Why do I get a power surge error no matter what USB device I plug in?
February 17, 2008 5:33 PM   Subscribe

I have a Windows box (~1yr old) that spontaneously developed an eldritch USB failure mode: The first device I plug in works indefinitely, despite Windows' complaint of "power surge on hub port," but no additional devices I plug in respond at all, and if I remove and replace the first device, it no longer works. This condition can be reset by unplugging and replugging the motherboard front USB header.

This problem developed spontaneously: the motherboard has been fully functional for a couple of months.

I have three test devices: A flash drive, a card reader, and my iPod. It doesn't matter which is the first test device; a power surge is always reported. The motherboard, an abit AB9 Pro, has three front USB headers; the problem persists no matter which is used. Tests with a multimeter and an A-to-B USB cable indicate that the right voltages are being provided by the power supply and that there are no shorts. Again, just unplugging and re-plugging the front USB header on the motherboard resets the condition, giving me one functional device-plugging-in event.

I fired up a Ubuntu disc to diagnose, but it wouldn't start: Pages upon pages of USB-hub-related errors I am working on deciphering. This is making me lean towards the idea of motherboard failure.

But before I haul off and buy a whole new motherboard, tell me, MeFi, have you ever seen a problem like this? Alternatively, any suggestions for ways I could try to diagnose this problem more specifically?
posted by DoubleMark to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try using a powered USB hub. It should draw no power at all from your computer, and should supply the external devices.

If that generates errors, too, I think you're SOL. If not, it's a cheap and easy solution to your problem.
posted by Class Goat at 6:11 PM on February 17, 2008

Why not spend 8 dollars on a PCI USB card and use those slots? If it works then you know its the usb chipset on-board the MB thats bad, if it doesnt then its something else and you should replace the mb. In the former scenario you can just keep the usb card and call it day.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:25 PM on February 17, 2008

Try using a powered USB hub. It should draw no power at all from your computer, and should supply the external devices.

Yeah, this is a good idea. One of your devices might have blown the power circuitry either on the USB port or in itself.
posted by spiderskull at 11:19 PM on February 17, 2008

I second the add-on USB card idea. That's my standard answer for all PC USB weirdness, which is very common in these days of $2 USB gizmoes. Anything that doesn't work with your motherboard USB controller is likely to work with the add-on card, and vice versa.

(And if the mobo USB controller is dead, you've probably got another spare expansion slot for a second add-on controller of a different brand. :-)
posted by dansdata at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2008

One PCI USB card later and life is good. I guess the motherboard USB controller is deeply borked, but problem solved. Thanks!
posted by DoubleMark at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2008

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