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  1. #1
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    Safely forcing reinstallation of possibly-corrupted USB drivers

    This question concerns a Dell XPS 8700 running Windows 7 Home Premium. The system is completely up to date regarding Windows updates as of this writing. For the past year and more, the PC has suffered from random freezes that require forcing me to shut the PC down using the power button and reboot. This can happen when I'm using the PC or when I'm out of the room and the PC is idle. The freezes are not related to what I happen to be doing (or not doing) at the PC.

    When the PC freezes, the PC is unresponsive to any input from the keyboard or mouse. The dual displays show exactly what they were displaying just before the freeze, the display simply freezes. If I happen to be playing a sound (watching a video or playing a song), the sound also freezes, and the PC plays the same note until I shut the PC down. The PC appears to be completely normal after the reboot, and there's nothing in Event Viewer that gives any hint as to a cause.

    This happens at totally random intervals; sometimes it happens two or three times in one day, then the problem vanishes for a month or two before reappearing. To learn whether the problem might be hardware-related, I took the PC to a computer repair shop, which did an in-depth hardware diagnosis and stress test over several days. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary was found. That doesn't completely eliminate a hardware problem, but it did cause me to look for other possible reasons for the freezes.

    Not longer after I purchased the PC, I connected a Garmin GPS unit to it via USB. Windows seemed to think the device required special USB drivers, and started to download and install new drivers of some sort. The installation failed, and Windows presented me with multiple error messages saying the installation had failed. In spite of all that, I was eventually able to connect the device and use it (I also learned that the device never needed special drivers in the first place).

    I've tried everything else I can think of to get rid of the random freezes, so now I'm pondering whether the USB drivers might have somehow become corrupted as a result of that incident.

    Now, finally, for my question: Is there any reasonably safe way to force Windows to uninstall and reinstall the USB drivers? I've been reluctant to try anything like that, since I'm not that savvy regarding what is and isn't safe to do in Device Manager (which I presume is where I'll need to do this sort of thing). I don't want to do anything that might end up crippling the machine.

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    --Larry

  2. #2
    WS Lounge VIP Calimanco's Avatar
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    Open Device manager. Scroll down to USB Controllers. Double click to open. Right click each entry in turn and click uninstall. Reboot and the correct drivers will be reinstalled.

  3. #3
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    In Device Manager, I see 18 entries under "Universal Serial Bus controllers." Do I uninstall all of them?

    Under "Human Interface Devices" I also see 4 entries labelled "USB Input Device". Do I leave these alone? This is one reason I posted my question: Which entries do I need to delete, and which should I leave in?

    --Larry

  4. #4
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    While there is an elevated cmd to show all non-present devices, this program may make it easier to remove what isn't required.

    http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/usb_devices_view.html

  5. #5
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    1. Because it is infrequently intermittent and not associated with any particular event that causes the freeze to occur it will be very difficult to diagnose. A stress test was a good try, but I am assuming it did not produce a freeze? [Which could point to a plugged in peripheral not present for the test or just not enough time.]

    2. While 18 entries seems high, I note the Z87 chipset supports 14 USB ports, and at least two features of that PC use USB to accomplish it and may be mirrored. I really don't think it is the number of USB devices, hubs or your controller doing it. Trying to "fix" it without being sure that is the issue invites adding a further problem. Dell TS should be consulted as to what is normal/abnormal before you mess with it.

    3. The Garmin may indeed have tried to install incompatible drivers. Does it use a USB3 port? You can try reloading all USB drivers which are located on the chipset driver installation package (USB2) and separate USB3 drivers. USB3 was fairly new when the Z87 was out and drivers could be wonky.
    https://www.dell.com/support/home/us...ivers/advanced

    4. A random freeze could be caused by a peripheral. Could also be the PSU or bad power from the wall. Likely several other things. You might have to live with it until something fails or gets bad enough as to be predictable.

    You can check Windows diagnostics logs---but freezes are not logged since the system halts before anything can be written. Still some instabilities may be occurring that eventually lead to the freeze. Check Problem Reports in Action center.

    You can run memtest86 or memtest86+. You can run the maker's diagnostic apps on all drives. Check system temperatures, fan speeds and reported PSU outputs (HWMonitor, etc.). Generally issues generate BSODs not freezes, but easy to perform so you might as well rule out.
    -----------------------------
    https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/...sb_diagnostics

    http://www.thewindowsclub.com/windows-hangs-freezes

    erase USB connected drives completely from registry:
    http://www.cherubicsoft.com/en/projects/usboblivion

    http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/usb_devices_view.html - already suggested by another

    Dell Diagnostics and Support Assistant:
    https://www.dell.com/support/article...9/SLN114988/EN

    https://www.dell.com/support/content...support-center
    Last edited by Fascist Nation; 2016-01-13 at 14:48.

