We’ve all plugged in a USB device into our computer and received this message…
“USB Device not recognized: One of the devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned and Windows does not recognize it.” in Windows Vista or Windows 7.
What do you do to fix this issue? The answer depends on the cause of the problem.
Sometimes, unplugging the device, and plugging it back in works.
But what if it isn’t that simple?
Then the problem becomes a bit more complicated. But first, let’s discuss the issue in a bit more detail.
The following data comes from Microsoft Knowledge Base Article KB2654149. This article contains information on what this error means, and contains additional troubleshooting steps that we cover in this article.
Basically, when Windows displays this message it’s telling you that there’s something wrong with identifying the type of hardware you have on your device. There are a few possible reasons why Windows might be having problems identifying your USB device, the most common being hardware or software issues.
Let’s take a look at the issues more specifically.
Common Causes of “USB Device Not Recognized” Error
These are the most common reasons why you might see a pop-up USB error.
- Device in Selective Suspend Mode
- Corrupted USB or System Device Drivers
- Outdated Windows Files
- Outdated Motherboard or Chipset Drivers
- Unstable or Corrupt USB Controllers
- Hardware Malfunction
Let’s take a look at what these problems are and how to fix them.
How to Fix “USB Device Not Recognized” Error
Basic Troubleshooting for USB Error
The steps for fixing this error depends on the cause of the problem. First, we will try some basic troubleshooting steps.
Check USB Ports
The first step you will want to take is to ensure that your USB ports are all in working order.
To do this, try plugging your device into a different USB port. If the device works, and does not display the error message, then you can bet that the port itself is having issues.
If that fails, try plugging in another USB device. If the message no longer displays, something is wrong with either the device, or its drivers.
You might want to try one or more of the advanced troubleshooting steps listed below to rule out driver corruption issues.
Problem: Selective Suspend Mode and Parking the Drive
Your external hard drive may be entering selective suspend mode, you may have disconnected the USB cord without parking the drive first, or there may be issues with the partition, or the drive itself.
If the non-working device is an external hard drive, it may be entering what’s called Selective Suspend Mode.
Selective suspend mode is when the hard drive selectively enters an idle state. This causes the drive to go into suspend mode, which makes them use less power.
Attempts to access the drive may also fail, since Windows doesn’t wait for the device to respond again when it enters a suspended state. This will cause Windows to display this message, because it thinks the drive isn’t working properly when it’s actually in suspend mode.
I have also personally seen this message appear when an external hard drive has been plugged in before and then suddenly unplugged without parking it and plugged back in later, when the partition has become corrupted and needs to be reformatted, or when the hard drive is bad, or is about to go bad.
Solution: Turning Off Selective Suspend Mode
If the non-working device is a hard drive, see if it shows in Windows Explorer. Sometimes you can still see the drive in Windows Explorer, and when you try to access the drive in Windows explorer, it causes the system to “wake” the hard drive, pulling it out of its suspended state.
The Selective Suspend feature suspends the USB device to efficiently maintain battery power by enabling the computer to turn off the USB device. However, sometimes this feature may not correctly wake up the USB device. Therefore, the USB device is unresponsive when you try to use it.
How to turn off Selective Suspend Mode
As a precaution to prevent the hard drive from entering a suspend state prematurely, you might also want to turn off Selective Suspend Mode in the power plan settings by following these steps:
1. Bring up the Start Menu, type “power plan” in the search box, and select “Choose a power plan.”
2. In the window that appears, click Plan Settings.
3. Select the Advanced Power Settings option.
4. Click on the plus sign next to “USB Settings”,
5. Then you’ll select “USB Selective Suspend Settings.”
6. Select the “Plugged in” option, click on the drop down menu, and select Disabled.
7. If you’re on a notebook computer, click the Battery option, click on the drop down menu, and select the Disabled option.
8. Click on Apply, and then OK.
Problem: Corrupted USB or System Device Drivers
This is the most common cause of this error.
The driver (either on the motherboard’s end, or on the device’s end) has become corrupted.
Data corruption occurs naturally over time during reading, writing, storing, transmitting, or processing operations. The result is that Windows can no longer reliably read from the file and Windows will throw up the error message described above.
Solution: Fixing your Corrupted USB Device Driver
How to fix a corrupted USB device driver
The first goal is to try reinstalling the existing drivers for the non-working USB device.
1. Go into the Start menu, click Control Panel
2. Next open the “System” option by finding it in the list that appears
If the System option doesn’t appear, it’s likely because your control panel is in Category view. You will need to switch it to Large Icon view by clicking on the drop-down menu in the upper right of the window, and selecting the “Large Icons” option from the list that appears.
3. Click on the System option once.
4. Then select the “Device Manager” option in the window that appears. It will be on the left of the window.
You will now get a list of all the installed devices. More than likely, you will see your USB device listed with a yellow exclamation mark. This means that there’s something wrong with the device.
However, we can try to reinstall the device.
1. Right click on the device
2. Choose the Uninstall option.
3. It may be necessary to restart the computer to complete the driver uninstall. If a message pops up saying you need to restart your computer, then do it.
4. Leave your device plugged into the USB port and Windows should automatically detect it and try to install it once it reboots.
If it doesn’t, try unplugging the device and plugging it back in to try to “force” Windows to detect it, and attempt to install the drivers.
