Simple fix to iPhone/iPod dropped USB connections

A couple of months ago, my iPod Touch began to intermittently drop its connection to my PC during synchronization.  The iTunes synchronization progress bar would stop moving and, after a minute or so, iTunes would report that the device was disconnected.  Usually, the iPod would be unable connect again until after I rebooted the PC.

The elusive iPhone connection screen
The elusive iPhone connection screen

Since the iPod would sync without problems to my notebook, and since the PC was running the Windows 7 64-bit RC, I figured the problem was just a bug in the pre-release software and would be fixed in time by a new driver or the final version of Windows 7.

When I added a new iPhone 3GS to the family, I wasn’t surprised to see the same problem occurring with it.  It was definitely being caused by something at the PC end.

However, a couple of weeks ago things got much worse.  After a dropped connection during synchronization one morning, and the customary PC reboot, neither my iPhone or iPod would connect at all.  After plugging the USB cable in, the iPhone or iPod would continually flash the synchronization screen on and off, with the plaintively making the “USB connection” beep until I took pity and pulled the USB plug.

I figured that the device driver had somehow been corrupted and, since it is difficult to uninstall a USB driver when the device isn’t connected, I tried plugging the iPhone into a USB port on the back of the PC.  That connection lasted about 30 seconds before dropping again, and would thereafter result in the same connect/disconnect cycle as the front USB port.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the fact that the behaviour was somewhat different on a 2nd USB port was a clue to what was wrong.

I tried the usual common sense approaches to resolving an iPhone or iPod synchronization problem:

  1. Uninstalled the iPhone and iPod drivers from the Device Manager.  (For instructions on how to do this for a USB device you can no longer connect, see this article on the excellent How-To Geek site).
  2. Uninstalled iTunes.  (In all versions of Windows you can get to the uninstall program by running a Control Panel applet.  On Windows XP it’s “Add or Remove Programs” — in Windows 7, the applet is named just “Programs”.)
  3. Uninstalled “Apple Mobile Device Support”, from the same Control Panel applet.
  4. At this point I tried connecting the iPhone.  This should have caused the driver to be  automatically reinstalled and, hopefully, would fix the problem.  The PC tried to reinstall the driver, but since the USB connection immediately dropped, all I got was an “Device driver not successfully installed error” for the “MTP USB Device”.  Yikes, not a good sign.
    Uh oh, that can't be good!
    Uh oh, that can't be good!
  5. I reinstalled iTunes which, given the result of the previous step, predictably didn’t solve anything.
  6. I tried updating the PC BIOS, in case a chipset bug was at fault.  A longshot, and that it didn’t solve anything.

Googling the above “MTP USB Device” didn’t uncover any iPhone-specific issues (it turns out that this “Mobile Transport Protocol” driver is used for almost any multimedia device).

Googling the broader problem of dropped iPhone connections uncovered a lot of people who had this problem with using a USB hub.  Plugging their iPhone directly into a USB port on the PC fixed the problem for them, since the hub wasn’t able to provide the 5 volts of charge required by the iPhone (the iPod Touch has a similar power requirement).

In my case, I already was plugging the devices directly into the PC.  But what if the PC’s USB port was not providing the 5V that it should?

I happened to have a powered USB hub – that is, a hub with a power cable.  These are intended for use when connecting multiple power-hungry USB devices at the same time.

Sure enough, when connected to the same PC through a powered USB hub, both the iPhone and iPod Touch  synchronized successfully.  That was a week ago, and everything has been rock solid since then.

Powered hub (be sure to plug in the power cord!)
Powered hub (be sure to plug in the power cord!)

The USB hub that I’m using is an inexpensive 4-port hub from a company named Tripp-Lite — I’m pretty sure that any powered USB hub would have worked just as well.  To be clear, though, the trick is to use a USB hub that has its own power cord — the more common (and less expensive) hubs are powered through the PC’s USB port, and those don’t generally work well with the  iPhone and iPod Touch.

Of course, this doesn’t solve the underlying problem — why are this PC’s USB ports supplying less than 5V?  The ports are provided some power — enough to satisfy a memory stick or mouse.  A quick scan of the motherboard and power supply didn’t uncover any obvious problems, so I’ll have to leave that mystery to another day.  Since the case (Antec 300), motherboard (Gigabyte GF8200A) and power supply (an ePower 550W unit) are all quite new and of reasonable quality, I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who might have this problem.

If you’re having problems with dropped iPhone or iPod Touch connections, give a powered USB hub a try.

