What-to-Do Contest

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This Contest involves solving the following problem:

You boot up your PC and find that once you’re in Windows XP, neither your USB keyboard or mouse works – Windows does not recognize them. Thinking that there is some USB issue, you switch to a standard mouse and keyboard, but the same issue – Windows does not recognize the non-USB alternatives.

You boot into BIOS and find that both the USB and standard keyboards are recognized – no problem. As you use an externally powered USB Hub, you see that when you boot up, in BIOS the USB ports are lit, but once Windows boots up, the ports are not lit – hence not recognized. You find that even connecting the USB devices directly to the motherboard’s USB ports results in the same problem, so the hub is not at issue. In BIOS, USB is enabled, so there is no BIOS issue. The motherboard is an ASUS P5WD2-E.

How would you solve this problem? If someone comes up with an absolutely elegant, quick fix solution, they will win a prize. In any event someone will be selected at random among those emailing a fix, so there may be two prizes awarded.

Well I’m sorry to say there is no simple, elegant solution to my problem. After trying a number of fixes, I reached the point of diminishing returns and wound up re-installing XP Pro. However, what I did find interesting is that a number of those who responded had the same problem! This is not as uncommon as I supposed. If you have something like this, the following reader fixes may help you out (remember – no way I can use the KB or mouse):


“I would update the Bios…”

John L

“It could be that Windows has found new hardware and is waiting for a response from the user. You cant respond because you haven’t logged in, and you cant login because Windows hasn’t setup your keyboard and mouse because its waiting for you to respond. Ive had this happen with monitors being recognized as new hardware. One way to work around it is to ONLY have the keyboard plugged in (no monitor or anything else) and let the computer boot until activity stops, which should give Windows enough time to setup your HIDs. Then reboot and plug in the monitor and mouse.”

John S

Install linux.


“I’d try booting from a Linux Live CD to see if the mouse/keyboard combo works (rule out XP?). If they do, XP has a problem (I’d try booting into Safe Mode and delete the USB devices and have them redetected after the reboot). Do other USB devices get recognized correctly in XP? I have found that XP does some really low level stuff to the bios so it may be time to reflash it (I had one motherboard start acting funny and reflashing it fixed the problem).”

NB: I could not boot into Safe Mode – as soon as Windows started, KB and Mouse did not work, either USB or PS2.


“My elegant and quick fix solution would be to replace the system file in the system32config folder with a previous one contained in the restore points folder in “system volume information”. Might have to replace the software, sam, security etc.. files also, but this usually fixes most odd problems with windows due to a registry problem. I find this is a quick fix also for a windows that will no longer boot. Basically a manual restore to a previous day. May have to try a couple different days, and I usually start with the second to last RP folder and work back.”


“My first thing to try after your description would be to use a livecd of Windows XP as well as Ubuntu and see if the problem persists.
My guess is that it will not be a problem with a live Windows cd so I would remove the hard drive, backup anything I had on it that was important and the reload Windows.”

NB: Ubuntu would not run – I got a “buffer” error that prevented it from loading.


“The first thing I would try is hitting the F8 during boot to enter safe mode, then delete any serial port drivers and let them reinstall.
If that failed, due to the keyboard not loading, I would try logging onto the computer via the remote desktop client or VNC, which might let me use the keyboard and mouse. I would further troubleshoot from there.”


“If keyboard/mouse/usb functions in Linux, I would do a repair install of XP, eating the chance of some apps needing to be reinstalled.”

NB: When I ran Windows Repair, I could not use the KB/mouse when needed!


“I have a USB PCI card that I have used in the past
when USB ports were either missing or funky. Boot to Windows see if the usb card is accepted. When
it is, reboot with the keyboard and mouse plugged into


“I actually went through this not too long ago. I did not find a quick fix, but I went through the following steps (after trying thousands of ineffective steps):

1. Put the hard disk in a different computer (i.e. different motherboard) to verify the problem wasn’t the southbridge.
2. Plug in the PS-2 mouse and keyboard, not the USB mouse and keyboard, when you use the other computer.
3. While in the different computer, everything worked. I uninstalled ALL the USB device drivers, HID’s (the HID driver, and the mice and keyboards), and the Plug and Play enumerator.
4. Run a virus scan. In my case, 4 viruses had attached themselves to the USB driver. McAfee would not detect the viruses until I uninstalled the driver – go figure.
5. Set windows to detect hardware at boot up (I normally keep this disabled, because it is a boot delay)
6. Download the most recent drivers from the ASUS website (I went ahead and got ALL the chipset drivers)
7. Put the hard disk back in its own computer and boot, using the PS-2 keyboard/mouse.
8. When your computer tries to automatically install the USB drivers, don’t do it. You needed windows to detect the HID drivers and the PS2 mouse and keyboard.
9. After the machine finishes all its boot activity, manually install the newly downloaded drivers.
10. Reboot, but keep the PS-2 keyboard/mouse plugged in. Don’t plug the USB keyboard.
11. Once you are booted up, you should be able to hot-plug the USB keyboard and it should work. I tried booting using the USB keyboard, but mine would not recognize the USB keyboard until I hot-plugged it. Once I hot-plugged it, everything was fine.”


“I’ve run into this problem before. My solution has been to disable the ISA bus devices in the BIOS (floppy port, serial port(s), parallel port, game port), then reinstall the chipset drivers. Sometime just disabling unused ISA devices, which frees up IRQs, allows Windows to recognize USB devices that weren’t able to be recognized before.

My guess is that Windows develops version conflicts with the chipset SMBUS drivers, using the default Windows drivers when devices are shifted around or changed, instead of the user installed chipset drivers. This seems to be a bug in the way Windows handles loading device drivers during device changes.”


“Windows has a long standing problem with on occasion silently accumulating multiples of the same components through false positives when detecting “new” components, mice and keyboards being especially prone. Eventually, enough “spare” mice and keyboards are installed such that Windows gets confused which one is actually in use and your mouse and keyboard stop working.

The fix usually involves booting in safe-mode(if you are lucky either your mouse or keyboard will work) browsing out to the device manager and removing all instances of installed mice and keyboards. Then reboot and you are done. It is a good idea to occasionally(once or twice a year), to boot in safe-mode and look for obvious duplications and remove them as preventative maintenance.”

John K

“Joe, I’ve had this problem. What I did was hook the drive up to another computer, manually extract the system32 files from XP CD and overwrote when needed. Fixed it for me anyways, something must have corrupted.”


“BIOS EHCI Hand-Offallows you to enable or disable a workaround for operating systemswithout EHCI hand-off support. The EHCI ownership change should be claimed by the EHCI driver. Configuration options: [Enabled][Disabled]

If not for having a similar situation recently on a Abit aw8max board (955x chipset) I would not have known the answer :). I had the exact same problems where the usb keyboard and mouse would stop being powered once I got in Windows.

I disabled usb legacy support and disabled the EHCI hand off. Meaning the bios controlled the usb ports instead of Windows (driver problem keeping it from taking ownership from bios when EHCI is enabled). I believe a SP2 fix fixes this issue, however, going into the bios was a super quick fix for me as the computer I was working on was not connected to the internet.”


“I had this same issue a while back and after futzing around with drivers and trying to force settings, the only way I could fix this was by doing a reinstall. You could try doing a repair install first and see if you are lucky, otherwise a full reinstall might be your only option. Sorry.”

NB: And that is exactly what I did! Luckily this mobo is used to heatsink testing, so a reinstall was not traumatic.

And the winner selected at random is Michael Heath. Thanks to all who responded and I hope you NEVER have this happen to you!

Email Joe

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