If that fails, your best chance is to download a fresh copy of the driver from the manufacturer’s website.
Download New Copy of Driver
1. Consult the manual that came with your device. Nowadays, it will either be kept on the driver CD, or if the non-working device is an external hard drive, it might be kept on the drive itself.
If you don’t know the manufacturer of your device, check somewhere on the device itself. It should have the logo of a company (like Western Digital, Maxtor, Fujitsu, Samsung, and so on.)
2. Once you find the manufacturer of your device, look them up on Google. (Type in ” device drivers” without the quotes, replacing “” with the company name that made your device.
3. Go to their support site, and there should be either a search box where you can put the model number for your device (usually printed on a sticker located on the underside of your device), or an option to auto detect your device, and download the proper drivers for you.
4. Install the drivers once they’ve been downloaded, and reboot the system if told to do so.
You can use these same steps to reinstall the drivers for the USB controller while you’re at it – except instead of selecting your USB device in the Device Manager, select your USB controller instead. Or if your USB controller is built into the motherboard, your motherboard drivers will include drivers for your on board USB controller as well. If your device still does not work, proceed to step 2.
Problem: Outdated Windows Files
Though this a less common causes, outdated Windows files can sometimes cause conflicts with USB devices. As a result, you will either see the error in question, or your computer will simply show what’s known as a “blue screen of death.”
The blue screen of death occurs when Windows has encountered an error from which it cannot recover. As a defense mechanism to prevent possible data loss, Windows will immediately shut itself down and display a bunch of text on a blue screen.
By default, you will probably see this blue screen flash for a split second and then your computer will immediately reboot to the POST screen. (This is the screen that appears when you first power your system.)
However, Windows can be set to remain at the blue screen. This function is more for power users though, and if you’re not an experienced computer user, you will be better off allowing Windows to reboot your system automatically.
Solution: Updating Your Copy of Windows
This is actually a very straightforward process, thanks to the software provided by Microsoft. Usually, Windows will be set to download drivers automatically, but that option can be switched off.
How to update your copy of Windows
To access Windows Update…
1. Click the Start menu
2. Choose the Control Panel option
3. Choose “Windows Update” from the window that appears.
Again, if the option doesn’t appear, click on the drop-down menu in the upper right, and select Large Icons” from the list that appears. Windows Update should be the among the last few options inside the control panel window. As you can see mine wasn’t and I had to make it full screen to find. 🙂
Make sure your system is set to automatically install updates.
If your system is not set to automatically install updates, Windows will inform you that you don’t have automatic updates turned on, and it will give you a button to click on to turn on automatic updating.
Windows should now automatically download and install any updates it needs.
When prompted to do so, restart the computer so that Windows can finish updating itself. If automatic updating is turned on, you likely have all the needed updates, but it’s always good to have Windows Update search for important updates.
Install all important updates it finds, and reboot your system, then unplug your device, wait 5 seconds, and plug it back in.
Note: It might take some time for Windows to finish installing and configuring the updates it downloaded, particularly if there are a large number of updates, or individual updates that are very large in size. Also, you will sometimes get situations where Windows Update will look like it’s doing nothing at all. DO NOT interrupt the process, even if this happens! It might be downloading large files. If you still get the error message, proceed to step 3.
Problem: Outdated Motherboard Drivers
Sometimes the drivers on the CD that came with your motherboard lack the needed information to support newer USB devices. This is often the case with USB 3.0
Solution: Install the Latest Chipset Drivers
This problem is caused by outdated chipset drivers. To find the latest chipset drivers, consult the manual that came with your motherboard. It will have information you can use to find the website where you can find and download the correct drivers.
Problem: Unstable or Corrupt USB Controllers
Like all drivers, sometimes the drivers for the USB controller itself can become corrupted, or the ports can stop working.
Solution: Try reinstalling your USB controllers
How to reinstall your USB controllers
1. Open Control Panel by clicking on the Start button, and clicking on Control Panel
2. Select the System and Security option,
3. Now select the Device Manager option.
4. Next, go down to where it says USB Controllers, and uninstall all devices under USB Controllers by right clicking on them, and choosing the Uninstall option.
5. Now reboot your computer and Windows should reinstall your USB controllers once it finishes rebooting.
6. Unplug your device, and plug it in again to refresh it in the system, and see if the error message displays.
Problem: Hardware Malfunction
Very often with external hard drives, on-board USB controllers, and even individual USB ports, Windows will display this message when your USB hardware has either become bad, or is about to go bad. Windows will display the error message to let you know there is a problem that needs fixed in order for Windows to install the device.
If you have tried all the above troubleshooting steps, and other devices work well in the same USB port, there might be a hardware malfunction.
Replace the device.
If you find the problem is the USB port, use another USB port, or replace the USB controller if you can no longer use one of your devices because you don’t have enough USB ports.
If the USB controller is built into your motherboard, you will need to either buy a separate USB controller (which is often the less expensive option), or replace the motherboard.
You’ve fixed your “USB Device Note Recognized” error!
We’ve looked at the several different causes of the USB error and how to fix them including corrupted usb or system device drivers, your device entering in selective suspend mode or not parking the drive correctly, outdated Windows files, outdated motherboard drivers and finally hardware failure. If you followed all the advice above you should have rid yourself of that annoying error.
If this tutorial helped you fix your problem then why not share it with your friends and family and help them out!