Is my thumb drive useless?

A reader wants to know what’s up with his thumb drive:

“I tried using one of my old USB 2 thumb drives in order to have Microsoft install its newest OS and it wasn’t recognized. I guess that means I need to get a 32 Gig USB 3 thumb drive.”

USB 2 thumb drives are backward compatible with USB 3 drives, so if the USB drive is still functioning, the update shouldn’t be the issue. First, let’s make sure your USB port is still working. Try plugging in another drive. If that drive works, the issue could be that your old drive has failed.

A USB 2 device is probably at least 10 years old and maybe even as old as 20 years. Like all other media, USB drives have a lifespan, mostly depending on how many times the drive has been written and erased and the conditions you store it in.

A drive is good for between 10,000 and 100,000 written/erase cycles. They can also be sensitive to heat, cold, and humidity. Inexpensive drives have much shorter lives than higher-quality devices.

If you try a new drive and the port still doesn’t work, you may be dealing with a mechanical failure of your port or a software problem with Windows. Let’s look at how to fix the software issue.

Start by typing Device Manager in your Search box and clicking on the result.

Scroll down to Universal Serial Bus controllers.


Click the drop-down arrow next to it and look for the item that says USB Host Controller.


Right-click on it and choose update driver.


If that doesn’t help, you could also try uninstalling the USB host and restarting your PC. Keep in mind that any USB devices like a mouse or keyboard won’t work during this process.

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