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USB Ports Won't Work

Matt writes in with a hardware question

Approximately 8 months ago, I lost the ability to use my wired mouse through any and all USB ports on my computer due to, get this, a smack of static electricity when my hand hit the mouse. The mouse would not work in ANY USB port and I had to resort to activating my keyboard's mouse keys. Eventually I attempted to plug in a wireless optical mouse and sure enough, that worked. Outside of changing the batteries every now & then, everything was just fine. Strangely, all other USB devices worked just fine as well...all except the corded mouse. (And I tried numerous different mice, all meeting similar fates)

So here I am, utilizing my computer when today, as I began surfing the internet, I was on a page (the official homepage for the rock band Queensryche, for what it's! worth) when everything froze. I was unable to move the mouse. My first thought was a crash, so I went to "control/alt/delete" it and discovered I wasn't able to do that either. My mouse keys, which have been activated all along, did not work anymore. Essentially, my mouse and keyboard both decided to fail. I did a reboot via the power button, waited for everything to boot up, and tried again. The computer would not recognize my mouse (the batteries were changed) or my keyboard, which displayed no lights whatsoever. I attempted to plug both devices in every USB port, front and back, with no luck. I tried numerous other USB devices, but none were recognized. I read advice for people with similar problems with USB failure and the problem here is this.

I cannot go into safe mode. I cannot go into my control panel. I cannot go into the device manager. I cannot even progress beyond the sign-up page (because my computer is password protected). I can literally do nothing but hold the power button in and see if another reboot fixes it, but nothing changes. I cannot plug in a PS/2 keyboard because all I have are USB ports. I am literally stuck. So tell my computer screwed? (For what it’s worth, I have a DELL Dimension E310 running Windows XP SP2)

Answer: If you cannot use any USB devices on the computer and don't have any PS2 ports then your only possible option is to install a USB add-on card. This may or may not work depending on if the computer will recognize it and install the drivers for you. If not then you wont have any way to get the drivers on there since your don't have use of a keyboard or mouse.

It sounds like you may have damaged your motherboard or USB ports when you shocked the computer. The USB ports are integrated into the motherboard so that's why I'm thinking the PCI USB card would work since it would bypass the onboard USB ports. Here is an example.

You may be able to save it by getting new motherboard for it. Since its a Dell it may be better to get the same motherboard rather than a different type since it may not fit into their "custom" cases. Plus if you get a new motherboard then you may be looking at having to upgrade your RAM and processor to make it work with it. Or you have the option of taking out the hard drive and putting it in a USB drive caddy or another computer to get your data off of it. You can usually get replacement motherboards on EBay if it’s too old to get a new one.



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