The broken motherboard header pin issue is a classic issue with DIY-ers and MOD-ers… but there are a few things you can try to do to fix it. Some of them are really simple, but some of them are not. Please use this post as a source for ideas and possibilities and not a definitive guide to walk you through a guaranteed fix. This is NOT an exact science, so please use common sense and know your own limitations.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE TO YOUR COMPUTER, DEVICES OR PERSON. USB PORTS THAT ARE NOT PROPERLY CONFIGURED CAN DAMAGE YOUR EQUIPMENT.
There. Now, where was I?…
I once noticed that one of my USB 3.0 ports was not working and I checked the connector only to realize the VBUS pin that is next to the missing / not connected (NC) pin was broken clean off at the base, with only a tiny spec of metal showing at the very bottom of the motherboard header output. While I was searching for a “do it yourself fix” or mod of some kind, I stumbled across this post and I’m sure I’m not the first to find it while trying to figure out what other people have done to fix this problem.
That is where I found this gem of a YouTube video that depicts what it is like when trying to fix a broken CPU pin:
I thought that the “Benny Hill fast-forward” was particularly hilarious, but only second to the reaction of success. ;oÞ
After doing the Google Dance and scanning through various sources, I discovered this is a common problem with the “solo VBUS pin” of the USB 3.0 header pin and socket . I kept searching and found a few great suggestions and the above YouTube Video relating to the bent / broken pin issue on good ole TomsHardware.com – An AWESOME resource for any MOD or DIY Computer project. That said, this is an issue that will keep arising until everything is like a USB, HMDI or similar one piece connection. That is not likely to happen anytime soon, but maybe someday…
I’ve done this same broken CPU pin trick for the above video before. If I remember right, it was a P.O.S. Cyrix CPU I bought from “The Old TigerDirect.com” back around 2000-2001. TigerDirect.com has come a VERY long way since then, and I LOVE that they bought out CompUSA and have select locations around the country. I am lucky enough to have two locations within a 30 minute drive, and sometimes buying things on the spot when you (or a client) are in a pinch. I remember being intrigued to see what the Cyrix CPU was going to be like, yet what I found in the package was 30% of the CPU pins rolling around in the flimsy little box that it came in when I opened the package. I was actually able to get this system to boot on the first try! For whatever reason, the pins seemed to have not set into the die of the cpu, but there were deep enough pits from the failed pin setting that it fit like a glove before and after I locked the CPU down into the socket.
I have also managed to “fashion” a pin from the right sized wire if the broken header pin is unusable, vanishes completely (where do they go??) or gets stuck in the connector to the point of no possible recovery (often rendering the connector useless with the header stuck in one of the holes). It is VERY tricky to get the of the wire piece length right, and if you use too flimsy of wire, its just going to flex and/or break off also. I know it is tedious, but measuring is a VERY good idea. Sometimes you are better off starting over with a new wire piece before getting it stuck into the connector and ruining it. I would use something AT LEAST as rigid as solid copper wire.
I have a few other ideas I’ve tried and worked, or some other proof of concept type things too.
As I was scouring the web, I was hoping to find a “solder-less solution”; I was searching for something like a standoff to fit the original socket exactly, but with a brand shiny new pins to overlap the motherboard header pins, and an extra pin (or a few pins) to slip into the bottom of the standoff to replace the broken ones.
Something like this… but in a ready-to-go USB 3.0 broken header pin repair kit:
I’ve seen this sort of “repair kit” type thing before with USB 1.0 and 2.0 headers, and other header types too, but not for a awhile now. I guess with everything getting so cheap, people just buy new… or… Try to RMA the products, hoping no one will ever notice. You know who you are…
The newer USB 3.0 molex connectors are much larger and heavier than the old school multi-colored wires that connected to single pins. Does anyone else remember having to connect each wire to the USB 1/2 headers? Oi.
(INSERT IMAGE OF USB 3.0 Molex female connector – coming soon)
The downside to the old ways is that it was a PAIN IN THE @!$!$! to get all the individual pins correctly mounted to make the USB device function properly. It’s been almost a decade now since the “all lined up and ready to plug-in” usb header pin connectors have become the norm, but that beefy new USB 3.0 SuperSpeed (SS) connector that fits into the 19-pin (and apparently sometimes 20-pin) socket sticks up off the motherboard a lot farther, and it’s easy to bump it or push it up or down while working inside the case with everything all connected already.
(INSERT OLD STYLE USB HEADER IMAGE HERE – coming soon)
I believe I broke my VBUS pin while upgrading some case fans and tweaking my CPU water cooler configuration. I found one of my front panel USB 3.0 SuperSpeed (SS) ports was no longer working at all, not even powering a battery charger… I knew right away that something was up with the voltage pin for that port, and since the other USB 3.0 in the front panel was working fine, I did some investigating. Sure enough, I found my front panel USB 3.0 molex connector in the socket, though at an angle with only about 80% in the header pin socket at the top most part.
I am not sure if I am lucky that I do not have to fuss with removing the rest of the pin from the socket, or I am cursed because I have very little contact area to make a connection to the motherboard.
Since this pin is next to the space where there is no pin connector in the 19-pin configuration, I could have tried to bend down the remaining stub and fit a small piece of wire into the connector and hook the tip of the wire under the bent pin. But I have an idea that just might be perfect for my situation…
If I can find a the right size diameter of a sewing straight pin with a flat head on the “not sharp” end, and trim off the excess length to fit into the connector and make contact with the broken off male USB 3.0 VBUS header pin, I will have a few extra micrometers of contact surface to make a good enough connection to the tiny, almost non-existent) header pin stub. I will probably try to use the straight pin sharp tip to scrap at the plastic around the broken pin on the connector first, and remove any plastic shavings from the area to increase my odds of success. I try to leave a little TINY bit of extra length on any makeshift header pin I fabricate to fix the broken header pin, but only a millimeter or three. The existing unbroken pins are long enough that the female USB 3.0 socket connection holes are deeper than they absolutely need to be to make the connection. This is still only a bit of “wiggle room” for this trial and error project.
Once I have tried a few things, I will edit this post with an update on what ended up being my solution.
Do you like my confidence? How can I be so sure any of this is going to work? Well… I have McGyver-ed motherboard header pins before, and 90% of the time, I end up coming up with something that gets the job done.
The trouble is, once you DO get the connection working well, this could happen all over again. I know it sounds crazy, but if I am successful and I have had a chance to test it all out to ensure the USB 3.0 SS port is fully functional, I can (CAREFULLY!) spot the top edges of the male and female USB header connectors where the connector is prone to shifting and impact with a tiny drop of super glue at the top so I can make sure it will not pop out again so easily. It makes sense to do this, really, because what else would I ever put into the male USB 3.0 header socket but a female connector?
The good news is, that even if any of this does not fix my issue, I still have a few USB 3.0 SS ports in the rear of the case, and I also have a PCI Express slot USB 3.0 add-on card, equipped with 2 USB 3.0 Ports on the card slot retainer that are exposed to the rear of the computer case, as well as an additional header socket to connect my 2 USB 3.0 front panel cable to. I may need to use a little acetone solution (like what some nail polish removers have in them) on the end of a straight pin (or perhaps a pre-moistened Q-tip?) to free the glued in connector, but if I will have to be EXTREMELY careful in doing so. I will be sure to dilute it a little, as acetone eats through certain plastics and other materials.
-TO BE CONTINUED-
If anyone else reading this has any similar stories or ideas that they think might help someone (or me, for that matter) out, please SHARE in the comment section! I *OBVIOUSLY* entertain all kinds of crazy ideas.