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Troubleshooting USB Issues in Windows 7

written by: •edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 2/16/2011

Problems with USB devices can easily be traced and resolved in Windows 7 - usually by changing habits and learning how to safely remove devices.

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    Resolving Windows 7 USB Problems

    Virtually all peripheral devices we use with our PC's feature the USB connector – your mouse, keyboard, external disk drive and printer are probably all USB, and the connector type isn’t likely to be going anywhere soon as a new USB 3.0 standard has been developed.

    From time to time problems will arise using USB devices. These may be related to the USB device itself, the computer’s USB ports and drivers or the problems might originate elsewhere; they might even be due to incorrect removal of such a device.

    There are several ways in which we can identify and resolve USB problems using Windows 7.

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    Safe Removal is Required

    One of the main causes of problems with USB devices on Windows 7 (and indeed any Windows version) is the habit many of us have of just removing the USB cable without any thought.

    Solving USB Problems Using Win7 By way of comparison, removing a PS/2 keyboard cable (the standard cable before USB) while the computer is powered on would result in the operating system freezing.

    While USB has largely gotten around this problem and it is possible to remove a USB cable without any special steps, removing a USB Flash memory device without first instructing the operating system of the imminent removal can lead to problems both with the USB service running on the computer and with the flash memory.

    This simple instruction is performed by means of a command from the desktop – when you are ready to remove your USB Flash memory, find the Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media button in the system tray (the area next to the desktop clock) and right-click. Then select Eject [DEVICENAME] to prepare the device for removal.

    Using this method will avoid the majority of problems that can be experienced with USB Flash devices, such as file corruption and issues with reading the devices.

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    Fix USB Problems Using Windows 7 Drivers

    The majority of other USB problems that you might face in Windows 7 are more than likely driver-based.

    There are two types of drivers concerning USB – the drivers for the device and the drivers for the USB bus in your PC or laptop. When troubleshooting problems concerning USB drivers we usually start with the drivers that shipped with the device, which will mean imagining that you have never used it before and are connecting it for the first time. As such you should follow all instructions supplied with the hardware.

    Windows 7 features a large number of drivers on-board, as well as having access to Windows Update to download any additional drivers that might be required. As such finding the right driver shouldn’t be a problem, although note that the chosen device driver may not be as stable under Windows 7 as it was on a previous operating system; similarly the device driver will not prevent any hardware issues with the device causing Windows to crash.

    With a new device driver installed, the majority of problems should be resolved. If not, however, you can reinstall the USB controllers, via Start > right-click Computer > Properties > Device Manager > Universal Serial Bus Controllers. Start with the USB Root Hub devices and reinstall the drivers by right-clicking and selecting Uninstall; once this is done, go to Action > Scan for hardware changes… to begin reinstallation.

    One last thought – if new drivers don’t resolve the problems you’re facing, try the same device on a different computer; the problem might relate not to the hardware but to your USB cable. If you suspect this, find a good quality replacement cable.

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    Source: Author experience

    Image: Photo taken by author