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Diagnosing USB Problems

Although many of our latest products are moving to Wireless/Ethernet connectivity (AIT3000, Nomad, iKommunicate, etc.), removing the problems of USB drivers, we still sell a lot of products with USB interfaces. Unfortunately, USB drivers still account for a larger number of tech support calls than we would like, so we thought we would share some tips on how to diagnose USB problems.

On a typical computer, there will be two sets of drivers that effect USB operation; the drivers for the USB hub built-in to the computer’s motherboard and the drivers for the USB device that is being plugged in. Most people are aware of the later, but the motherboard drivers are often forgotten as they are installed by the PC manufacturer. However, if you have to do a fresh install of the operating system, then it is not uncommon to end up with the “generic” operating system drivers for the motherboard and not the optimised and fully tested drivers from the manufacturer.

If you have a USB problem the best place to start is in the operating system’s “Device Manager” which on Windows is actually called “Device Manager” and on Macs is called “System Information” in the Utilities folder. What you are looking for in here are any warnings or errors that indicate that a driver is not properly installed…

This is not always easy as often, particularly with motherboards, Windows has loaded its standard “generic” driver and so no warnings are displayed. For instance below is the Device Manager listing for a Dell laptop before and after the manufacturer’s official drivers are installed…

If you do have to do a fresh install of Windows, always remember to go to the manufacturer’s website and download the latest drivers for your model of computer.

Another problem we have had reported is that some older USB 2.0 devices are not working on computers with USB 3.0 ports. This should not happen, as the USB 3.0 specification states that USB 3.0 ports should be backward compatible with USB 2.0 devices, but there are enough reports online to cast doubt on this and if your new computer has a problem with USB 2.0 devices then consult your manufacturer’s support site and forums for information – you may need to update the motherboard drivers or BIOS.

In the office and workshop, we use a very useful and free Windows utility for testing USB connections on computers, called USBTreeView (see image at start of article). This free utility which is maintained by a German developer who took Microsoft’s original USBView open source code and improved it, is really useful for checking all of your computer’s USB ports and the devices plugged in to them.

Finally, here are some links to download the latest Windows USB drivers for our  various products….

AIT1000, AIS100Pro, AIS100USB, iAIS, uAIS, GPS150USB, NMEA to USB Adaptor, Pilot Plug, NavLink USB and original AISNet (no LEDs)

AIT1500, AIT2000, AIT3000, Nomad and latest AISNet

….and last but not least the latest Mac USB drivers for the same products…

AIT1000, AIS100Pro, AIS100USB, iAIS, uAIS, GPS150USB, NMEA to USB Adaptor, Pilot Plug, NavLink USB and original AISNet (no LEDs)

AIT1500, AIT2000, AIT3000, Nomad and latest AISNet*

* NOTE – this link downloads proAIS2 for Mac which includes the USB drivers

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