Are you wondering, ‘Why do my USB Ports Randomly Stop Working?’ It can be frustrating when your USB ports stop working. If you are in need of plugging in a printer, USB flash drive, USB headphones, or trying to get files on or off of your MP3 player or smartphone, you expect your USB ports to work when you plug them in. This, however, is not always the case.

Most of the time, when a USB port is not working, it’s because it’s dirty or something is inside it. More rarely, a connection is physically broken and the USB port needs to be repaired. Sometimes, its not even a problem with the USB port, but rather with the device connected to it. 

One of the main selling points of USB when it was introduced was the simplcitiy of adding and removing devices on your PC. Before USB, it was very difficult to add and remove any PC peripheral. USB changed that. The U in USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. USB was designed to let devices be connected and disconnected at any time, without any sort of hassle,.

So, if your USB ports are not responding in the way that they should, then there are few tests you can perform to diagnose the port.

As with other computer issues, when one or more of your USB ports stop working, it’s either a hardware or software problem.

If it’s a software problem, then all you have to do is change some settings or, worst case, reinstall one or more pieces of software. When all you are dealing with is a software issue, then that means that if you repair the right files, the issue will often be resolved.

Why do my USB Ports Randomly Stop Working?

Why do my USB Ports Randomly Stop Working

If it’s a hardware issue, however, then it will be essential to know a little bit about power electronics to be able to troubleshoot a USB connection. Also, the ability to solder my be required at some point, depending on how bad the hardware damage is.

Solution 1: Restart your PC

This is the most simple solution and most often, the most effective. Restarting your PC is able to resolve problems that one may be having with USB ports most of the time.

There are many USB devices in a computer system, everything from controllers, hubs, ports, devices, etc. If select USB devices in that chain have some sort of glitch or issue, the entire USB bus can shut down to prevent damage.

Pretty much any time that the issue is just a one-off glitch, then restarting your PC will be helpful. If, however, there is something that is failing that requires you to constantly restart your PC, that is a different issue entirely and is starting to look like a hardware problem.

There could have been a short or some sort of anomaly that put one or more of your USB ports into failsafe mode. So, try to restart your PC to resolve the issue.

If you are, unfortunately, one of the unlucky ones, and restarting your PC has no effect on resolving your problem, then you are going to want to continue reading this article. There are a lot more complicated fixes that can be found below.

Solution 2: Check The USB Port for Debris

Make sure to check for things like dust, dirt, and any other debris that may be lodged in the USB port.

It’s good to remember that when there is not a device plugged, USB ports are pretty much wide open. There is no built-in dust cover. Because of this, it’s generally pretty easy for things like dust or even food crumbs to get stuck inside.

So, if you see anything stuck down in your USB port, make sure to shut your computer down right away. Then, use a q-tip soaked in a light amount of rubbing alcohol that is as close to 100% as you can find to remove any obstructions you may see.

Honestly, even if you cannot see anything stuck down in there, there could be enough dust and grime on the pins to cause the port to not function.

There are even some cases in which you are going to need compressed air to clear the USB port. Most of the time you can just buy one of those cans of air. Those generally have the pressure to do the trick.

There are times, however, when more air is needed. If that is the case, then you will have to use an air-compressor.

Solution 3: Check For Broken Connections

Make sure to check for loose or broken connections. One way to test for a loose physical connection is to gently wiggle a cable or device that is plugged into the suspect USB port. If it briefly connects and disconnects, then that means that there is definitely a physical problem with either the cable or the USB port.

So, perform the same test with the same device plugged into a different port. If it does the same thing, then you know the device has the problem. If it works fine on a different port, however, then you know the first USB port has a hardware issue.

It’s important to check all of your USB ports for this kind of failure.

Solution 4: Try a Different Cable

Try a different USB cable. USB cables fail much more commonly than USB ports do. So, make sure to swap out different cables. Most people have several handy. Then, if your device suddenly starts working, you know the issue is a bad cable.

Solution 5: Try a Different PC

Try plugging your device into a totally different computer. If you don’t have access to another computer or laptop, then you can always try plugging your USB device into it. This is a convenient way to rule out a problem with the device itself.

Solution 6: Try a Different USB Device

Try inserting a different USB device into the suspect port. Most people have a spare flash drive laying around, but any other USB device would do.

If your other device works, then you can safely say that your ports are working. So, in this case, you’ll need to repair or replace the failed device.

Solution 7: Check Device Manager

If you are using Windows, then check the device manager. There are a few things you can do in the device manager to try and get your USB ports working again.

You can scan for hardware changes by right-clicking the name of your computer. Then, clicking ‘scan for hardware changes.’ After the scan completes, check to see if your USB port is working again.

Another thing you can try to do is disable and re-enable your USB controller. 

Step 1: Open the device manager

Step 2: Click the arrow located next to the small USB symbol

Step 3: Right-click on the first USB controller in the list

Step 4: Select Uninstall device

Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each USB controller you find

After that, reboot your PC. Once Windows comes back up it will automatically reinstall the USB controllers. After that, check to see if your device works.

8: If you are on a Macintosh computer, then you should try to reset the SMC (System Management Controller).

FYI: If you are using a Mac that has a T2 Security Chip, then these instructions do not apply.

This is how you reset the System Management Controller on a Mac:

Step 1: Shut down the computer

Step 2: Plug in the power adapter

Step 3: Press the power button while holding Shift + Control + Option

Step 4: Then, Hold all four keys down for at least 10 second

Step 5: Release all of the keys and the power button at the same time

Step 6: Check to see if the USB device

Resetting the SMC for the iMac, Mac Pro and Mac Mini is somewhat of a different process. This is how you do it: 

Step 1: Shut down the computer

Step 2: Unplug the power adapter

Step 3: Press and hold the power button for at least five seconds

Step 4: Release the power button

Step 5: Reconnect the power adapter and then turn on the computer

Step 6: Then check to see if your USB device is working again

9: Update Your System

Although less likely, there is a chance that updating your operating system could resolve the issue you are having with your USB ports. This process is drastically different depending on whether you’re running MacOS or Windows.If you are running MacOS Mojave or later, this is how you check for an operating system update:

Step 1: Click the Apple icon at the top left

Step 2: Choose System Preferences

Step 3: Click Software Update

Step 4: If available, click ‘Update No

If you are using macOS High Sierra and earlier, then here is how you check for an operating system update:

Step 1: Open the app store

Step 2: Click Updates on the toolbar

Step 3: If an update is available, click on ‘Update’

Then, of course, you are going to want to restart your computer and then check and see if your USB device works again.

Conclusion

With USB becoming recently ingrained in our every day lives, you expect all of your USB ports to work. If your USB ports stop working, it can be a real pain.

We hope that you were fortunate enough to be one of the many users that just have dirty USB ports. Equally as fortunate, it could have simply taken restarting your PC to regain your lost USB port functionality.

Hopefully it was not a hardware issue. And if it is, hopefully it was on a USB header connection and not directly on the motherboard. Broken USB ports can be difficult to re-solder to the motherboard.