How to Fix USB Driver Problems

By Jackie Lohrey

The arrival of USB (Universal Serial Bus) drives brought new meaning to the word “portability.” Users can easily transfer data between a home computer and work computer or laptop, and backup movies, pictures and other data. While convenient, USB drives are not foolproof and can require troubleshooting to detect and repair driver problems. Common USB driver problems include errors in detecting a correct drive letter or failure due to a corrupt USB drive.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer with open USB port
  • Replacement USB drive (optional)

Problems with Unrecognized USB Drive

Step 1

Insert the USB drive and restart the computer. Problems can occur for what seems to be no reason and then disappear simply by restarting your computer.

Step 2

Download and install updated drivers. For Windows XP users, go to "My Computer," "Manage," and then "System Tools." Click on "Device manager" and then "Device by Type." Select the "USB Host Controller" option and click on "Update Driver." Vista users can gain access from the Control Panel system and "Maintenance" tab, "Device Manager" and then "Update Device Drivers."

Step 3

Change USB drive letter. Conflicts with already-installed hardware devices can cause the computer to fail to recognize a removable drive. For Windows XP users, go to "My Computer," "Manage" and then "System Tools." Click on "Disk Management," and from the "Storage" tab select the removable drive. Then right-click and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths." A message box will appear containing new drive letter options. Choose a drive letter and click "OK" to accept the new drive. Vista users can right click on "Computer" to access the "Management" section, the "Computer Management" tab and "Storage" section. Select the removable drive, right-click and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths." A message box will appear containing new drive letter options. Choose a drive letter and click "OK" to accept the new drive.

USB Drive Failure

Step 1

Insert the USB drive and restart the computer.

Step 2

Attempt to repair drive errors. Windows XP users can use Error Checking to attempt repairs to drive failure errors. From "My Computer," right-click the removable drive letter and select the "Properties" option. From the new window that opens, select "Tools" and then "Error Checking" and place a check mark in the box allowing Windows to detect and repair errors. Vista users can use CheckDisc to find and attempt repairs. From "Computer," right-click the removable drive and then select "Properties," "Tools" and "Check Now." A dialog box will appear with options for automatic detection and repair of drive errors.

Step 3

Format USB drive. Formatting the drive will correct problems of a more serious nature, such as a corrupt file structure. Windows XP users can access the formatting option from "My Computer." Right-click the removable drive letter and select the formatting option. From the new window that opens, select "Format." Vista users can access "Computer," right-click the removable drive and then select "Format." A dialog box will appear with options for automatic detection and repair of drive errors.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not remove the USB drive while it is working. This can cause damage to the drive to and require reformatting. To remove a USB drive, click the green arrow icon on the bottom right of the task bar and select “Safely Remove Hardware.” Wait for a message box that will tell you to remove the drive.
  • While formatting a USB drive may repair driver problems, it will also erase the data from the drive. Save formatting as a last resort.
  • If these repair techniques do not work ,you may need to purchase a replacement USB drive.