Take the 2-minute tour ×
Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Background

I sometimes find that the frontmost of three ports on a 2009 MacBookPro5,2 is less capable than the other ports.

This frontmost port with an independent bus seems:

  • good enough to charge an iPhone 1
  • sometimes problematic for devices that have their own power sources
  • sometimes problematic for simple bus-powered devices, for example a Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical.

Maybe more problematic when the laptop is booted from something other than the internal drive (Serial-ATA).

In some problem situations, reconnecting the device to an alternative port might work around … at least temporarily.

I read of comparable problems with:

Expectation

One port should provide up to 1100 mA at 5 V subject to the conditions given in Apple article HT4049.

Question

Why might just one USB port of a MacBook Pro be problematic with a device that draws little power, or with a device that has an independent power supply?

Environment

MacBookPro5,2 with 8 GB memory, checked twice with Apple Service Toolkit (AST) by an Apple authorised service provider.

To the best of my knowledge/recollection:

  • when I find trouble with the frontmost port, neither of the other ports has requirements exceeding 500 mA at 5 V
  • I have no device that requires more than 500 mA.

Rearmost port

USB High-Speed Bus:

  Host Controller Location: Built-in USB
  Host Controller Driver:   AppleUSBEHCI
  PCI Device ID:    0x7f8b00000aa9 
  PCI Revision ID:  0x7f8b000000b1 
  PCI Vendor ID:    0x7f8b000010de 
  Bus Number:   0x26 

Central port

USB High-Speed Bus:

  Host Controller Location: Built-in USB
  Host Controller Driver:   AppleUSBEHCI
  PCI Device ID:    0x7fb200000aa9 
  PCI Revision ID:  0x7fb2000000b1 
  PCI Vendor ID:    0x7fb2000010de 
  Bus Number:   0x26 

Frontmost port

USB High-Speed Bus:

  Host Controller Location: Built-in USB
  Host Controller Driver:   AppleUSBEHCI
  PCI Device ID:    0x7250505300000aa6 
  PCI Revision ID:  0x72505053000000b1 
  PCI Vendor ID:    0x72505053000010de 
  Bus Number:   0x24 

Always on bus 0x24: the built-in iSight, which requires 500 mA when not in use.

Other buses

USB Bus:

  Host Controller Location: Built-in USB
  Host Controller Driver:   AppleUSBOHCI
  PCI Device ID:    0x7faf00000aa5 
  PCI Revision ID:  0x7faf000000b1 
  PCI Vendor ID:    0x7faf000010de 
  Bus Number:   0x04 

USB Bus:

  Host Controller Location: Built-in USB
  Host Controller Driver:   AppleUSBOHCI
  PCI Device ID:    0x7faf00000aa7 
  PCI Revision ID:  0x7faf000000b1 
  PCI Vendor ID:    0x7faf000010de 
  Bus Number:   0x06 

Links

How do you check how much power a Mac USB port can deliver?

Apple Computers and Displays: Powering peripherals through USB – article HT4049.


Some time after posting this question I learnt that USB is amongst the focus areas for Build 12B13 of OS X 10.8.1. I'll review this question, and answers, after 10.8.1 is released.

share|improve this question
    
Hi Graham. It's the 15" 6,2 model, 2.4GHz. Cheers –  Ali Maxwell Jul 25 '12 at 12:55
add comment

2 Answers 2

It's difficult to tell if you have a hardware issue or this is just how things are designed.

Have you read through this article on how Apple detects the first device that requests higher power and enables that power on some, but not all ports?

I know you have linked to it, but the 500 mA is subject to measurement errors on the computer side - so plugging in a device can draw more current than the device says it should. Similarly, the measurement side where the Mac determines the actual power draw could be flakey or failing. This sort of thing isn't tested in the system diagnostics. You would need a test set / oscilloscope / engineering lab to really measure these currents with enough resolution to pin down exactly what is happening.

It could be just the order in which the system decides to detect a device attached. Once you have ruled that out and have a repeatable issue - you might need to have the Mac checked for service if it isn't producing power as expected. Now that you know that the order in which devices are plugged can affect things, perhaps this will help narrow down if the enhanced power is correctly available to some (changeable) subset of the ports and hubs made by Apple.

There is no easy answer other than being precise and narrowing down exactly which devices are causing errors and statistically determining/isolating whether it's the devices or the port that is out of spec and needs to be replaced.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks - the MacBookPro5,2 has been checked twice with AST. With one affected peripheral, it should be simple enough to check power. With other affected peripherals it may be a long time before comparable checks can be made. –  Graham Perrin Jul 26 '12 at 9:09
    
Are computer-side measurement errors due to problems with (a) integral hardware, (b) OS X, or both? I see that Boot Camp can not provide extra power so I doubt that Windows can be better for measurement, but I wonder whether booting something other than OS X will allow more accurate measurement. –  Graham Perrin Jul 26 '12 at 20:30
add comment

The port may be dirty or worn.

In that case it may be a contact issue, the port might have dirt, corrosion, etc. building up on the contacts. I would try cleaning the USB port with an electrical contact cleaner or isopropyl alcohol and see if the problems persist. If it does then I would suggest there may be an issue with the USB controller or the physical port itself, causing the misbehavior.

Also a helpful source on how to clean a USB Port

  1. Unplug any devices from the USB ports and turn off the computer.

  2. Blow compressed air into the USB ports to remove any dirt or dust.

  3. Dampen a cotton swab with a small amount of isopropyl alcohol and squeeze out any excess.

  4. Wipe the inside of the USB ports gently with a cotton swab. Allow the ports to dry for an hour or two before turning the computer on.

Read more: How to Clean USB Ports | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_8279912_clean-usb-ports.html#ixzz21djdUf2f

Contact Cleaner example

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.