The problem you are facing is probably trivial but annoying. Randomly, Windows is making the da-dam dam-dam sounds that are normally associated with USB devices being unplugged and then plugged back in. However, you are not connecting or disconnecting anything, and there is no apparent loss of functionality. This is driving you crazy.
Let me show you how you should go about troubleshooting an issue like this. The solution will often be quite easy once you know where to look. But if you’re wondering if your Windows has gone mental, the answer is, follow me.
Problem + solution
So we know what the issue is. Something USB seems to be disconnecting and reconnecting. This could be happening every few minutes or maybe once an hour or every other day. Your hardware seems to be working fine. This means that there’s no quick correlation between sounds and functionality, so we need to do some forensics.
There is an extremely nifty tool called USBLogView, developed by legendary Nir Sofer. This tool, while running, will capture all USB events and log them. To wit, USB unplug/plug events. Once we have this, we can start figuring out what kind of an issue we’re dealing with, if any.
The investigation begins
On my affected host, I let USBLogView run for a while. Like that sentence in Braveheart, yes, you can run for a while. And indeed, it captured an event, reading thusly:
What do we have here? Within one second, we had the unplug-plug sequence, hence the sounds. But something did happen. In this case, it was a generic USB hub, port 2, hub 3 what dunnit it. Let’s figure out a little more about this device. Note: This example applies to a desktop, so I will refer to it throughout this tutorial, but the same logic applies to all and every investigation and device.
You might also be interested to learn more about the product – vendor ID, product ID, as well as the product name, a column not shown above, but definitely available in the displayed information. You can find more data online, telling you what kind of device you’re dealing with. Sometimes, the identification is trivial. In my case, a generic hub is not good enough, so we need to delve deeper.
Open the Device Manager (My Computer > Manage). Check the properties of every USB controller until you find the one that matches the above. In my case, it happens to be a Generic USB Hub, and with the following parameters:
We can see that this hub has four ports. This means that you can normally expect to see four available USB ports on a panel, normally at the back of your computer case. Which means this is where we ought to look. Indeed, I happen to have the desktop keyboard connected to the particular four-port panel. So the next step is to actually disconnect and reconnect the keyboard to see if we can capture the event again, and if it matches.
If you happen to have more than one device plugged into the same hub, try to use other available ports, if possible, so that only one remains connected to the affected hub, to see which one triggers the events.
Again, in this particular example, even touching the keyboard connection triggered several events. But the reason for the actual jittery behavior was the fact I had another USB cable, from a nearby USB 3.0 connection, looped and applying ever so gentle pressure on the keyboard cable. Moving it away and reseating the keyboard connection fixed the issue.
This sounds like a super trivial case, but in most cases, it will be. But your options are, lowest probability, your motherboard might be dying (A), and there could be physical damage due to humidity or dust or something. But this should cause more than an isolated issue. Then, it is far more likely that you have something loosely connected (B), or a peripheral device that is gimping up (C) and needs replacement.
Your troubleshooting, after identifying the right device and connection, would be to truly unplug and plug the device, then if the problem is not going away, try a different port, and then finally, replace the device. This will tell you if you’re handling A, B or C in terms of scenarios.
This guide is a very simple, but it teaches a lot. It helps identify weird, annoying problems with USB sounds and tracing them to actually hardware issues using USBLogView. Then, after that, there’s the post-investigation on finding the right devices and ports. And finally, isolating and resolving the problem by figuring out which component may be misbehaving or malfunctioning, or if a replacement is needed. You might be lucky, and it could just be a loose connection.
Hopefully, you have learned something new. As always, we use the same methodical, careful approach to problem solving, and it’s universal to all issues, be they Linux, USB or even something completely non-technical. Well, if this gives you the peace you need, then your Windows experience is better, you’re pleased, and I’m happy. Best of all, you can use the same idea to troubleshoot Linux issues of the same sort. Only the tools and the syntax will change. But the world is your technology-agnostic oyster. Take care.