Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

I'll run through options to fix your USB port if your computer crashes on inserting any USB device. It can be software, but it's probably hardware.

My desktop computer always restarts when I connect any USB media - Pendrive, External ROM and External Hard drive. Can you tell me the cause of my PC restarting?

Nope.

I'm not trying to be annoying about it, it's just that from the description you've given it could be one of any of hundreds of different reasons.

The best I can offer is to walk through some of the most common causes to help you further diagnose - and perhaps repair - the problem.

I would start by making sure that Windows is as up to date as possible. In this case, Automatic Updates may not be enough. Instead, visit the Windows Update web site.

"... if all of the above fails to resolve the issue, it really does point to a hardware issue."

Windows Update will often include many "optional" updates that automatic updates may not. (Automatic updates focuses on "Critical" or "Important" updates. We want to see the optional ones as well.)

It's possible that there may be additional optional updates relating to USB devices, your computer's motherboard, or its USB interfaces. I typically consider taking all the optional updates, but at a minimum take any that appear to apply to those devices.

If that doesn't resolve the issue, then I'd take the next step and visit the computer manufacturer's support site to see if they have updated drivers. It's not uncommon for the manufacturer's site to have more recent updates. Once again, look for updates relating to your computer's USB interfaces, as well as the motherboard in general.

Failing all that, it's possible that reinstalling Windows from scratch might help, but I'd not be particularly hopeful. I'll throw it out as an idea, but it's not one that I'd rush to try just because it's a fair amount of work.

Time to look at hardware.

Naturally, I'd try every USB port on your machine. If it's just one port, or one set of ports, that points to a potential hardware issue with those ports. Personally, if I found even just one port that worked reliably, I'd get myself a USB hub, connect it to that port, and stop trying to use the ports that had a problem.

You indicated that any device causes a problem, so I'll assume you've tried several, as well as alternate cables.

If you're one to open up your computer, I'd double check the cabling inside for the USB port - making sure that it's oriented and seated properly into its motherboard connector.

I'd make sure that the machine was properly grounded. Static electricity - particularly on some machines and particularly if not properly grounded - can cause a spontaneous reboot, and inserting a USB device could be the source of some static. (Try touching the machine with your other hand first before inserting the USB device.)

Finally, if all of the above fails to resolve the issue, it really does point to a hardware issue. In fact, I'd go so far as to say a hardware issue on your computer's motherboard.

In most cases that means it's time to find a technician to further diagnose and repair the machine.

Article C4320 - May 21, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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12 Comments
Bob
May 25, 2010 12:25 AM

I had a similar issue some time ago.
I tried to connect my new mobile phone using the software provided with it, and it somehow messed up the 'plug-and-play' component of windows, so that nothing using that technology worked.
After a couple of hours tearing my hair out, I used a System Restore point from before I installed the software, and everything worked again.
From then on, I just used my phone in 'memory stick' mode :/

Angelo
May 25, 2010 8:35 AM

I had a similar problem. But, not all USB items would crash the system. It turned out to be a dust-clogged heatsink. Apparently, the USB item put enough strain on the processor to heat it up to the point that the computer would freeze. After I cleaned the computer out, all USB items work fine.

Skipper
May 25, 2010 8:54 AM

This is a problem that exists with Windows Millenium that I have run into many times when upgrading from 98 to Me. Windows Me supports usb flash drives, but will get an exception in this instance. I have not found any solutions to the problem on the internet.

Mx
May 25, 2010 10:23 AM

I have 4 ports - one regularly crashes my machine so its a hardware fault. Leo suggests USB hub but all do not seem to work well - problem with PC camera via hub for example. How does one choose a fully compatible hub?

ChrisZ
May 25, 2010 10:23 AM

You did not say what PC you had, configuration, power supply size, updated video cards, etc.

It may be that the power supply is too small for the current system, something especially true on Dells), and is running near max. If the USB port settings are set to shut down to save energy (device mgr>Unversal Serial Bus Controllers>USB Root Hub>properties>power mgt), the minor surge from them turning on when a device is plugged in could cause the issue.

JH
May 25, 2010 10:26 AM

@ChrisZ: If the PSU was really running that close to full capacity, surely the simple act of powering on the machine, thereby powering up everything, would cause it to shut down? Also, many Dells, especially the older ones, quoted the median instead of the maximum power available (or something like that) so they often look underpowered, whilst in reality being as powerful as a more highly rated unit.

James Hillier
May 25, 2010 12:39 PM

Had the same problem very recently....definitely not a software issue.

In my case, I am almost certain the problem is being caused by corrosion (we live quite near the beach).

Corrosion or dust (or a combination of both) would be the most likely suspects (IMO).

D Raymond
May 25, 2010 8:31 PM

You point about static was true for me in the winter when our house is dry. I got in the habit of touching the computer case with the USB device in hand before I plugged it in and never had a problem after that.

Alex Dow
May 26, 2010 3:35 AM

Regarding grounding one-self and the USB Device to the PC, remember to use a metallic part of the PC!!

Many years back, we had similar problems in degree, due in part to the nylon carpet tiling of the office; and particularly with one girl, who declared that she always wore nylon underclothing.

The cure for the carpeting was to dampen it frequently, as was also recommended by the manufacturer for the different reason that if it dried out, the nylon tufts would break readily.

Incidentally, touching a metallic part of a PC or any other electronic device, is much more satisfactory than using a grounding strap.

A maintenance contractor burned out three sets of memory chips for a DECServer, whilst using a grounding strap; until I prevailed upon him to try grasping the chassis, when the fourth set was successfully fitted.

And that was when memory modules cost a lot more than today.

A frequent mistake when using grounding straps is connecting them to a separate ground point. The MUST be connected to the actual unit, whether the unit itself is grounded or not.

The need is to be at the same potential as the unit.

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Tom
May 26, 2010 4:46 PM

I had the same problem when I plugged in my camera to any of the USB ports. I happened to find the instruction sheet to my external card reader, and it said that it may draw a lot of power. I had recently added a 2nd HD and a replacement DVD burner. I had the shop check out my power supply -- they ended up replacing it with a larger power supply. It's been fine ever since. I had to suggest the power supply -- they were talking about replacing the mother board.

Marko
May 26, 2010 11:01 PM

Hi,
I had nearly the same problem at several computers. They tend to restart when I unplug external device and I found out that there was a software (Lock Folder XP)that causes this problem.

Carlos Coquet
June 29, 2010 10:56 PM

Speaking of USB, one rare problem I have found is that some machines will not even POST (Power On Self Test) when certain USB devices are attached. In some cases it is totally reproducible, in others it occurs sporadically. However, if your computer suddenly does not run POST when you turn it on, check to see if you have any USB devices attached and detach them if so.

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