None of my USB or keyboard or mouse ports are working. Windows boots up and shows the Ctrl-Alt-Delete screen but none of my ports work so i cannot use the mouse of keyboard. Just started this a few day ago.
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some older computers don't load usb devices until after windows is booted and in such instances usually a traditional ps2 mouse and keyboard (green and purple plugs respectively) are the best option to enter the bios or boot from cd/dvd
You can try this. On the log-on screen where you see your Account Icons try pressing ctrl alt delete. Some windows XP are configured that if ctrl+alt+delete are pressed on the lon-on screen the classic log-on screen window will appear, where you can type your username and password thus eliminating the use of the mouse.
Does the system respond to boot keys (F2, F12) when the DELL logo appears? If so the problem is with Windows drivers and probably can be resolved by reinstalling or rolling back the drivers, but how? Do you have access to another keyboard? Does the system have PS/2 ports? Do you have access to a PS/2 keyboard or adapter? If boot keys work, you could also choose F8 for Last Known Good Config (XP) or System Restore (Vista).
Have you tried different ports (front if using back or visa-versa)? Try using just keyboard or mouse to see if one has somehow shorted. Also check the ports for any sign of damage.
This can be a problem with the driver that controls your USB ports. Your drivers can be located here. Make sure they are up to date and try again. If it doesnt remedy the problem, it may be hardware related.
is your mouse and keyboard plugged into a PS2 connector http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ps-2-ports.jpg look inside of your case and see if any capacitors are buldging on your motherboard the tops of the capacitors should be level/flat if they're ok, sounds like they are going, look for brown rusty color also around tops of capacitors, might be your outputs are going. If you have your mouse and keyboard plugged into ps2 ports try a USB Mouse and keyboard, borrow one first or buy a usb laser mouse for $12 worth a try even if your ps2 ports are blown, use the usb ports for mouse/keys ;)