USB ports don't provide power

I’m running Windows 11 Pro on a 13th generation Framework 13. I have a USB-A module slotted into the back-right slot and USB-C ports everywhere else.

If I plug in something like a USB stick, the port works fine. But if I try and connect it to my cooling pad, for example, nothing happens. Using a USB-C to USB-A cable to connect the fan to a USB-C slot has the same result – that is, nothing happens.

The USB-C ports work to charge the laptop itself, and I can plug in my eGPU into the same slots and run games over Thunderbolt. It seems to be just “dumb” peripherals that don’t work.


Can you clarify how you are connecting the cooling pad?
What type of port does the cooling pad have, what cable are you using, what type of port on the Framework are you plugging into. For example, cooling pad USB-C female > USB-C male to USB-A male cable > USB-A female Framework port. The model of your cooling pad, if you know it, or a link could be helpful too.

It sounds like you might be using an arrangement that does not work. Or that your cable does not properly trigger USB-C to switch into the mode that you need.

Cooling pad has female USB-A ports; like I said I tried both USB-A and USB-C expansion cards on the Framework side, with a USB-A male-to-male cable and a USB-C-to-USB-A male-to-male cable. Cooling pad is this Liangstar: Laptop Cooling Pad, Laptop Cooler with 6 Quiet Led Fans for 15.6-17 Inch Laptop Cooling Fan Stand, Portable Ultra Slim USB Powered Gaming Laptop Cooling Pad, Switch Control Fan Speed Function : Electronics

Being powered through a female USB-A port is definitely not proper. Almost certainly, the USB spec does not allow USB-A male to USB-A male cables. Be careful to never try to use it with anything other than the cooler, it could damage devices depending on how the cable was made.

But still, I’m a little surprised that you couldn’t get it to work plugging into a USB-A expansion card on the Framework side. You’ve tried the cooling pad with other computers? Does the cable work regardless of which end is plugged into the cooler?

The USB-C male to USB-A male cable you tried, did this cable come with the cooler? Because a normal USB-C to USB-A cable would never work. They don’t request power on the USB-C side. You would need a special cable or adapter. Often advertised as “OTG” (On-The-Go).

… I mean, every hub, pad, fan, and peripheral I’ve ever seen that isn’t itself a USB drive was connected and powered through a female USB port. Indeed I’d be quite annoyed otherwise, because having a male USB connector sticking out of a block is just going to get bent and broken within a few weeks at best.

The cooling pad works fine with other computers, though as I wore out the USB-A port on my last laptop I’ve been directly powering it from a wall outlet for the last few months. The cable works in either direction, yes.

The C-to-A cable I used didn’t come with the cooler, but I’ve used it to charge devices before.

Yes, but not a full sized USB-A female port. Those are for the host / computer side or power supply side.

Not to say there aren’t devices that use USB-A female ports to receive power, but it violates USB specs and can cause problems. USB-A male to USB-A male cables can damage things. They should be using the “B” ports (micro B or full sized B) or USB-C to receive power.
USB hardware, Connectors - Wikipedia

Wikipedia - USB power direction

USB connections are directed; a host device has “downstream” facing ports that connect to the “upstream” facing ports of devices. Only downstream facing ports provide power; this topology was chosen to easily prevent electrical overloads and damaged equipment. Thus, USB cables have different ends: A and B, with different physical connectors for each.

It is odd then that it’s not working with a USB-A expansion card on the Framework side. I’d suggest flipping it around anyway, try it every which way. I see the cooler has two female USB-A ports. Either can be used to power the cooler?
Only thing I can think is that maybe a data line in the USB-A male to USB-A male cable broke (or it omits the data lines entirely). Dedicated USB power supplies like wall adapters often don’t care, and will supply max current regardless, some computers won’t even care. Technically, iirc USB hosts are supposed to read the data lines and only supply higher currents if it’s requested, or for dumb devices if there are certain resistors are sensed on the data lines. And without signaling for higher current, the current the cooler is getting may not be enough to even spin up the fans. Just a guess though.

1 Like