This site contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, We earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
The USB-C ports on your MacBook Pro are used for almost everything, from charging to data transfer. But when they decide to stop working, they can bring your productivity to a screeching halt.
In this article, I’ll help you solve your USB-C port issue by walking you through possible reasons. I’ll consider four reasons why your USB-C ports may have gone on strike – whether it needs an SMC reset, a faulty USB device, or just plain old dust buildup.
I’ll also give you details about Apple Support and some common questions. So, let’s get started.
First Things First
Before you read about the four reasons for your MacBook Pro USB-C port not working, you should go through this list of quick solutions first:
- Make sure you’ve installed the latest version of macOS
- Reboot your MacBook Pro
- Run an Apple Diagnostics test
The first two steps are straightforward and could reactivate the USB-C ports. Running an Apple Diagnostics test will make it easier to identify if the error is software- or hardware-based, simplifying the troubleshooting process.
Now, let’s discover why your Mac’s USB-C ports are acting out.
Possible Reason #1: SMC Needs A Reset
If rebooting your MacBook Pro doesn’t reactivate your USB-C ports, resetting the SMC may do the trick. The SMC is responsible for managing power-related functions such as thermal management, battery charging, and USB-C port functionality. If your MacBook Pro is experiencing issues with the USB-C ports, try resetting the SMC as a troubleshooting step.
Resetting the SMC is almost like a finger gymnastics exercise, but it usually reactivates your MacBook’s USB-C ports. So, it’s worth giving it a try. Here’s how to reset the SMC on your MacBook Pro:
On Intel-based Macs
For Intel-based MacBook Pros, follow these steps:
- Press and hold the Control, Option, and Shift buttons simultaneously.
- After seven seconds, press and hold the power button too.
- Your MacBook Pro will turn off at this point, but keep holding the keys for another seven seconds.
- After that, wait ten seconds and press the power button again to switch on your MacBook Pro.
On Apple Silicon Macs
Resetting the SMC on Apple Silicon Macs is simpler than resetting the SMC on Intel-based Macs. Here are the steps to reset the SMC on Apple Silicon Macs:
- Shut down your Mac.
- Hold the power button for at least 10 seconds, then release it.
- Wait a few seconds and press the power button again to turn on your Mac.
That’s it! After resetting the SMC, you can test the USB-C ports to see if they work properly.
Note that these steps apply to MacBooks, including the Apple T2 security chip introduced in late 2017. If you have an older MacBook, read the instructions here.
Possible Reason #2: Dead External Drive
Sometimes, the drive you’re trying to connect to your Mac’s USB-C port is faulty. In that case, there’s no issue with your Mac’s USB-C port at all.
Plug a different device into the USB-C port to check if you have a dead drive. If it connects, the issue is with your external hard drive, not your MacBook Pro’s USB-C port. You can also try connecting the possibly faulty external drive to another computer. If it doesn’t connect to that computer either, then it is damaged.
Alternatively, you can diagnose a dead external drive by following these steps:
- Click the Apple icon in the Menu bar.
- Holding the Option key click System Information.
- In the left sidebar, under Hardware, open the USB section.
- If you can see your external drive here, but it doesn’t work on your Mac, it means the drive is faulty instead of the port.
- Be sure to review the drive’s documentation for troubleshooting tips.
You can click the device for more information, like data speed, manufacturer, and current requirements. It’s also possible that the Finder preferences have been set up to hide the device you’re trying to connect to. For more info on that, read this article.
Possible Reason #3: Faulty USB Device
It’s totally possible that the issue isn’t with your USB-C port but with the device or peripheral you’ve connected to it. Maybe its cable is worn out, overheated, or just hogging too much power. Here are a few steps you can follow to troubleshoot this issue:
- First, disconnect all non-essential USB devices except the one you’re testing.
- Establish a direct connection with the MacBook, excluding hubs or extension cables.
- If the device works fine, one of your other USB devices is causing the problem.
- Do it with all your USB devices to identify the faulty one.
Besides this, you can also check for a few other things, like the following:
- If the device’s cable is worn out, try a different one.
- If you’re using a USB hub, the data speed of both the device and the hub must be aligned, like a USB 3.0 Hi-Speed device connected to a USB 3.0 Hi-Speed hub.
- Install the latest software available for the device directly from the developer.
If you want more advice like this, read this article by Apple.
Possible Reason #4: Dust Buildup
If you use your MacBook Pro in a dusty space, its USB-C ports may become clogged with dirt and debris, resulting in frequent connection drops. So, doing a quick cleanup can help reactivate them.
For this process, you need a wooden toothpick or a disposable floss pick (avoid using a metal needle), a can of compressed air, and a soft dry brush or cloth. Now, follow these steps to clean your MacBook’s ports:
Before you clean the ports, shut down your MacBook Pro.
- Place the thin nozzle of the compressed air can over one USB-C port and spray it a few times.
- Take your toothpick or floss pick, slide it down into the port, move it around the edge, and bring it back up to flick any dirt or debris. Be careful and gentle.
- Hold your MacBook Pro with the port facing the floor and blow compressed air in it again.
- Use a dry brush or cloth to clean around the edges.
- Repeat this process for each USB-C port on your MacBook Pro.
You can purchase anti-dust plugs if you don’t want to worry about dust buildup again. This one from PortPlugs comes with ten USB-C plugs, five headphone jack plugs, and a cleaning brush.
If you’ve tried all the above solutions, but none has reactivated your MacBook Pro’s USB-C ports, there’s likely a more severe issue. It could be water damage, corrosion, or a faulty board. It would be best to get in touch with an Apple repair technician.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know how to reactivate USB-C ports, here are some common questions that might be running around your mind.
Could NVRAM affect my Mac’s USB-C ports?
NVRAM can affect your Mac’s USB-C ports. MacBook Pro uses Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM) to store basic system settings, such as the startup disk, display resolution, and other system-level settings. These settings can include the configuration of the USB-C ports, such as their power management and connection settings. There’s a slim chance that resetting NVRAM will reactivate your USB-C ports, but it’s worth trying if you’ve exhausted all other options. You’ll find the instructions here.
What if the firmware is deactivating my MacBook Pro’s USB-C ports?
If the firmware is deactivating your MacBook Pro’s USB-C ports, you can check it with Apple Configurator 2. This will help rule out any software-related causes for your USB-C ports being deactivated. It will also update the firmware and erase and install the latest macOS version. Here are the instructions for using it for Intel and Apple Silicon.
How can I fix a software issue that is causing my MacBook Pro USB-C port to not work?
You can fix a software issue that is causing your MacBook Pro USB-C port to not work by resetting the SMC (System Management Controller) and NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random Access Memory), updating your macOS, or resetting your MacBook Pro to its factory settings.
The USB-C ports on your MacBook Pro suddenly becoming unresponsive can reduce productivity. The causes of a malfunctioning USB-C can range from faulty USB peripherals to outdated software.
Fortunately, you can try plenty of solutions to get those stubborn ports back in working order. From resetting SMC to changing Finder preferences and even doing a quick cleanup, you’ve got plenty of tricks to try. Hopefully, trying out these solutions gets the ports up and running again.
Despite your best efforts, if the USB-C ports aren’t reactivated, I recommend contacting Apple support and considering further options.
Did trying out these solutions reactivate your USB-C ports? Do you have any tips for other users facing the same issue to follow? Feel free to share in the comments!About Devansh Kamdar