If you see a “power surge on USB port” message when using a USB device on Windows 10, don’t panic right away. The word “surge” may seem disturbing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your PC or laptop is damaged in some way (although you can’t rule it out).
This error usually appears when the USB port’s maximum power limit is somehow exceeded. This is unusual, but it is not impossible: for example, certain devices (including USB hard drives) consume a lot of energy. If you see a “USB port power surge” error on Windows 10, here’s what you need to do to fix it.
What Causes a “Power Surge on USB Port” Error on Windows 10?
If Windows displays a “USB port power surge” error, you can usually assume that the power requirements of all attached USB peripherals have exceeded the maximum power capacity on the USB port you are using.
For example, some USB hard drive enclosures come with a two-headed USB cable. The goal is to connect the drive to two separate USB ports, splitting the power and data load across two ports and giving the drive itself enough power to run.
However, this is not an ideal scenario. A poorly constructed enclosure (with poorly designed circuit boards) can result in power requirements being distributed unevenly across each port. The same message is also likely to appear when another type of cheaper, poorly made USB devices are connected to your PC.
If Windows detects that too much power is being drawn from a USB port, it will shut down in an effort to protect your PC from harm. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that damage has not already occurred after a USB power surge. You should investigate the issue and check your USB ports by following the steps below.
Unplug your hardware
If Windows 10 detects a power surge on a USB port you are using, Windows will automatically disable the port. In theory, this should stop the power surge and prevent further damage to your PC or the connected USB device, but this is not guaranteed.
If this happens, disconnect the device immediately by removing the USB cable from the appropriate port. It’s important to do this as soon as you see the message, as leaving the device plugged in can damage the device in the long run. However, unless the device draws a huge amount of current, you can escape damage.
Unfortunately, this does not provide a cause for the error in the first place, but it will allow you to use your PC again (if it is undamaged). You should consider whether the device is safe to use and functions properly before attempting to connect and use it again.
Reinstall the USB Controller Drive in Device Manager
Never connect a device (USB or otherwise) to your PC if you are not sure if it is safe to use. It is important to consider the quality and expected power consumption of the USB devices you are using, as powerful devices from cheap sources can (and most likely will) cause harmful power surges.
If you are sure that the USB device is safe to use and will not immediately cause a power surge when you plug it back in, you may need to consider reinstalling the USB controller drivers for your motherboard. A faulty USB controller driver can cause error reports like this to appear.
- To do this, right-click on the Start menu and select Device Manager†
- In the Device Manager window, select the arrow next to the Universal Serial Bus controllers category to view the available options. For each USB device listed, right-click and select remove device to remove the installed drivers.
After uninstalling the USB controller drivers, you can check Windows Update or your motherboard manufacturer for the latest up-to-date drivers and install them manually. You can also restart your PC at this point – Windows Update will automatically search for (and install) all available drivers when you reboot.
Run the Hardware and Devices Troubleshooting Tool
Windows 10 includes a built-in troubleshooter that can identify problems with your PC and recommend possible solutions. While it cannot repair damaged hardware, it can identify possible causes for a power surge message, such as missing drivers or a broken device.
The hardware and device troubleshooting tool was originally available in the Windows Settings menu, but is now hidden from view. To use it, you need to use Windows PowerShell.
- To open a new PowerShell window, right-click on the Start menu and select Windows PowerShell (administrator)†
- Type msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic and select Enter in the PowerShell window to run the hardware and device troubleshooter.
- In the Hardware and Devices window, select Next one to start checking your PC for hardware problems. This will take some time to complete.
Windows checks your settings, USB ports and all connected devices for possible problems. If the Hardware and Devices tool can fix any issues automatically, it will. Otherwise, it will provide a list of recommendations at the end of the scanning process, so look for any additional on-screen instructions.
Use a powered USB hub
If you’re still having trouble with the “USB port power surge” error message, you may need to consider investing in a powered USB hub. An external hub like this allows you to securely connect high-performance devices to your PC’s USB ports, but only if the hub is powered separately, protecting your USB ports from damage.
However, this is only true if you choose a reputable manufacturer such as Dell, Anker or TP-Link. If the hub is unbranded or from an unknown source, it runs the same risk as other cheap USB devices. Plugging it into your USB ports can cause damage, especially if it causes a power surge (resulting in the same problem).
If the hub is genuine, well made, and has a good quality power supply, this should help stop possible power surges caused by connected USB devices to your PC’s USB ports. If the ports and USB devices have not been damaged before, this should stop the “power surge on USB port” message and allow you to resume using them.
However, that does not mean that other power surges (such as lightning strikes) can cause damage to your PC. You may need to consider adding one overvoltage protection to your PC configuration to protect against these additional risks.
Protect your PC from hardware damage
If you’re lucky, a misbehaving USB device won’t damage your USB ports the first time a surge occurs, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cause damage in the long run. To protect your PC and devices from damage, a powered USB hub is essential so that the hardware you use has enough power to run.
If you’re still seeing a “power spike on USB port” error with a hub, take a close look at your hardware. For example, if your USB drive is not detected, then insufficient power may be the cause or the USB ports may not be working. If you’re still having issues, it may be time to replace your PC or hardware with newer components.