Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Sometimes fixing a pesky problem with a hardware device is as simple as forcing Windows to re-install its driver. I'll show you how.
My machine is an emachines T2792 and has six USB ports. No matter which port I plug into or what type of hardware that I try to use, my computer tells me that the hardware has malfunctioned or hardware not recognized. My OS is XP-Home edition. I've tried no fewer than a half-dozen driver repair and PC rejuvenators - all to no avail. What do you think is the most likely culprit?
My knee-jerk, snarky reaction is to say that the half-dozen driver repair and PC rejuvenators are at fault. Many are no better than snake oil and they either add problems where there previously had been none or make existing problems worse.
However, there was at least a problem before you tried them, so they can't be completely at fault.
We do need to seriously consider that the hardware here has a problem and no amount of driver fiddling is going to fix that.
But before we throw in the towel on a software solution, there is one thing worth trying.
As with many "let's try this" diagnostic scenarios, it's worth reminding you that you should take a full-system backup first.
The problem is very simple: sometimes the thing that we try makes matters worse instead of better. By taking a full-system backup, you're establishing a "can't get any worse than this" point that you can revert to in case things do indeed get worse as a result of our efforts.
I'm not talking about a system restore here; I do mean real, honest-to-goodness full backups. The problem is that a system restore... well, it's not capable of restoring your system, at least not from everything. The only bullet-proof protection is a full system image / backup.
The approach that we're going to take is to actually instruct Windows to remove the driver(s) for your USB hardware. Once Windows reboots or you instruct it to go looking, Windows will "discover" that there's hardware on your machine that it recognizes, but for which it doesn't have drivers installed. It then attempts to install drivers from scratch. The net result is that the software associated with the device is re-initialized to an original and hopefully clean state.
Right-click My Computer, click Manage and click Device Manager. Because we're dealing with a USB issue in this case, expand the "Universal Serial Bus controllers" item:
Right-click one of the controller entries and click Uninstall:
(This is why I so strongly recommend taking a backup first: uninstalling certain drivers may cause your system to malfunction. Typically, USB controllers don't, but you can never be too safe.)
You'll get a confirmation dialog:
Click OK and the driver will be removed. Depending on the device, you may need to reboot it for the removal to take effect (which may also cause the next step to happen automatically as well.)
Assuming that you did not need to reboot, right-click a device header such as "Universal Serial Bus controllers" and click Scan for hardware changes:
This scan for changes is actually part of what's called "plug and play", where Windows scans for new hardware on boot and automatically installs drivers for any new hardware found.
As part of the scan, Windows should indeed "find new hardware":
At this point, it should attempt to install drivers for that hardware:
Important: Windows may ask you for your installation media in order to locate and install drivers for the device.
Once installed and ready for use, give your USB ports another try. There's a chance that they may work. If not, repeat for the other USB controller devices listed.
If the driver installation fails, this might mean that, yes, the hardware itself is having some kind of problem and may be in need of repair or replacement. It's at least in need of more complete diagnostics to determine what to do next.
And if, after all of our efforts, there are things that aren't working or are working worse than they were before, you can revert to the backup image that you took before you started to return your machine to the state that it was in prior to our little experiment.