How to Fix a Broken USB Port
A broken or malfunctioning USB port can be incredibly frustrating. Whether it’s issues charging devices, connecting peripherals like mice and keyboards, or transferring files from external drives, a dead USB port stops you in your tracks. Before taking the drastic step of replacing the entire motherboard or buying a new computer, there are several troubleshooting tips you can try to revive your USB connectivity.
This article will walk you through the most common reasons for USB port failure and guide you step-by-step through the easiest DIY fixes. We’ll show you how to carefully clean lint, dust and debris from your ports, update drivers, tweak settings to enable USB ports selectively, and use USB debugging tools to test port functionality and narrow down problems. While complex motherboard-level issues will still require professional repair, many external or software-related USB problems can be resolved with basic tools and this easy tutorial.
Causes of Faulty or Broken USB ports
Here are some reasons why your USB port might not be working:
- Your device might be disabled.
- The driver could be outdated, corrupt, or not compatible.
- The USB Selective Suspend feature might be turned on.
- Your USB peripheral could be faulty.
- There could be dirt or dust in the USB port.
- The USB port itself might be damaged.
How to Fix a Faulty or Broken USB Port
If your USB ports stop working, the issue can be attributed to either hardware or software failures. Here are steps to troubleshoot and fix faulty or broken USB ports:
1. Identify the Problem
If your computer has multiple USB ports, try connecting your device to a different port. This helps determine if the problem lies with a specific port or affects all of them. Also, test with another cable to ensure the current one isn’t damaged. Consider switching devices as well. For example, if a mouse isn’t working, try connecting a keyboard or printer instead to check if the issue is with the device itself. Alternatively, try connecting the device to another computer if available.
2. Check Port Compatibility
Ensure you’re using the correct port, especially if you’re attempting to charge your laptop via a USB Type-C port. Certain manufacturers designate specific ports solely for data transfer, prohibiting power delivery. Inspect your USB ports for any labeling, such as a charger plug icon, indicating their intended use. If you’re trying to charge through a port designated for data transfer only, switching to a dedicated charging port should resolve the problem.
3. Switch USB cables
Before taking more extreme measures, swap in a brand new USB cable if you have an extra one. Cables can wear out or get damaged over time. If a new cable fixes your connectivity problem, then you know the old cable was faulty and needed to be replaced. Always good to rule out easy fixes first!
4. Clean Out Debris
Take a close look at your USB ports. Food crumbs or dirt can get stuck in there and stop your device from connecting properly. If your cable doesn’t plug all the way in, something is probably blocked. Use a flashlight to peek into the port and see if you spot any gunk. If you do, turn off your computer first. Then, carefully use a toothpick to loosen the debris so it comes out. Canned air can work too to blow out any dust bunnies. Just don’t stick the nozzle down into the port, or you might cause water damage. If your device connects only when you wiggle the cable, the port itself is likely bent. You’ll need to open up the computer case and see if you can fix it or take it somewhere to get professional help.
5. Restart and Update
Sometimes a USB port stops working properly because of a small computer error. Restarting your computer can fix these kinds of issues. On a Windows computer, click the Start menu, select the Power button, then click Restart. On a Mac, click the Apple menu and select Restart.
Updating your computer’s software can also help get a USB port working again. Software updates include improved drivers – the programs that let all your devices connect. To update Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. Click Check for updates and install any that are available. For Windows 11, go to Settings > Windows Update and click Install now.
On older Macs, go to System Preferences > Software Updates to check for updates. If you have a newer Mac with macOS Ventura, open System Settings > General and click Software Update.
6. Manage USB Controllers
Your computer uses special drivers to control the USB ports. If those drivers have problems, it can stop your USB ports from working. To manage your USB controllers, follow these steps:
- Right-click on the Start menu and select “Device Manager.”
- Scroll down to “Universal Serial Bus controllers” and expand the list.
- Look for entries containing “USB Host Controller” in their names.
- Right-click on each entry and choose “Uninstall device.” Repeat this for all relevant entries.
