What to Do if Your USB Port Stops Working
By cuterose

What to Do if Your USB Port Stops Working

28/04/2022  |   496 Views

The USB ports on your computer help you customize and control your PC experience. Need a mouse? A new keyboard? Just plug it in. This can make working and gaming on your computer a much more enjoyable experience—unless one of your USB ports malfunctions. Here's everything you can try to get things working again before calling in the professionals.

Rule Out the Alternatives

(Photo: Aleksandrs Muiznieks/Shutterstock)

First, plug the device into a different USB port, if your computer has more than one, to see if the problem is specific to one port. You can also try a different cable with the peripheral you plugged in; make sure the existing one is not torn, melted, or otherwise damaged.

Another option is to change devices. If a mouse isn't working in a specific port, try a keyboard or printer instead to see if there's an issue with the device itself. Or, plug the device into a different 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, meaning you can transfer data through it but cannot draw power. Check your USB ports to see how they are labeled. Some may include a charger plug icon, or something similar, to indicate it's meant for charging. If you're trying to charge through a data-only port, moving to the charging port should fix the issue. (For more on that, check out our guide for when your laptop is plugged in but not charging.)

Clean Out Debris

Falcon Dust-Off Electronics Compressed Gas Duster

Look closer at your USB ports. Debris or grime can block the port and prevent a proper connection between the computer and the plug. A good indicator that something is stuck is if the cable doesn't plug in all the way.

What to Do if Your USB Port Stops Working

You may need a flashlight, but see if you can spot any food or dust blocking the port, If so, turn the computer off and use a toothpick to gently free up anything stuck inside. You can also use canned air to clean out the space—just don't stick the plastic nozzle directly into the port because condensation can build up and cause more harm than good.

If you plug in your device and can connect briefly by wiggling it slightly, there is likely a physical issue. At this point you may need to pry open the computer's chassis to see if you can fix the port yourself or call in a professional.

Restart and Update

It's possible that all your USB port needs is a quick restart. Sometimes there's an internal error that can keep components from acting the way they should, and restarting gives the computer a chance to fix itself. In Windows, click the Start menu > Power button > Restart. On a Mac, click Apple > Restart.

The issue you're having also may be solved by updating your computer. The drivers used to make all your devices work can run into issues and need updates over time. Driver updates are typically packed within regular system updates, so it's worth a try. In Windows, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click the Check for updates button. Click the Download and install button if there is an update. Mac users can open System Preferences > Software Updates to scan for updates.

Manage USB Controllers

Your USB ports are controlled by their own drivers. If there's something wrong with these drivers, it may result in unusable USB ports. Right-click on the Start menu and choose Device Manager from the list. Scroll down to Universal Serial Bus controllers and expand the list. Look for the option that includes "USB Host Controller" in the name.

Right-click on the entry and select Uninstall device. If there are multiple listings with the name, do the same for all of them. Let the drivers uninstall, then reboot your computer. The USB Host Controllers will be reinstalled automatically upon relaunch and hopefully clear up any issues.

Things work a little differently for Macs. The System Management Controller (SMC) is in charge of many hardware functions on a Mac. So if you can't get a USB port to work, you can reset the SMC. The method differs depending on whether it's an Intel-based Mac, has a removable battery, or includes the T2 security chip. Macs backed by Apple silicon only require a simple reset. Apple has instructions on how to reset the SMC in your device.

Disable USB Selective Suspend

Power management settings in your computer may be disrupting your USB ports. USB Selective Suspend can deactivate a USB port when not in use in order to save battery life, but can also sometimes disable the port when you're trying to use it. When this happens, you can go into Power Options and turn off the setting.

Type "Control Panel" into the Windows search bar and select Control Panel. Go to Power Options > Change Plan Settings > Change advanced power settings. Find USB Settings, then drill down to USB selective suspend setting. Disable the options next to On battery and Plugged in, then click Apply. You must then restart your PC to stop it from turning off the USB ports unnecessarily.

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