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    larryc43230 (2016-01-13)

  7. #6
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    1. Because it is infrequently intermittent and not associated with any particular event that causes the freezeto occur it will be very difficult to diagnose. A stress test was a good try, but I am assuming it did not produce a freeze? [Which could point to a plugged in peripheral not present for the test.]

    This has been going on for more than a year, and I've spent many hours unsuccessfully trying to track it down. "Very difficult to diagnose" is an understatement. The PC did not freeze during that PC repair shop's tests, but as I stated that doesn't prove anything.

    The possibility that the freezes are being caused by a plugged-in peripheral was brought up with the techs at the shop, but both techs I spoke with made the flat statement that that possibility is extremely remote (one said it can't happen).

    This possibility is of deep concern to me, because I've purchased a new PC (a Dell XPS 8900) which will be delivered next week, and I do NOT want to transfer this serious headache to the new PC by plugging in a flaky peripheral. I'm hoping to transfer the old peripherals to the new PC when it arrives next week (the new PC will be a replacement for this one; I'm hoping to use the one with the freezing problem as a sort of testbed, so I'd like to get to the root of this problem). How in the world would I find out which peripheral is causing the freezes? Do I have to buy all new peripherals to make sure this doesn't start happening with the new PC?


    2. While 18 entries seems high, I note the Z87 chipset supports 14 USB ports, and at least two features of that PC use USB to accomplish it and may be mirrored. I really don't think it is the number of USB devices, hubs or your controller doing it. Trying to "fix" it without being sure that is the issue invites adding a further problem. Dell TS should be consulted as to what is normal/abnormal before you mess with it.

    Duly noted. This PC is about three years old, and the warranty expired long ago. And given my past experience with Dell TS, I'm not optimistic they could find the problem, either. Would "messing with it" include uninstalling and reinstalling the USB drivers? If so, my hands are tied.

    3. The Garmin may indeed have tried to install incompatible drivers. Does it use a USB3 port? You can try reloading all USB drivers which are located on the chipset driver installation package (USB2) and separate USB3 drivers. USB3 was fairly new when the Z87 was out and drivers could be wonky.
    https://www.dell.com/support/home/us...ivers/advanced

    The Garmin device is an Oregon 650 handheld GPS. It uses USB2, and has always been connected to a USB2 port. Thanks for the link to the Dell drivers page, though now I'm not sure it's safe to go that route.

    4. A random freeze could be caused by a peripheral. Could also be the PSU. Likely several other things. You might have to live with it until something fails or gets bad enough as to be predictable.

    See above regarding my concern about the freezes being possibly caused by a peripheral. The oddest thing about this glitch is that, in the three-plus years I've used this PC, it's never once given me any other problems of any sort. That fact, and the fact that an extensive stress test of the hardware components, including the power supply, found no problems, make me lean toward a driver issue rather than a hardware problem.

    You can check Windows diagnostics logs---but freezes are not logged since the system halts before anything can be written. Still some instabilities may be occurring that eventually lead to the freeze. Check Problem Reports in Action center.

    I've checked all these areas, many times. Not even a hint that might explain the freezes.

    You can run memtest86 or memtest86+. You can run the maker's diagnostic apps on all drives. Check system temperatures, fan speeds and reported PSU outputs (HWMonitor, etc.). Generally issues generate BSODs not freezes, but easy to perform so you might as well rule out.

    Done, a good number of times. This PC has thrown up exactly one BSOD in three years, and I'm fairly certain that incident wasn't related. In any case, all my past PCs have had more BSODs than this one has.

    --Larry
    Last edited by larryc43230; 2016-01-13 at 15:02.

  8. #7
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    Based on the post from Fascist Nation, I guess I need to ask a follow-up question:

    How likely is it that a peripheral connected to my PC is causing the random freezes?

    I have the following devices permanently connected:

    Two Dell flat-screen monitors

    A Western Digital USB3 2TB external hard drive, connected at the rear of the PC

    An Iomega Prestige USB2 1TB external hard drive, connected at the rear of the PC

    A Dell speaker set that came with the XPS 8700

    An APC BE750G Back-UPS power supply connected via USB2 at the rear of the PC, with PowerChute Personal Edition software used for monitoring

    One Anker 7-port USB3 hub, connected at the rear of the PC *

    One Logitech MK520 wireless keyboard/mouse combo, connected with a "unifying receiver" using a USB port on the top of the PC **

    * The USB hub is a recent purchase, installed after I read somewhere that a failing USB hub can cause weird intermittent problems. The freezes had been occurring for months before I installed the new hub, and installing it didn't stop the freezes.

