Where would we be without USB? Well, on the one hand, we’d be lost – could we bear to live in a world without memory sticks, webcams and multifunction devices?

Such is the ubiquity of the technology that almost any product you care to mention has a USB connection – FireWire, ethernet and memory slots barely get a look-in. USB is so successful that an entire crop of gadgets has been spawned specifically to capitalise on its very convenience. Just this week we were sent a USB-powered massage ball. We jest not.

On the other hand, the men (and some women) among us would probably have more hair and rather less need for anger-management courses. Yep, as we’re all well aware, sometimes USB ports and their associated devices just don’t work as they should.

Over the following pages, we’ll help you to solve some of the more frustrating USB problems. Why do some devices seem to stop working at the drop of a hat? Why do some devices refuse to work at all? Why does Windows think your USB 2.0 ports are actually USB 1.1 ports? The answers are all here.

If your PC is getting on in years (if it does what you need then there’s nothing wrong with that), you’re probably stuck with the dinosaurs in the land of USB 1.1. Help is at hand here too – we’ll demonstrate how to fit a USB 2.0 PCI card.

This will also prove useful if you’ve already got USB 2.0 but want to add some extra ports, particularly if some of your existing ones are damaged or shorted out. Believe us, it happens.

Your ageing PC will need to be running Vista, XP or Windows 2000 – no other consumer version of Windows officially supports USB 2.0. Older operating systems are reliant on third-party drivers, which are all too often flaky or non-existent. Even so, if you’re soldiering on with Windows 98, much of what follows is still highly relevant.

General USB troubleshooting

1. ‘Hi-Speed USB Device Plugged into non-Hi-Speed USB Hub’. If you’ve ever seen this error message before, you’ve probably been trying to run a USB 2.0 peripheral in a USB 1.1 port. Or have you? If you’re certain it’s a USB 2.0 port, use Windows Update to ensure your PC has the latest patches.

Step 1

Step 1

2. If that doesn’t help, try updating your motherboard’s chipset driver. To determine your chipset, consult your system’s user guide or the motherboard’s manual. Alternatively, install a diagnostic utility. We recommend PC Wizard (tinyurl.com/p2udz). Then head to the chipset manufacturer’s website and download the goods.

Step 2

Step 2