March 12, 2006

USB Port Zaps Computer

When I started to plug my Canon SD400 digital camera into a USB port on my main tower computer today, there was a short, sharp static hiss, and the computer died. Yikes! I'd recently read about improperly grounded USB ports frying motherboards, however I'd plugged the camera into that handy front port dozens of times with no problem.

With a final paper due for a course in my MA in Communications program at Royal Roads University later today, I was a bit perturbed, to say the least, though I'd synched with my laptop a day ago so I had a fairly recent version of the paper on it. I also have an external Maxtor USB drive backing things up automatically.

Hitting the power switch did nothing, so I unplugged the computer, waited a couple of minutes, plugged it back in and hit the power again. It finally booted, but Windows XP Pro took a lot longer to get to a login screen than usual.

I finished my paper and posted it, and then I tried the camera again. Zap. So I did the unplug routine again, and tried the camera one more time. It finally made the USB connection without shutting down the computer, however a popup window informed me that the download from the camera would be slow because I was not using a USB 2.0 port. Huh? It used to be a 2.0 port!

Rather than roll the dice on the front port again, I plugged the camera cable and my Palm cable into rear ports, however they too are now running at the much slower USB 1.1. I haven't solved the mystery yet, but if the motherboard hasn't been crippled, perhaps reinstalling the USB drivers might do the trick.

Update March 17, 2006: I checked the BIOS settings today and discovered that USB 2.0 "High Speed" had been disabled. I enabled it, and now downloads are zipping along like they used to. I'm still avoiding those front USB ports though!

Posted by Paul at March 12, 2006 08:01 PM