USB ports stopped working - wtf?
January 21, 2008 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I have a Dell laptop running XP (sp2) with two USB 2.0 ports that until yesterday were working fine. I made no system changes, but now the top one doesn't recognize anything and the bottom only works at USB1 speeds. Is this a hardware issue?

This problem occurs among five or so different USB devices that I've tried, all of which work fine on other computers. The top port gives a "One of the USB devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned, and Windows does not recognize it." message whenever anything is attached - flash drive, iPod, printer, etc. The bottom port gives a "This device could perform faster" message and the devices will function only at USB1 speeds. The only thing I have that works properly in both ports is a PS2->USB converter hooked up to an old mouse. That works.

I've tried removing all of the USB entries under Device Manager and letting the system re-detect them. No help. I also tried updating the drivers through device manager and applying every relevant driver/utility update I could find on Dell's site, including flashing the BIOS. No help.

I booted into an Ubuntu live CD I had lying around and nothing seems to work there except the PS2->USB mouse, and then only in the lower port that gives USB1 speeds in Windows.

Am I screwed? Have I ruled out software issues? Next steps? Am I going to have to carry around a stupid USB PCMCIA card for the rest of my life?
posted by tirade to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a Dell desktop that just had the same thing happen. Did the same things you list, and it didn't help me either. The only way I could fix it was to put in a USB 2.0 card. What that means for your laptop, I'm not sure, but when i dropped in the USB card all the problems went away. Something like this, maybe?
posted by pdb at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2008

Same problem, two different OSes? Yeah, it definitely sounds like hardware.
Standard laptop checklist applies:
  • Double-check the HW warranty to make sure you're not covered - Go to Dell's site, like, RIGHT now.
  • Find the take-apart manual(Dell's website, or elsewhere).
    • If the USB hardware is on a subboard, get Dell's Part number and see if you can get one from Dell, or off of eBay.
    • If the USB is on the mainboard, see if you'd be comfortable doing a screen swap, and buying a broken-screen model off eBay.
  • If you can afford it, find a similar laptop on eBay, buy it and sell yours for parts.
  • If you don't qualify for the above, yeah. It's USB card time. I tried looking around for a USB PCMCIA card that was case flush, but didn't have any luck. Xircom made PCCard plugins like this, but is out of business.

posted by Orb2069 at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2008

You're saying that by adding the new card the old ports started working? Carrying around a separate USB card that sticks out the side is exactly what I'm worried about having to do - since this laptop is supposed to have two working 2.0 ports already.
posted by tirade at 12:56 PM on January 21, 2008

Tirade: No, I'm saying that I don't use the old ports since I added the new ones. My setup's different than yours because it's a desktop, so I know it's probably not much help...
posted by pdb at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2008

Thanks guys.
posted by tirade at 5:16 PM on January 24, 2008

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