- After uninstalling, restart your computer. The USB Host Controllers will reinstall automatically upon reboot, potentially resolving any issues.
- On Macs, the System Management Controller (SMC) oversees many hardware functions.
- If a USB port isn’t working, resetting the SMC might help.
- The method varies based on factors like whether it’s an Apple silicon or Intel-based Mac, presence of a removable battery, or inclusion of the T2 security chip.
- Apple provides specific instructions for resetting the SMC on your particular device. You can find these instructions on Apple’s support website.
7. Disable USB Selective Suspend
Your computer tries to save battery by cutting power to USB ports when they’re not being used. This feature is called USB Selective Suspend. Sometimes it can make your USB ports stop working when you actually need them. You can turn off this setting and stop your computer from messing with your USB ports by following these steps:
- Type “Power Plan” into the Windows search bar and select “Edit Power Plan.”
- Click “Change advanced power settings.”
- Locate “USB Settings” and expand it.
- Find the “USB selective suspend setting” and disable the options next to “On battery” and “Plugged in.”
- Click “Apply” to save the changes.
- Restart your PC to prevent the USB ports from turning off unnecessarily.
8. Check for loose or broken internal connections
The issue could be a loose or broken connector inside your computer. Try plugging in a USB device and gently wiggling the cable. If it briefly connects then disconnects, there’s something physically wrong.
If the USB port moves a lot when you wiggle the cable, the port might be bent or broken off the circuit board inside your computer. Sometimes you can fix this type of damage yourself. But if it seems too complicated, it’s best to take your computer to a repair shop instead of risking further harm.
9. Try different USB ports
Most computers have several USB ports – there’s usually some in the front and back. Unplug your device and plug it into a few different ports to see if it starts working. If it doesn’t work in any port, the device itself likely has an issue and may need repair or replacement. But if it does work properly in a different port, then the original port is probably damaged in some way. You may be able to gently bend the port back into position or you might need to get the port replaced by a repair shop.
10. Test on another computer
If possible, take your USB device and plug it into another computer or laptop you have access to. If it works fine when connected to a different machine, then that confirms your original computer’s USB port is malfunctioning in some way. It will likely need repair by a professional service shop. This quick check saves you time and effort in troubleshooting. Next steps would be inspecting the port, reinstalling drivers, or replacing the physical USB port hardware itself if no other solutions get your USB device working again.
How to Fix an Unreadable USB Drive
If you can’t access your USB drive, the issue might be its drive letter. Here’s how to easily change it:
- Press the Windows key + X key combination.
- Click on “Disk Management” from the menu.
- Locate your USB drive in the Disk Management window.
- Right-click on the USB drive entry.
- Select “Change Drive Letter and Paths.”
- Click “Add.”
- From the drop-down menu, choose the desired drive letter.
- Click “OK” to save the changes.
How to Fix a USB Drive Infected With Malware
If your USB drive has malware, it can start acting weird or stop working. Even worse, it could spread viruses to your computer or other devices. Here’s how to scan and clean it:
- Open the Windows Start menu and search for “Windows Security”. Open the app.
- Click on “Virus & threat protection”.
- Select “Scan options” then click “Custom scan”.
- Click “Scan now”.
- Choose your USB drive under “Select specific folders”.
- Wait for the scan to finish.
- Remove any threats the security app finds.
You should also format the USB drive to really wipe out stubborn malware. This will delete all data but give you a fresh, clean drive. Be very careful plugging in a drive you think has viruses – malware spreads fast! Run a security scan as soon as possible.
Despite the many possible causes for a USB port failure, there are numerous ways you can likely fix your USB connectivity issues on your own without needing professional repair or computer replacement. Carefully go through the step-by-step troubleshooting tips outlined in this article to troubleshoot and fix your faulty USB port. Of course, there are still situations where you’ll need to rely on a repair shop for USB port replacements or solder work beyond the average user’s technical comfort zone. But before taking that step, work through this article’s troubleshooting checklist. In many cases, getting USB functionality restored is a matter of basic maintenance and tweaking configurations—no advanced technical skills required.