USB devices all connect to, and work with the same type of port. That’s one of the advantages of having a device that doesn’t require proprietary ports to connect to a system. Practically all devices from phones, external drives, printers, fitness trackers, and wireless mouse and keyboards can connect via a USB port. That said, sometimes devices, particularly printers fail to connect. Windows gives you a generic USB device not recognized error, with little else to go on. Here’s how you can troubleshoot it.

Basic Checks

The USB device not recognized error is generic which means the underlying cause can be anything. Before you dig deeper, try the following;

  • Remove and connect the device again
  • If you’re using a cable to connect a device e.g., a data cable to connect a phone to your PC, try using a different cable
  • If you’re using a USB hub, remove it and connect directly to your system
  • Remove the device, shut down Windows and unplug your system for a few seconds. Turn it on, and connect the device
  • Switch to a different USB port, preferably the composite port
  • Connect a different device to the same port to make sure it is working
  • Connect the device to a different system and see if Windows recognizes it

If none of this works, try some of the fixes below. The problem can be with your device, or with your PC. If your device is recognized on a different Windows PC, the problem lies with your system.

Check For Drivers

When you connect a new USB device to your system, Windows scans for and installs drivers for it. This happens for almost all devices from Android phones to iPhones. Sometimes the drivers will fail to install or Windows won’t be able to find them. If that’s the case, connect your device to your system and open Device Manager.

In Device Manager, select your system and right-click it. From the context menu, select the Scan for hardware changes. This will force Windows to check for new hardware and install drivers for it. If this doesn’t work, check if your device comes with drivers in the form of a disc, or if drivers are available on the device manufacturer’s website. Install those drivers and your USB device ought to be recognized.

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Check For Driver Updates

In Device Manager, look for the device that Windows doesn’t recognize. It might be listed under the type of device it is e.g., a webcam under cameras but it’s more likely to be in the Universal Serial Bus Controller section. Expand it, and look for anything that says ‘Unknown Device’. Right-click it, and select scan for hardware changes. Disconnect your device, connect it again, and repeat. If this doesn’t work, right-click the device and select Update Driver.

Check For Firmware Updates

Check if the device you’re connecting has a pending firmware update. If you’re running a beta build of the firmware on your device, it might be the cause of the problem in which case, you might need to downgrade to a stable version. This sort of problem occurs with iOS devices and some versions of iOS fail to connect with a Windows PC. The only recourse is to upgrade or downgrade the OS version.

If you’re dealing with a device that is running the beta version of iOS, or a beta version of Android, installing the latest version of iTunes, or the Android SDK might fix the problem.

Pending Windows Updates

While this is a more obscure solution to the problem, it’s worth trying. Check if your Windows is up to date. Sometimes a faulty update may have broken something, resulting in the USB device not recognized error and a new update might have the fix for it.

Device Compatibility

Your device may not be compatible with your system. This is most likely to happen with printers and scanners. Check if your device is compatible with your version of Windows. With Windows 10, you have to make sure there is compatibility with the latest build which, at present, is the Fall Creators Update.

Port Compatibility

If the device is a USB 2.0 device, it ought to connect to any port on your system even if it is a USB 3.0 port. Unfortunately, backward compatibility doesn’t always go smoothly. Connect your device to the charging port on your system to see if Windows will recognize it. Alternatively, try and find a system that has a USB 2.0 port, and connect the device to it. If it is recognized, your problem lies in port compatibility. This sort of problem generally occurs on knock-off brand products but I’ve personally experienced with both an HP and a Samsung printer so it’s worth a shot.

If you have a generic device like a USB drive that Windows will not recognize, and that will not connect to other systems it’s highly likely that the problem is with your device. Check if other types of the same device i.e., another USB drive will connect. If it does, and Windows recognizes it then you have a faulty device at hand. With devices like phones, printers, and scanners, there is some level of troubleshooting you can do. For example, make sure a printer is in its ready state which may include feeding paper into the try. With USB drives, there is very little you can do other than take it in for data recovery.