This week, I received a question about a problem that subscriber Harold (no last name – and you’ll see why…) was having:
I have acquired a couple of old pcs that have Windows XP operating system. They were used in a business and I have to wipe the hard drives.
One has a 20 gb hd and the other has a 40 gb hd. First I booted them to see if they were working correctly.
They booted ok except neither would recognize my mouse or keyboard. Both these were not connected by USB.
It seems odd that both acted the same way.
Have you ever witnessed this? Do you know any ideas that I might try?
I wrote back to Harold to ask some questions and to give him some suggestions.
He said that “both of these were not connected by USB.” That wasn’t clear, so I wanted to know if he meant that he had connected a mouse and keyboard via the mouse and keyboard PS/2 connectors on the computer.
Were they a “PS/2” mouse and PS/2 keyboard. Another way he might have connected a mouse and keyboard might have been to use a USB-PS/2 Y-adapter to connect PS/2 devices to the computer via one of the computer’s USB connectors.
One of my concerns is that, unlike USB ports, PS/2 ports are not hot-pluggable. They’re not made for you to be able to plug and unplug devices while the computer is powered on.
Note that, in today’s world of ATX power supplies (as opposed to the old days of AT power supplies), your motherboard is ALWAYS powered on – the power switch is merely a momentary contact switch that tells the computer to “wake up.”
If he plugged in (or unplugged) the keyboard and mouse after the computer was plugged into the power lines (whether it was “turned on” or not), he could have blown (shorted out) the PS/2 ports on the motherboard, on the keyboard, and on the mouse, or on all three.
The previous owner could have done that, too, by unplugging the mouse and keyboard while the computer was plugged in.
Harold wrote back to advise:
Both the mouse and keyboard are PS2. I didn’t use any adapters to plug them in.
Originally I just plugged them in and turned on the computers to boot. Later, after trying a linux live cd and not having the mouse or keyboard recognized I got to plugging and unplugging the keyboard.
I noticed that the lights on the keyboard would come on briefly and then go off. I only tried this on one of them.
Fortunately, Harold wrote back shortly afterwards to report:
Terry, I hate to admit the solution to my problem but I must. I used a usb mouse and it worked.
So then I plugged in a PS2 keyboard and looked in hardware/devices and saw that XP had found a PS2 mouse but couldn’t get it to work. I realized that I had the keyboard in the mouse connector.
Thanks for your answering my call. I still enjoy your computer tips even though I use Linux more than Windows. Almost everyone I know uses some form of Windows so the information I get from you is valuable when they ask me questions.
Looking really dumb,
I wrote back to Harold to tell him "Been there, done that…" I’m glad he solved the problem.