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26 Responses to Simple fix to iPhone/iPod dropped USB connections

  1. Anthony says:

    I have an Iphone 3 gig .. i must of droppped my iphone many times.. but now when i go to charge my iphone with the usb.. it doesnt work … meanwhile it does work with a fire wire cable .. thing is i do not have a fire wire cable on my lap top … so i can not sync nor charge my phone at all.. im trying to figure out if theres anything i could do .. do you mind emailing me back

    -Anthony

    • Dan says:

      Odd that it works with Firewire – otherwise I’d assume that something is wrong the with iPhone connection port. If you haven’t already tried these, I would try (in this order):
      1) connect to a different PC or to the USB AC adapter, to make sure it’s not just a problem with your notebook
      2) try a different USB cable – you can get a cheap one from DealExtreme as mentioned in my article
      3) if #1 and #2 fail, then I guess it really is a problem with the iPhone’s USB hardware, so try adding a Firewire port to your notebook using a PCMCIA card, like this one at DealExtreme: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.5558

  2. Marty says:

    Here’s my details:
    - Windows 7 final x64
    - iPhone 3g w/ an official Apple usb dock
    - Powered hub w/ its own power cord

    I’m having the same issues…the iPhone comes up as “MTP USB Device”, fails to install drivers properly, and fails to take the official Apple driver (USBAAPL64.SYS) when I manually try to install it through Device Manager.

    Plugging the dock directly to a usb port on the pc (and not through the hub) works perfectly.

    This still doesn’t answer why:
    - the hub worked to sync (and upgrade firmwares) perfect on Windows Vista x64 and even pre-release builds of Windows 7…signed/unsigned driver issue maybe?
    - other devices continue to use the powered usb hub just fine and are recognized by Windows 7 x64 normally

    • Dan says:

      Wow, that is an odd one. It doesn’t seem like either a software or hardware problem, since both the software and hardware work fine when used in other configurations.

      The most common cause of iPhone sync problems seems to be drivers that weren’t successfully installed, or were corrupted by some subsequent install. The standard procedure for uninstalling and reinstalling is:
      1) uninstall “Apple Mobile Device USB Driver” in the Device Manager dialog (Since this driver isn’t visible unless a device is successfully connected, you probably have to set an environment variable in order to see it — see the article at http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/remove-old-drivers-after-upgrading-to-new-hardware/ )
      2) in the Remove Programs dialog, uninstall “Apple Mobile Device Support”
      3) in the Remove Programs dialog, uninstall itunes
      4) reboot
      5) reinstall itunes
      6) plug in the iPhone, and hopefully the OS will recognize the device and install the other USB drivers

      But having said all that, it doesn’t seem like a bad driver is the cause of your problem, or the iPhone wouldn’t be recognized when connected directly to a USB port.

      Perhaps the USB hub is no longer powering the ports at the proper voltage? Other USB devices requiring less voltage would continue to work, but the iPhone wouldn’t. It would be worth trying a different hub if you can. Also, if you haven’t already, try connecting the iPhone to the hub without using the iPhone dock to make sure the dock isn’t part of the problem.

      If anyone recognizes this problem, please post your suggestions as a comment.

      Dan.

  3. Iain says:

    Hi,

    Just wondering – how many other devices are connected to teh hub? I had this problem and resolved it by ejecting a couple f things and removing the bluetooth headset charger

  4. BenShah says:

    Okay, am using iPhone 3GS which was fine with Vista but with Windows 7 (Pro version), I got the same old “MTP Device Driver failed to install message”. However, iTunes could recognize that the iPhone was plugged in! The problem was due to pictures contained in the “Camera Roll” folder which were not taken by the phone itself but uploaded or transferred into it. (Note however that pictures synced via iTunes are NOT the cause or problem). Therefore all one needs to do is to remove the foreign pictures in camera roll i.e. those not captured or photographed by the iPhone & hopefully, things will work out for you as it did for me. However, under Explorer, Windows will then recognize the iPhone as “camera” but you do get to retrieve pictures & videos taken with the iPhone.

  5. be says:

    Actually all you have to do is connect the iPhone, let the MTU driver installation fail, then go into the device manager and uninstall the unknown MTU device. If you then scan for new hardware from the device manager it should recognize the iPhone. It worked for me anyway.

  6. ellisfr says:

    I had the same problem and I spent several hours today on this, trying various workaround without result.
    iPhone 3GS, Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bits, iPhone sync OK with iTunes, but unable to open the photo folder and get the iPhone recognized in windows desktop.

    As it was working before, I thought it has nothing to do with the USB port.

    I followed BenShah (cmt 6)advice : I made a backup of all my photos using “iPhone Explorer” (http://www.iphone-explorer.com/ a freeware I found today while browsing the web for my problem), then removed all photos from the iPhone, unplugged the iPhone, took a picture, plugged it again, and it showed on my desktop again !

