with the device itself. Or connect the device to another computer, if you have one.
Do you have the right port?
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Are you trying to charge your laptop through a USB Type-C port? Some manufacturers designate certain ports as data-only ports, meaning that you can use them to transmit data but not draw power. Check your USB ports to see what they are labeled. Some may have a charging plug icon or something similar to indicate that they are intended for charging. If you’re trying to charge using a data-only port, switching to the charging port should fix the problem. (For more information on how to do this, see our guide if your laptop is plugged in but not charging.)
Falcon Dust-Off Electronics Compressed Air Vacuum Cleaner
Take a closer look at your USB ports. Dirt or debris can block the port and prevent a proper connection between the computer and the connector. A good sign that something is stuck is when the cable is not fully inserted.
You may need a flashlight, but see if any food or dust is blocking the port. If so, turn off the computer and use a toothpick to turn it over soft free everything that is in it. You can also use canned compressed air to clean the room – just don’t plug the plastic nozzle directly into the port as condensation can build up and do more damage than it’s good.
If you can plug in your device and wiggle it to connect for a short time, there is likely a physical problem. At this point, you may need to pry open the computer case to see if you can fix the connector yourself or call a professional.
Restart and update
It’s possible that your USB port just needs a quick reboot. Sometimes an internal failure occurs that can cause components to not behave as they should, and a restart will give the computer a chance to repair itself. In Windows, click the Start menu> Power button> Restart. On a Mac, click Apple> restart.
The problem you are having can also be solved by updating your computer. The drivers that all of your devices use can run into problems and will update over time. Driver updates are usually packaged in regular system updates, so it’s worth a try. In Windows, go to Settings> Update & Security> Windows Update and click on Check for updates Button. Press the Download and install Button if there is an update. Mac users can open System Settings> Software Updates to check for updates.
Manage USB controllers
Their USB ports are controlled by their own drivers. If something is wrong with these drivers, it can result in unusable USB ports. Right click on the Start menu and select Device manager from the list. Scroll down to Universal serial bus controller and expand the list. Look for the option that includes “USB Host Controller” in its name.
Right-click the entry and choose Uninstall device. If there are several entries with the same name, proceed in the same way for all of them. Let the drivers uninstall, then restart your computer. The USB host controllers will automatically reinstall on reboot and will hopefully fix any problems.
It works a little differently on Macs. The System Management Controller (SMC) is responsible for many hardware functions on a Mac. So if you can’t get a USB port working, you can reset the SMC. The method differs depending on whether it’s an Intel-based Mac, has a removable battery, or contains the T2 security chip. Macs supported with Apple silicon only require a simple reset. Apple has instructions on how to reset the SMC in your device.
Deactivate the selective USB suspend
Your computer’s power management settings can interfere with your USB ports. USB Selective Suspend can disable a USB port when it is not in use to save battery life, but it can also sometimes disable the port when you are trying to use it. In this case, you can go to the power options and disable the setting.
Enter “Control Panel” in the Windows search bar and select Switchboard. Go to Energy options> Change tariff settings > Change advanced power settings. Find USB settings, then drill down to it Setting for selective USB suspend. Uncheck the options next to Battery powered and Plugged in, then click Use. You must then restart your PC so that it does not turn off the USB ports unnecessarily.
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