usb drive in ethernet = damage?
July 12, 2006 11:28 PM   Subscribe

So, I accidentally stuck my usb pen drive into my ethernet socket. Now it doesn't seem to be working, is it likely that the USB drive has damaged it?
posted by MrC to Technology (11 answers total)
Probably bent the wires on the Ethernet socket. Take a look with a flashlight, you should be able to see several wires slanting inside the socket. (Not all pins are used in all types of Ethernet, so some might be missing, so admittedly it might be tough to tell which if any are broken, but bent should be obvious.)

It's possible that the metal jacket for the USB plug shorted the Ethernet port but I think physical damage is more likely.

If this is a desktop machine, I'd suggest just picking up a cheap Ethernet PCI card and forget about it. Otherwise the computer may need to see a technician.
posted by kindall at 12:10 AM on July 13, 2006

Since the two things are basically different sizes, yeah, probably. How the hell did you manage it?
posted by Orange Goblin at 12:34 AM on July 13, 2006

A second on bent/misplaced pins. They're in little slot things along one side of the socket and my guess is that one has been pushed over to the neighbouring slot or bent down. You challenge: bend it back without breaking it off.

Pins 1, 2, 3 and 6 are the ones in use as I recall, though it's a bit hard to illustrate which end to count from. There should be at least 4 pins present and unbent, anyway.

If it's gigabit then all 8 pins matter.

Sticking metal things in there and shorting the pins shouldn't matter at all.
posted by polyglot at 1:45 AM on July 13, 2006

Sticking metal things in there and shorting the pins shouldn't matter at all.

Ethernet ports are remarkably resistant to abuse, but that's just wrong. A USB connector has the potential to short all of them at once, and if it was left in there for any length of time it could have very easily blown the driver chip.

Luckily it's cheap and easy to replace. Ethernet cards are about 5$ for a desktop machine, and about 25$ for a laptop.
posted by fake at 3:45 AM on July 13, 2006

Luckily it's cheap and easy to replace.

Hopefully Mr. C has a modular setup where just the card can be replaced, as you suggest, but unfortunately today's integrated motherboards are not cheap to replace or repair.
posted by randomstriker at 4:33 AM on July 13, 2006

Response by poster: It's a laptop, thinkpad x24, which doesn't look very replaceable, at least not cheaply, although I can always get a PCIMIA? card. The USB and ethernet are next to each other on the back of the computer and I tried to stick the pen drive in without looking....
posted by MrC at 4:38 AM on July 13, 2006

I did the same to my old laptop - multiple times.
The ethernet port still works.
posted by bloo at 4:42 AM on July 13, 2006

Shorting all the pins still shouldn't matter since the connector is magnetically decoupled from the silicon with a wideband transformer. The impedance presented to the driver chip will fall a bit but the ethernet spec says you can short things in the long term and/or apply up to 2kV to any ethernet pins and the device should not suffer damage nor endanger its user.

Physical mangulation of pins, otoh... Have you tried shining a torch in there to see them?

PS: are you sure the ethernet is dud and you don't have some other network problem? Specifically, do you get a link light when you plug the cable in? and... Do you know that the cable is entirely undamaged?

If you get a link light, the port is almost certainly fine. If not, try a different cable or try the cable on another machine. As you say, worst-case, a PCMCIA card will solve the problem as long as you don't need the slot for something else.
posted by polyglot at 5:04 AM on July 13, 2006

I, too, have accidentally slid a USB wifi dongle into my wired Ethernet connector (both jacks are all the way back on the left side of my Compaq Evo), more than once, and it doesn't seem to have done any damage to either interface.

Coincidence is a killer; investigate other possible reasons why the Ethernet might be inop.
posted by baylink at 10:01 AM on July 13, 2006

They're hardly different sizes; width-wise, they're practically identical. I've done the same thing on my Dell laptop a few times, with no ill effect (but I've possibly been lucky).
posted by lhauser at 11:01 AM on July 13, 2006

Thinkpad...yeah, you can get a ethernet card. They aren't expensive. Depending on your OS, you might have to do a little reconfiguring, but Thinkpads don't freak out at multiple ports.
posted by QIbHom at 12:36 PM on July 13, 2006

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