Do USB ports go bad or does the software just get confused? Sometimes, they
just seem to stop working for certain devices.
USB issues can be particularly problematic to diagnose – both hardware
and/or software-related issues can easily come into play.
In this audio excerpt from a recent Ask Leo! webinar,
I’ll review some of my thoughts around USB-related connection issues.
Do USB ports go bad or does the software just get confused? Sometimes, they just seem to stop working for certain devices.
Yeah, I’ve never come to a clean answer on this. The implication certainly is that USB ports can go bad. My guess is that it’s more ‘dirt’ related than anything else; the connectors are getting a little dirty over time since they are exposed to the elements.
The software can get confused, certainly, but that’s normally something you can clean up. One of the best ways to diagnose the difference might very well be to boot into something like a Linux Live CD (like Ubuntu) and see if the USB port is acting properly for it. If it is, then you know you’ve probably got a software issue and you may be looking at reinstalling drivers or (worst case) doing a repair or full reinstall of Windows itself.
On the other hand, if Ubuntu or some other operating system running on that same machine on that same hardware also fails to see things plugged into a specific USB port, then the balance tips in the favor of it being some kind of hardware-related issue.
Because USB ports are physical, because they are externally accessible, they do get abused. Connectors get pounded on all of the time; things get bent. It doesn’t surprise me at all if there was a physical component to a lot of the USB problems that we do see getting reported here from time to time.
And sometimes, they just seem to stop working for a certain device. If you move the device to a different USB port and it starts working, then it’s pretty clear that you’ve got – that the original USB port is having some kind of physical problem. On the other hand, I’ve seen entire USB controllers have problems that could just easily be static as well. When you end up connecting something, it ends up sending static electricity and potentially damages the USB controller.
Unfortunately, these are very difficult things to try and diagnose even when you’ve got the machine in front of you. So the only thing I can say is I throw it out there as a possibility; both hardware and software are suspect. I tend to typically suspect hardware a little bit more often in the case of external USBs.