How to Fix an Annoying Windows USB Problem

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Do you ever find that sometimes one of your USB ports won’t work? Maybe you turn on your PC and your USB mouse or keyboard doesn’t seem to be connected. Or you plug in a USB flash drive and nothing happens. You might have a bad USB port but there is another possible cause of USB problems and here is an easy way to fix it.

Since XP, the Windows operating system has come with a feature called USB Selective Suspend. This allows the system to turn off specific USB ports without affecting the other USB ports. This is supposed to save power by closing down ports that are only used intermittently. However, sometimes the port does not get turned back on when it is needed. On a desktop or other system where this type of power saving is not crucial, consider disabling this feature if you are experiencing USB connection problems.

The feature can be disabled or re-enabled in Control Panel.

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Go to: Hardware and Sound->Power Options
  3. Find your preferred power plan and click “Change plan settings”
  4. Click “Change advanced power settings”
  5. A dialog box similar to the example in the graphic below will open
  6. Find the entry “USB settings” and expand it
  7. Expand the entry “USB selective suspend setting”
  8. Use the drop-down menu to disable or re-enable the setting as shown in the graphic below
  9. Click "OK"

USB settings

In Windows 8.1, the problem of a USB port being turned off can be even worse. See this MSDN post for details. 

Incidentally, the problem of an unresponsive USB port can also often be fixed by turning the computer off and back on.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

Thank you so much! Your article solved my issue very fast!!

Hi,

I just made an account to say thank you, my 1 port hasn't been working for months, and the rest did but the eventually died because of how careless I was with the ports, but then i searched the web for hours and could not find a single solution that fixed my problem and yours did.

thanks alot :)

You don't know how much I owe you! I bought a new laptop with win7 OS. I actually spent all my money for buying it and I really thought that I was just very unlucky to buy the broken ones. I realized that it was not broken at all. thanks to you you are really a great help to me. I thought the motherboard had problems but its just mere configurations. thank you men! real blessing to me. If you're a female, thank you girl.
:-*

Thanks jhafer, I've been looking for the power management switch in XP and your post solved my prob :)

I'm having another annoying USB problem with an external USB drive. When I try to Eject it or stop it (using Zentimo or the inbuilt Safely Remove Hardware feature) it takes very long time, actually never completes the process. Then I just unplug the drive. When I plug in the drive again it's not recognized anymore.

Then when I try to put the laptop into hibernation or shut it down it does not do it at all. I have to press the power button and reboot it.

First I thought that it's some problem with the drive itself and tested it on other computer, but it's OK.

Any ideas how to fix it?

Thanks.

I had that problem on my old computer running XP. Many times I could not eject the flash drives, and I had to just unplug them. I used Unlocker, but it did not show any locks. I then used Emco UnlockIT: http://emcosoftware.com/unlock-it This showed that explorer.exe was locking the drive... for some unknown reason. Unlocker was not successful in showing that lock, but Emco UnlockIT did. Try it, you might have success with it.

Not infrequently, Windows Explorer will have one or more hooks on a USB drive, preventing its ejection. There's a free and extremely useful utility, Unlocker, that integrates into the Windows shell and provides the ability to kill those hooks, thus allowing the drive to be ejected -- http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/System-Miscellaneous/Unlocker.shtml .

Thanks AJNorth,

I tried with Unlocker but it does not help at all even when there are no hooks listed in Unlocker. It must be something else that is causing this problem.
Changing the settings as describe in this article does not help either.

I occasionally have non-responsive mouse on cold start but always clears by unplugging and replugging mouse, even into the same port. Quicker than a re-start. Checked settings as above but USB selective suspend setting is already disabled.

I have also had times when a non-responsive mouse or keyboard could be fixed by disconnecting and reconnecting but this has not always worked. Then I had to restart to get it to work.

Another, low tech, less elegant fix for many USB-Connection problems, especially intermittent ones, is to bend the Plug VERY slightly on the side opposite the plastic tongue. Use thumb pressure only --NO TOOLS--and press until there is the SLIGHTEST dimple.

"Maybe you turn on your PC and your USB mouse or keyboard doesn’t seem to be connected"

If the mouse or keyboard aren't working .... :)))
(Ok change temporarily to a working port if you have one)

Or restart. The type of problem described in the tip is annoying but not permanent.

Just pulling your leg a bit :)

You can also disable these settings in your Device Manager. This is relevant in Windows 7, all the 2003+ Server OS's, and perhaps others. Just follow these steps. Please note I am using windows 7 so the exact verbiage might be different on other OS's:

1) Go to Control Panel - System - Device Manager
2) Click the plus next to "Universal Serial Bus Controllers" to expand.
3) For each "USB Root Hub", right-click and choose properties.
4) Click Power Management tab
5) Uncheck "Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power".

This seems to be the only option when there aren't any Power options available from Control Panel.

Thank you, jhafer. That did the trick. I'm running XP and there are no power options for USB that I found.

This is a great tip. However: the settings in Windows 7 Pro 64-bit are not where you say they are. There is no Hardware & Sound option in Control Panel

Users can find them here:

1. Control Panel > Power Options

2. Under current setting (e.g., Balanced), choose: Change plan settings.

3. Choose: Change advanced power settings.

4. Choose: USB settings > USB selective suspend setting.

5. Choose: Disabled

6. Click Apply > OK

In Windows 7 Pro 64-bit "Hardware and Sound" option is available when Control Panel View is in Category mode rather than icon mode

I have Windows 7 Pro 64-bit and it does have "Hardware and Sound" in Control Panel.

Good tip, Vic... thank you! :-)