Why does my USB port now only work with one device?
May 26, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe

My USB port works with my printer, but has stopped working for all other devices.

I have a Sony VAIO running Windows XP. I have two USB ports in the front and two in the rear. I used to plug in all sorts of devices in the front, including my printer (which is unplugged the rest of the time). The printer cable works in either front port, but the following devices are no longer recognized:

Three different thumb drives

iPod cable

iPhone cable

All of these worked before, and all work in the rear ports, so it isn't the devices or cables themselves. Something has happened to the front ports.

I've looked at similar AskMeFi threads, various tech message boards, and Microsoft support, and tried all the Device Manager fixes they suggest, but nothing works. So here I am.

I guess the question boils down to whether this is a software problem or a hardware problem. The former I could probably fix myself (with instructions) while the latter would probably mean taking the computer in.

Any ideas?
posted by Flying Saucer to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
The difference between the printer and all the other devices may be that the printer doesn't draw any power from the computer, and the other USB devices do -- I had a laptop that quit being able to power anything you plugged into the USB ports, but still worked with things like printers and scanners that had external power. I never was able to get it resolved, but it would seem to point to a hardware problem.
posted by Jeanne at 1:48 PM on May 26, 2010

Well.. the devices you list (thumb drives, ipod cables, iphone,etc) are all devices that require USB Power,.... while the printer is a powered device (it only uses USB for data transfer). So my wild-guess theory is that your front USB ports are (for some unknown reason) no longer providing power.

The internal connection/cable sounds like its plugged in OK (if it wasn't - the printer wouldnt work)... so my guess is something flaky with your motherboard. First thing I would do is some Google searching on your specific VAIO model and see if you can find anyone else describing the same problem.
posted by jmnugent at 1:55 PM on May 26, 2010

By chance have you simply tried cleaning the front USB ports ? (maybe with a Q-Tip or compressed air ?)... I have a friend with a VAIO and the front panel seems notorious magnet for cat hair and dust. ;P
posted by jmnugent at 1:57 PM on May 26, 2010

I'll third the power issue, I've had this problem on a couple of Dells. You can test it by connecting a powered USB hub. Everything should work fine off the hub if this is your problem.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:10 PM on May 26, 2010

Go with the power issue. You can also change the power settings in Device Manager to "not allow the computer to turn off" for those USB ports. This along with the standard power saving settings for a laptop.
posted by lampshade at 5:48 PM on May 26, 2010

flash the BIOS?
posted by k8t at 6:46 AM on May 27, 2010

Response by poster: Tried cleaning the ports with cotton swabs, alcohol, and compressed air. No luck.

I also unchecked the "allow computer to turn off these devices" power management box. No effect.

If it matters, the computer is a desktop.

k8t, I'll look up flashing the BIOS to see if I can do it.

I'll also consider just opening the CPU and seeing if the ports are connected to the motherboard.

Thanks for the help so far.
posted by Flying Saucer at 10:33 AM on May 27, 2010

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