USB Driver Problems

by Christopher Capelle

USB (Universal Serial Bus) is a standard interface found on every computer today, and it is compatible with every platform. It is used to connect peripherals including input devices, printers, scanners, flash drives, digital cameras and MP3 players, among others. While most USB products are generally plug-and-play and use drivers built in to the operating system, some require third-party drivers to be installed, which sometimes causes conflicts.

USB Issues

An older USB device may be the issue.

In addition to issues caused by third-party software, USB drivers can become corrupted or non-functional for no apparent reason. Issues include using a third-party USB PCI adapter, attempting to use certain USB 2.0 devices in older computers with USB 1.1 capabilities (this also includes older USB hubs) and outdated firmware or basic input/output system (BIOS). A USB hub, device or cable itself may be causing a problem as well.

Issues in Windows

Legacy computers don't have USB ports.

Windows users can consult the Device Manager to determine if the port is disabled. This is accomplished by opening the Control Panel (Start>Control Panel) and choosing "Performance and Maintenance>System>Hardware" and then selecting the properties by right-clicking "Device Manager." Here you can attempt to enable the ports if possible, or uninstall and reinstall the USB controllers, provided you have the original Windows media available.

Checking on Your Mac

Mac users are not immune to USB driver issues.

Mac users can see the status of USB ports by selecting "About This Mac..." under the apple icon in the upper left of the screen, selecting "More Options..." and "USB" under the "Hardware" list. Updating or reinstalling your OS eliminates the issue in most cases.

Third-party Software

Your computer may not need the third-party software.

In many cases, using an installation CD is unnecessary, as computers have built-in drivers that can work with USB devices. For example, Mac owners using iPhoto can skip the software provided with the camera. In most situations (USB printers or scanners, for example), you can opt to perform a "Custom Install" which allows only necessary files to be installed (for example, TWAIN driver, printer PPD files). Try connecting a different USB device to the same port to see if the computer recognizes it.

Check the Device and Cable

Check your cable.

If the device still doesn't work on your computer, try connecting it to a second computer but don't install any software. It's a quick way to check if the installation process has corrupted the USB drivers or if there is another issue (broken port on either the PC or device or a defective cable, for example).

Update Your Software

Updating your OS can solve many issues.

Upgrading your OS will often fix USB driver issues. Mac users can select "Software Update..." from under the apple icon in the upper left of the screen, while Windows users select "Windows Update" in the Control Panel. Disconnect all USB devices before starting and don't reconnect them until after you have rebooted.

Reinstall Your OS

Back up your data before attempting to reinstall your OS.

As a last resort, sometimes a clean OS install will clear up any driver problems. Attempt this only if you have the expertise to successfully accomplish this. Make sure that your vital files are backed up beforehand, and that you have all the software required to get your computer back to status quo before attempting this.


About the Author

Christopher Capelle is a freelance copywriter with over two decades of experience. Subjects of his writing include the business and technology fields, consumer products and home repair/improvement. He graduated from The University of Connecticut and earned a master's degree in journalism from Iona College.

More Articles

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Image by, courtesy of Declan Jewell