How do I install a USB device?

USB (universal serial bus) connections are typically used to plug devices such as mice, keyboards, scanners, printers, webcams, digital cameras, mobile phones, and external hard disks into your computer. You'll recognize a USB connection by the symbol usually displayed on the connector.

Illustration of the USB connection symbol
Symbol of the USB connection

Many devices need to have a USB cable plugged into them before they can be plugged into a USB port on your computer. Other USB devices, such as older mice and keyboards, have a USB cable permanently attached to them. And some USB devices, such as USB flash drives, have an integrated USB connector that allows them to be plugged directly into a USB port on your computer without a cable.

USB devices are among the easiest devices to connect to your computer. The first time you connect a device that plugs into a USB port, Windows automatically identifies the device and installs a driver for that device. Drivers allow your computer to communicate with hardware devices. Without a driver, a USB device that you connect to your computer—for example, a mouse or a webcam—won't work properly.

Before installing a device

Check the instructions that came with the device to see if you need to install a driver before connecting the device. Although Windows usually does this automatically when you connect a new device, some devices require that you install drivers manually. In those cases, the device manufacturer includes a software disc and instructions on installing the driver before plugging in the device.

If your USB device came with software from the manufacturer, check to see if it's compatible with this version of Windows. If it's not compatible, or doesn't say which versions of Windows it's designed for, try plugging the device in first to see if Windows can find a compatible driver.

If the instructions that came with your device contradict the information in this topic, follow those instructions.

Plugging in and turning on a device

To install any USB device, just plug it in to your computer. Some USB devices have power switches you should turn on before connecting them. If your device uses a power cord, connect the device to a power source. Then, turn it on before connecting it.

Next, decide which USB port to connect your device to. If your computer has USB ports on the front, consider using one of those if you plan to frequently connect and disconnect the device. (You can use any port the next time you plug in the device.)

Illustration of a typical USB cable and port
A typical USB cable and port

Plug the device into the USB port. If Windows can find and install the device driver automatically, you'll be notified that the device is ready to use. Otherwise, you'll be prompted to insert a disc containing the driver.

Picture of a notification message saying that a device has been installed
Windows will notify you when it finishes successfully installing a device.

After installation is complete, check the information that came with your device to see if you need to install any additional software.

Occasionally, a USB device isn't recognized by Windows and doesn't come with a disc containing a driver. In that case, you can try to find a device driver online. Start by checking the website of the device manufacturer—you can often download drivers from the "Support" section of such sites. For more information, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

To watch a video, see Picture of a Play button Video: Connect devices to your computer.


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