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Windows does not recognize any USB storage devices

“What the heck, dude!” Gil Bates screamed angrily, “My darn Windows fails to install drivers for all my friggin’ USB sticks!”
“Right…” I sighed. “Have you actually tried several different ones?”
His overtly furious stare was not killing me softly. Alright then.

So I plugged my once huge 512 megabyte USB pen drive (the one used for testing purposes only) into his “darn” laptop and Windows 7 happily displayed the normal “Installing device drive software” popup in the system tray. Just as I was about to switch on that irreverent sparkle in my eyes, Windows stated: “Device driver software was not successfully installed.” What the…?!

“See, I told you so!” Gil yelled. Thanks, man, I’m not the deaf one here. 😛

After unsuccessfully trying a few other drives, I googled a bit and found no good answers. Except for some extremely funny “solutions” provided by utter computer newbies. Oh my, is there really no fix for this?

Then a memory from the distant past hit me. Ouch, I’ve been there before! Wax on, wax off… wait, that’s not the right mov(i)e.
Yeah, it happened once when Windows XP had no service packs yet. You know, back when cars were steam-powered and everyone wanted to see The X-Files movie.

So I opened Windows Explorer, navigated to Windows folder and opened Inf subfolder. Yup, there they were: usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf files. I opened the first one and verified that its contents were readable.
It had to be the PNF (Precompiled Setup Information) file then! I hit F2 key and renamed it to usbstor-old.pnf. “Usbstor, you’re fired!” I thought to myself before plugging in the USB drive.

Guess what – the drivers were installed successfully! The pen drive worked, and so did all Gil’s USB sticks now. Huh, that renamed PNF file was corrupted and prevented determining correct driver software for all USB storage devices. As Windows is able to rebuild a working copy of the file, no harm was done.

I’m the man! 😀 The solution seems to apply to Windows Vista, 8/8.1 and 10 also.

By the way, sometimes the usbstor.inf file might get corrupted: if it is empty, missing, or has unreadable contents, just google for something like “usbstor.inf windows 7” and copy-paste the plain text data from forums.

That’s it for the Windows failing to install USB storage drivers problem. 🙂