We plug lots of devices in our computers via USB. These can be cell phones, external drives, thumb drives, etc. – you name it, and it’s probably capable of usage via USB ports. Because of this, it’s also pretty common to encounter USB drive errors. There are some errors more common than others and some that seemingly only a few of us experience, but can be very annoying and disturb our workflow.
We’ve put together some troubleshooting steps you can follow for any error that will help you resolve it effectively. Because only so much can go wrong when it comes to USB devices, these steps will help you identify what needs to be done to get the device up and working again.
Common USB Annoyances
Annoyance 1: USB Device Not Recognized
Let’s begin with the most common error – “USB Device not recognized.”
This error occurs when you plug-in a device the computer can’t identify and it pops up a notification up in the notification area saying one of the connected devices is not recognized by Windows. This is by far the most common USB error. If this is happening, consider choosing one of these methods to resolve the issue.
Power Completely Off
It could be the case a complete system shutdown is necessary to expel any residual charge held in the computer components that could be the culprit. Try this method first, as it doesn’t involve anything on the software side.
First, shutdown the computer. Then unplug the power supply from the wall. I’d wait a few moments and then plug it back in and boot the system up once more.
Remove the Driver
Sometimes removing the driver and letting Windows reinstall it will fix the issue.
Go to “Start” > Right-click “Computer” > “Manage” to open “Computer Management.” Find “Device Manager” to the left and then “Universal Serial Bus controllers” to the right. Look for the entry with a yellow flag.
If ou are using Windows 8, press the Win + X shortcut to open the Admin Menu and Click on Computer Management and follow the steps outlined above.
Double-click the device and click “Uninstall” at the bottom to remove the device driver.
If this doesn’t fix the issue, try uninstalling every single instance of the “Host Controller,” “Unknown Device,” and “USB Root Hub” drivers.
Update the Driver
It may be the case the device is no longer working because the driver needs to update. This could be the case if you have a device that Windows doesn’t already have the driver for. I’ve had this be the exact case more than three times with Engineering mice like a 3Dconnexion SpacePilot, for example.
Ensure Windows is updated before moving to the second option. It’s important to have everything working as it should before going external with a 3rd party program. Find Windows Update in “Control Panel” > “System and Security.”
When Windows is updated, use IObit Driver Booster to check for other driver updates and install any if necessary. We’re of course looking for any that could describe why the USB device isn’t functioning – an audio driver won’t solve this issue, for example.
Annoyance 2: USB Mouse Shuts Down the Computer When Plugged In
This is an extremely annoying issue. What happens is you plug-in a device like a mouse or external hard drive and the system immediately reboots. What’s even more frustrating is that you can’t even use your device because if you plug it in, it renders everything useless!
If it’s your mouse causing this seemingly spontaneous shutdown, you’ll need to navigate around with your keyboard.
Try Some Alternatives
Start out with trying the mouse or other device in a different USB port. If it happens every time it’s plugged in to the back left port, for example, try one on the front panel or back right port. Test a few different ones to see if this makes a difference. If you find that the front panel works fine, there must be an issue with the back circuits. Avoid them for the time being until you can get it permanently corrected with a replacement.
If swapping out where the mouse is plugged in leaves you with nothing more than a bunch of reboots, try a new mouse. It could be that the mouse itself is damaged and needs replaced.
Boot Into Safe Mode
Rolling back or updating the driver is of no application here because the device shuts down the computer immediately. Instead, consider first booting into Safe Mode.
Open the Run dialog box with “Windows Key + R” and enter “msconfig.”
Then select the “Boot” tab at the top and click “Safe boot” at the bottom. Ensure “Minimal” is the select category of Safe boot so that we have full access to Windows for troubleshooting.
Now reboot and when Windows loads, try plugging in your mouse once more. If the mouse doesn’t cause another shutdown or reboot, open “Device Manager” from “Start” > Right-click “Computer” > “Manage.”
Uninstall all the USB drivers as explained above and then reboot again.
Annoyance 3: Audio Randomly Stops Working
You’re sitting on your PC with music playing in the background and it immediately stops. You think the video has stopped only to find that the audio is the issue – the video looks fine. What are you to do at this point? Although it’s true this could be hardware issue, to say with certainty it’s entirely unrelated to a software driver issue is wrong. Try these solutions to a sporadic audio issue in Windows.
Clean Up Registry Items
I think it’s important to clean up any hiccups the registry could be experiencing before you start anything else. Use CCleaner and/or JetClean to do this but make sure that you back up your registry before any changes are made. It’s possible some lingering entries are causing system lockups in relation to the drivers involved with audio.
Restart the Audio Service
If it’s a driver issue, the audio service may be affected. Try restarting the audio service to check for this. To do this, open an elevated command prompt by right-clicking it in the start menu and choosing to “Run as administrator.”
Then enter the following “net stop” command. When that task has completed to do the same with “net start.”
net stop audiosrv
net start audiosrv
Update the Driver
Use Driver Booster as we mentioned above to find any updates. If the program doesn’t find an update, check the manufacturers website for driver downloads and compare it with your version.
Find your driver version from the “Device Manager” (see above) from its “Properties” menu.
Look for the “Driver Version.”
Annoyance 4: USB Flash Drive Showing “Disk Not Formatted”
This error is extremely frustrating because no information is given except that it’s not formatted. I’ve seen this with USB floppy drives over and over, and most of the time I could just format the drive again and have it be usable.
Format the Drive
Open “Command Prompt” from the Start menu and type the following:
format R: /q
“R” stands for the drive that’s receiving the error and the “q” means to do so quickly.
Try a Different Computer
You may be suffering from an issue with the computer you’re using. If you try the format to no avail, then try the USB disk in another computer. If this works, the issue is likely with a malfunctioning driver. If you try it another computer and it still doesn’t work, it’s likely the drive itself has been unfortunately rendered useless by a hardware failure.
If formatting didn’t work –> Try the USB disk in another computer.
If another computer works –> Read earlier methods above on updating the driver.
If another computer doesn’t work –> The issue is likely hardware related.
Annoyance 5: Problems Ejecting USB Mass Storage Device
This error pop up in two different formats:
“Windows can’t stop your ‘Generic volume’ device because it is in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again later.”
“This device is currently is use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again.”
Most commonly, when ejecting a device you’d open the “Safely Remove Hardware and Reject Media” window from the notification menu and choose a device.
Doing so, however, could result in one of the above errors. The culprit is a file that’s open on the device, whether by your knowledge or not, and therefore needs to be exited.
Use LockHunter to Find the Open File(s)
LockHunter is an extremely helpful program for this. You can select a file or folder to terminate a process or choose a drive to see what’s running from it.
Open the program after installing it and click the browse button to the right of text area to select “Browse for a drive or a folder.”
Select the drive in question from the prompt.
We see “Notepad” to be the culprit in this case.
I recommend finding the open process and ensuring you save and exit appropriately instead of forcing it to close. However, if you can’t find the process and would like to end it abruptly, choose the process and click the “Unlock It!” button.
You’ll then be asked a confirmation stating you may lose the data if you close immediately.
If choosing “Unlock It!” doesn’t work, try the “Terminate Locking Processes” selection for the “Other” menu button.
You’ll again have to confirm the action.
You should now be able to eject the drive without issues.
There are plenty of mixed errors you may be getting when it comes to USB devices and drivers. Common solutions include driver issues that require updating or removing and other software issues like locked programs and files. If you follow the above steps, you should be able to resolve a wide array of USB device errors.