    So I think this really has to do (in my case) with some kind of corrupted photo I had on my iPhone.

  7. Steve says:

    This has been unbelievably frustrating for me on my new Acer x1750 mini desktop with Windows 7 64-bit installed. It synced fie with XP on my old computer. It installed the MTB USB driver, and as in the original post, it works for a while, then craps out no matter what USB port I use. Having to reboot, kill specific files from the sync list, etc. is all such a PITA. I’m going to uninstall and reinstall the driver to see if that helps, and if not, try the powered HUB trick. If that fails, maybe its time to call it quits with Windows…!

    • Dan says:

      I never did find the root cause of my iPhone sync problem. The most reliable workaround is to put my iPhone in “airplane mode” — I haven’t seen any dropped connections as long as I remember to do so. My hunch is that this works because it requires less power from the USB port, and that the root of the problem is therefore in the PC’s USB hardware. My iPod syncs fine, but of course it is considerably less power hungry.

  8. z says:

    @be
    That solution worked!

  9. CRB says:

    My new HP DM3 1047cl had this problem with win 7 64 bit. Iphone not recognized and sometimes MTP-USB driver failed. I got escalated support at Apple and they finally escalated to engineering. The fix is simple. Delete your camera roll photos (email them to yourself first). Then connect the phone. If this doesn’t cause the camera to show up as a HD on the computer take one photo then plug it in again. This solve the problem for me… permanently.

    Hope this helps everyone.

  10. Super G says:

    Same problem with Windows 7 and the iPhone 3Gs. I was able to get the photos off the camera, then it worked. I did have some photos on the camera than were not taken with the iPhone.

    If you ask me, this is the key to fixing the problem, not messing with your USB port.

  11. Baunster says:

    @ BenShah This worked for me!!

    I used this program runned from a mac and deleted the DCIM-folder:

    http://www.ecamm.com/mac/phoneview/

    then restarted the iPhone and I could see the iPhone as camera-device.

    I do not think it has something to do with the USB either. Try deleting the photos. I just did a backup and deleted all photos!

  12. Dustin says:

    Ok… ive tried a lot. I have some vids and pics I dont want to erase so erasing all pics is for me not an option.
    If this is the same to you… go to the following website.
    This worked for me to get my pics and vids of my iPhone and then on my PC
    http://www.macroplant.com/iphoneexplorer/

  13. Steve says:

    Thank you all for posting responses to this. I am a fairly adept sysadmin and I have been frustrated and angry at my 32GB iPhone 3GS for the last 5 days because I couldn’t get my pics off of it. I too have Win7 Pro 64bit and the most current version of iTunes. The phone would show up in iTunes but not as an imaging device (so I couldn’t pull stuff off). I did everything other forums and Apple suggested. Uninstalled / reinstalled all sorts of stuff, but that MTP driver woulnd’t play nice. I even went to the extent of wiping out and reloading my entire PC.

    Thankfully your comments pointed me in a different direction, and I investigated what was in my camera roll. I used iphoneexplorer to get everything out, then deleted it all. Suddenly, look who shows up in My Computer and wants to be recognized again?!

    My next step was to restore the phone… which would have gotten me working again since the camera roll would have been empty, but putting everything back just the way I like it is such a pain in the you know what. (reloading my PC is a snap, I use portable apps for almost everything)

    Thanks again everyone.

  14. Richard says:

    The problem is likely due to a corrupted photo. It appears as a black slightly larger than usual square icon on the camera roll. Backup the photo (by emailing or use the Dropbox app), then delete it from the camera roll. Your iPhone should be detected once plugged in to the computer.

  15. radiowave says:

    I have Windows 7 Pro on a Dell 64 Bit laptop.
    My computer no longer recognizes my IPhone. It does not show it as a drive when plugged in either. It does not wake it up when plugging in either.
    When plugging in my IPhone, this is what happens:
    Pop up: “Installing device driver”
    Then, Popup
    “Device driver software was not successfully installed”
    Details: “MTP USB device (X)failed”
    Under device manager in “Portable Devices” I see:
    (!)MTP USB device “This device is not working properly because Windows cannot load the drivers required for this device. (Code 31)”
    (!)WPD FileSystem volume driver “This device is not working properly because Windows cannot load the drivers required for this device. (Code 31)”
    But when trying to update the driver for each, I get:
    “Windows has determined the driver software for your device is up to date”.
    Now, it used to work. I checked the phone and cable by plugging in to my wifes computer, all ok. It’s my machine somehow, and I cannot determine what happened. I have tried all USB ports with the same result. I have no restore points to go back to using system restore either. I have uninstalled and re-installed ITunes, making sure I have the latest version but I get the same result. Windows has all of the latest updates. I have played with the drivers in device manager in every way possible and scanned for hardware changed etc, but no fix. I checked Mcafee and made sure it was not blocking Itunes.
    As for the photo delete method of fixing this, you cannot delete photos from the Iphone that were not taken by it. You can only do that in Itunes, which of course I cannot connect to. Also, it all works on my wifes PC anyway, so I doubt the photo delete method would help.

