| By Fred Langa |
USB drives, mice, keyboards, and other peripherals are great — when they work.
Unfortunately, some PCs have problems recognizing and using USB devices at boot time.
New USB keyboard won’t work without Windows
Sam Stamport ran into trouble getting his PC to recognize a new USB keyboard at boot time, before Windows loads. His problem sounds specific, but the solution applies to a whole raft of low-level USB issues, such as the inability to boot from an external USB drive:
- “Fred Langa’s recent discussion of backups reminded me that I haven’t made an image backup in a while, so I tried to make one today, only to find out that my new USB keyboard is not recognized. (I can’t type anything into the low-level imaging software, [which runs] outside of Windows.) I don’t have another keyboard, so I need a way to make this work.”
A third group of machines — neither new nor ancient — may have varying levels of USB support built in. Getting USB devices to run at boot time on these systems can be hit-or-miss. Usually, you can check to see whether your system supports USB directly rather than depending on the OS by checking the PC’s BIOS settings.
BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System; it controls some of the lowest-level operations in your computer and is also one of the first things activated when you turn on the PC’s power. When you start up, you’ll almost always see a BIOS message on your screen that includes the BIOS maker and instructions for entering the BIOS setup program.
In some BIOSes, you press F1 or F2 as the system starts; in others, you hit Esc, Del, or some other key combination. Whatever the specifics, pressing the appropriate key(s) at boot time stops the PC from loading the operating system, as it would in a normal boot, and opens the BIOS setup program instead.