    ** This combo is also a relatively recent addition, a replacement for a different keyboard/mouse combo. The freezes were already occurring before, and continued to occur after.


    There are no other peripherals permanently connected to the PC.

    None of these devices has given me any reason to suspect that they're involved with the PC freezes. They've all performed perfectly as far as I can determine.

    I have a few other devices that I connect as needed, including the previously-mentioned Garmin GPS device. I connect these devices when needed, and disconnect them when I'm finished. None have ever been connected when the PC froze.

    Please keep in mind that the PC freezes are not in any way correlated with anything I'm doing. The freezes are just as likely to occur when the PC is idle (with only a Web browser and MS Outlook running) as when I'm doing anything with it.

    If there's any chance whatsoever that the freezes are being caused by one of the peripherals listed above, I don't dare use it with the new PC, because I refuse to live with these freezes any longer. To be honest, I'm at my wit's end. All I want is a working PC that won't freeze at random moments.

    Any thoughts or advice?

    --Larry

  9. #8
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    Open up the PC and blow out the CPU heatsink/fan assembly as well as the power supply and video card fan if present. Overheating can cause the system to freeze randomly.

    Jerry

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    Quote Originally Posted by jwitalka View Post
    Open up the PC and blow out the CPU heatsink/fan assembly as well as the power supply and video card fan if present. Overheating can cause the system to freeze randomly.

    Jerry
    Thanks for the suggestion, but I've done that multiple times. A heat problem was one of the first things I thought of when the freezes first appeared, and clearing any dust from the interior was one of the first things I tried.

    I've also been using an external fan to help with air circulation for the last few months (I figured it couldn't hurt), but that hasn't made any difference. The PC still freezes up with pretty much the same frequency.

    --Larry

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    As of now, I'm most anxious to know whether any of the peripherals I listed in my previous post are likely to be causing the freezes. I would hate to have to buy new peripherals, but I will if that's what it takes to make sure the new PC doesn't freeze up the same way this old one has been.

    --Larry

  12. #11
    WS Lounge VIP Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    Larry - One thing that hasn't yet been mentioned is to check out power-saving. By default, power-saving is enabled on all USB Root Hubs. Try disabling power-saving on each USB Root Hub.

    To disable power-saving, in Device Manager expand the USB Serial Bus controllers section then double-click on each USB Root Hub in turn, click on the Power Management tab, remove the default tick in the Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power checkboxes then click on the OK button to dismiss the dialog.
    _usb_power-saving.png
    Click to enlarge

    Whilst you're in Device Manager, go to both Keyboards and Mouse and other pointing devices, expand them and make sure power-saving is turned off for each HID device. (Note: As you have a unified receiver for keyboard and mouse there may be just an entry in Device Manager for this but I don't have one myself to check. This is a 'just in case' because you've already said that the problem occured before you installed the USB unified Bluetooth transceiver and it's been a long, long time since Microsoft had to release a patch for Bluetooth devices not waking up properly from sleep.) Also check whether power saving is enabled for your other USB devices, e.g. your UPS.

    Note that you'll also have to adjust Advanced Settings for Power Options. To do this:

    1. Go to Control Panel > Power Options.
    2. Click on the Change plan settings link that's to the right of your preferred power plan.
    3. This will take you to another Control Panel window where you'll need to click on the link to Change advanced power settings.
    4. This will display a Power Options dialog with a single Advanced settings tab.
    5. Navigate to USB settings in the list and expand it by clicking on the + sign.
    6. Change the setting for USB selective suspend setting from the default Enabled to Disabled.
    _usb_power-saving1.png
    Click to enlarge
    7. Click on the Apply then OK buttons to enable the change and dismiss the dialog.

    These power-saving changes should prevent the USB Root Hubs from going to sleep, and whatever is connected to them. Nir Sofer's USBDeview (previously mentioned) will help you identify which USB peripheral is using which USB Root Hub. If, for example, you have a USB hard disk connected (you have two) which goes to sleep 'cos its root hub goes to sleep then you have to wait for the USB root hub to wake up then the USB hard disk to spin up. If it's a quiet disk then you'll experience a 'freeze' with no audible sign of what's happening nor why... much like what you're experiencing, and it doesn't hurt to check.

    Hope this helps... please let us know either way.

    PS - +1 for USBDeview. In my opinion it's also excellent for sorting out USB devices that aren't recognised.
    Last edited by Rick Corbett; 2016-01-14 at 11:57.

  13. #12
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    Thanks for the suggestion regarding turning off power-saving features, Rick. Long before the freezes started cropping up, I'd read about the problems Dell PCs can have with such features, and turned them all off. It had been months since I'd checked those settings, so I just checked again. Any and all power-saving features are still completely disabled.

    --Larry

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