    • Dan says:

      Radiowave, your iPhone problem is similar to the one I had, which led to my original post. If your wife’s PC has iTunes on it and that copy of iTunes was able to connect to your iPhone, then the problem might be the same as mine – a USB hardware defect on your PC. In my case, I’ve managed to sync my iPhone to my PC anyway by connecting my iPhone to a powered USB hub and, before syncing, putting my iPhone in “flight mode”.

      If, however, your wife’s PC doesn’t have iTunes, then you should try the “corrupted photo” fix that has worked for so many other people. It seems that the corrupted photo only causes a probem when iTunes and its related drivers are in the mix. You should be able to copy and delete any photos you have on your iPhone using your wife’s PC – when connected, the iPhone should appear to be a digital camera to it.

      Dan.

      If that doesn’t

  16. Sean Othan says:

    THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!

    I messed around with the Device Manager, tried Apple’s site for an MTP USB that would install correctly, used the trouble shooter, re-installed iTunes, rebooted, scanned for errors.. 3 hours later still at the same spot. I was about to give up my thought that Windows 7 was a huge improvement on Vista.

    AND THEN…

    This simple little thing about deleting corrupted pictures on the camera roll. I don’t know if it was the screenshot ones I got rid of or the ones downloaded in Safari, but after doing so SUDDENLY WHEN PLUGGED IN THE PC SAYS IPHONE INSTALLED SUCCESSFULLY! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    I was ready to call tech support. Can’t imagine the party that would have been.

  17. Thalmus says:

    Hi to all,
    Thank u for your input, unfortunately all these things didnt work for me.

    I’m using a dell studio XPS 435MT with W7 ultimate 64, latest Itunes and 3G, 3GS and 4G Iphones. The problem was the same an all phones !!
    I tried the camera roll stuff, deleting drivers, scan hardware change and all those ideas and nothing worked.
    I FINALLY found what to do.

    The MTB USB problem is due to the fact that Windows chooses that driver instead of usb iphne driver.

    BEFORE DOING THIS MAKE A BACKUP OF YOUR REGESTRY. (in regedit, File >> export)

    To “tell” windows not to chose MTB USB driver do the following :
    - run regedit
    - find “{EEC5AD98-8080-425F-922A-DABF3DE3F69A}” under hkeylocalmachine > system>current control set>control>class
    - click on the “{EEC5AD98-8080-425F-922A-DABF3DE3F69A}” on the left side of the window.
    - appears on the right side differnt things. Right click on “upper something” and click delete.
    - unplug iphone (have at least 1 photo on your iphone)
    - restart computer
    - plug in Iphone and the camera roll apears !

    Hope this helps !!

  18. Joey says:

    @ Thalmus:
    I navigated to the specific location fine, but there was NOT “upper something” there. Any ideas??? By the way, I’ve tried pretty much every suggestion on the entire Internet!

    Parameters of my case:
    Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, iPhone 4, iTunes 10.01.2…
    *** iTunes connects to my iPHone & I can add/remove photos. I can also use SSH programs to access my phone.

    The problem is the bloody MTB USB Device Install Fail message!
    In addition, the camera/DCIM no longer appears in My Computer!
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks~ Ciao!!!

  19. Eugene says:

    try to go to “computer management” and under “universal serial bus controllers” try to find out which one “usb hub” is carrying “apple mobile device usb driver” on “power” panel. then just “disable” this hub. device will switch to another hub. worked for me but it switched to usb not usb2 hub so it’s quite slow ((

  20. Bevan says:

    @Thalmus – thankyou very much. Like most of us above I pissed around searching for ages to find the problem, deleted all my photos etc, and it still didnt work. In my case in the registry I didnt have “Upper Something” but I did have “Upper Filter” so I deleted that, restarted and it all worked well.

    Thanks a lot for your comment – worked for me.

  21. Ilona says:

    Not working for me :(

  22. PT says:

    Thalmus,

    Just had to post a comment to say thank you very much. This has been stumping me for weeks. Tried all the other solutions to no avail. Deleting the upper filters in that reg entry worked a charm. Cheers!