How do I fix a USB port error?

USB ports are used to connect devices like external hard drives, printers, keyboards, mice, cameras, phones, and more to your computer. However, sometimes USB ports can stop working properly and cause errors. Some common USB port errors include the device not being recognized, connectivity problems, power issues, and more. Fortunately, there are a number of troubleshooting steps you can try to fix a USB port that is causing errors.

Quick Fixes

Here are some quick things to try first when encountering a USB port error:

  • Unplug the USB device and plug it back in. Sometimes just reseating the connection can fix connectivity issues.
  • Try plugging the device into a different USB port. This helps determine if the issue is with the specific port or the device.
  • Check for bent or damaged pins in the USB port. Bent pins can prevent proper connections.
  • Update drivers for the USB device and USB ports. Outdated drivers can cause conflicts and errors.
  • Disable USB selective suspend in Power Settings if using Windows. This prevents power management from interfering with the USB port.

Troubleshooting Port Hardware

If quickly unplugging and replugging in the device does not work, the USB port itself may have a hardware issue. Here are some steps to troubleshoot the port hardware:

  1. Inspect the USB port for any damage like bent pins, cords blocking the port, food, liquid spills, corroded contacts, etc. Damage can prevent proper connections.
  2. Try plugging the device into other working USB ports. If other ports work, the original one may be damaged.
  3. Check Device Manager in Windows for any error codes or issues with the USB controller. This can indicate hardware failure.
  4. Test the USB port with multiple devices. If multiple devices fail to work properly, the port could be damaged.
  5. For laptops, check if the USB port is loose. Loose ports can cause intermittent connections.
  6. Reset BIOS settings to default if USB issues persist in Windows. Port settings may have been changed.

If inspection reveals any physical damage, the USB port may need to be repaired or replaced. For desktop PCs, the motherboard would need replacement. For laptops, the USB port can often be replaced individually without replacing the entire motherboard.

Software and Driver Troubleshooting

USB port issues can also be caused by software and driver problems. Try the following software troubleshooting steps:

  • Update Windows/macOS to the latest version. Older OS versions may have USB bugs.
  • Update motherboard drivers and chipset drivers if using Windows. Outdated drivers can affect USB stability.
  • Uninstall and reinstall drivers for the specific USB device. This resets any unstable driver software.
  • Switch USB ports and devices around. This checks for port/device specific conflicts.
  • Delete and reinstall the USB controllers in Device Manager. This reloads the USB drivers.
  • Disable USB legacy support in BIOS if the device requires USB 2.0 speeds or higher. Legacy limits speed.

For devices that require drivers like printers, cameras, and scanners, be sure you have the latest manufacturer-provided drivers installed. Outdated, corrupt, or missing drivers are common causes of USB device errors.

Power Related USB Issues

Some USB port errors may be caused by power delivery issues. Things to check include:

  • Plugging the device into the rear motherboard USB ports directly instead of front case ports or hubs. Rear ports have better power.
  • Using a short and high quality USB cable. Long or poor cables can impact power delivery.
  • Connecting the device before booting up the computer. Some devices may not work properly if connected after booting.
  • For battery powered devices, check if the battery needs to be recharged.
  • Removing any USB hubs and see if the device works directly connected. Hubs can reduce power levels.
  • Checking if the USB device requires more power than the port provides. Some external hard drives may need to be plugged into two USB ports (check manual).

Troubleshooting Specific USB Device Errors

Certain classes of USB devices like printers, cameras, and scanners can experience other device-specific errors. Some troubleshooting tips include:


  • Make sure the printer is turned on.
  • Check ink cartridge levels – replace if empty.
  • Check for paper jams.
  • Check if printing preferences are configured correctly in Settings.
  • Check if the printer driver software is up to date.
  • Retry printing different file formats like PDFs vs JPEGs.
  • Restart both the printer and computer.
  • Change print spooler settings to see if fixes issue.


  • Check scanner power and cable connections.
  • Make sure scan software like HP Scan or Apple Image Capture is installed.
  • Check scanner driver and software is up to date.
  • Disable any antivirus or firewall temporarily to see if software is blocking scanner.
  • Try different scanning applications.
  • Restart computer and scanner.


  • Check camera batteries are charged.
  • Try a different USB cable, or plug camera in directly without a cable.
  • Install photo transfer software like Apple Image Capture (Mac) or camera manufacturer software (Windows).
  • On Windows, check the Camera app troubleshooter.
  • Restart the computer and reconnect camera.
  • Try connecting to a different USB port directly on computer.

Advanced USB Troubleshooting

For advanced troubleshooting tips, you can try:

  • Boot into Windows Safe Mode and see if USB works normally. This isolates the issue from 3rd party apps.
  • Check Event Viewer for recent USB error logs. This can indicate root cause.
  • Uninstall or rollback recent Windows Updates. Some updates are buggy and affect USB drivers.
  • Try a Linux bootable USB drive to isolate OS dependent issues.
  • Reinstall Windows/macOS as last resort if you suspect software corruption.

Fixing Loose USB Ports

Loose USB ports in laptops can cause intermittent connection problems due to vibrations, movement, and gravity. Symptoms include devices working only at certain angles or disconnecting easily. Some ways to fix include:

  • Buy a USB port replacement part online and solder/replace the port if you have electronics skills.
  • Use a strong epoxy glue to reinforce loose port anchors inside the laptop case.
  • Prop up and support the laptop to avoid pressure and movement on the loose port.
  • Attach an external stationary USB hub to the laptop for a permanent stable connection.
  • Send to qualified repair technician to replace loose port if under warranty.

Replacing a Damaged USB Port

If a USB port is damaged or improperly installed, replacement may be necessary. The process depends on whether it is a desktop or laptop:

Desktop USB Port Replacement

  1. Power off desktop and disconnect cables.
  2. Open up desktop case to access motherboard.
  3. Locate the damaged USB port and remove any screws or brackets.
  4. Gently lift and rock the USB port connector to detach it from the motherboard.
  5. Align replacement USB port connector over motherboard pins.
  6. Gently press down to attach replacement port.
  7. Reinstall any brackets and screws to secure port.
  8. Close up desktop case and reconnect cables.

Laptop USB Port Replacement

  1. Power off laptop and disconnect battery.
  2. Dismantle laptop case plastics to access motherboard.
  3. Locate damaged USB port and unplug connector cable from motherboard.
  4. Remove any screws or adhesive securing USB port.
  5. Install new USB port module and secure in place with screws or adhesive.
  6. Reconnect connector cable to motherboard.
  7. Reassemble plastics and reconnect battery.
  8. Power on laptop and test new USB port.

For both desktop and laptop repairs, be very careful not to damage delicate motherboard components when doing a USB port replacement. Have an experienced technician do the USB port replacement if you are unfamiliar with computer hardware repair.


USB ports generally work seamlessly with external devices, but errors and problems can occur on occasion. By methodically troubleshooting the USB device connection, power issues, port hardware, drivers, OS config, and trying different ports/computers, you should be able to resolve most USB port errors. For damaged ports, replacement provides a more permanent fix. Specific devices like printers and cameras also have additional troubleshooting steps to try. With persistence and the right troubleshooting approach, you should be able to get your USB ports and devices working properly again in no time.