Windows 7 Doesn’t Recognize Olympus VN-960PC via USB Cable

(Note: another post describes how I got the VN-960PC to upload to Linux. It was surprisingly simple and reliable, and the recordings were brought over in their original high quality, not in the reduced-quality version inexplicably imposed by Windows. That post also mentions an approach that worked, at least sometimes, in Windows 10.)

I was using an old Olympus VN-960PC Digital Voice Recorder (DVR). Ideally, after recording something on the DVR, I would plug it into the computer via USB mini-cable, the DVR would be recognized, the Olympus Digital Wave Player software would start up, and it would ask me if I wanted to transfer files from the DVR to the computer.

Unfortunately, I often found that the computer would not recognize the DVR. And then I would be stuck: I would not be able to transfer my recordings from the DVR to the computer. There would always be the option of analog copying — playing back and recording onto the computer or another device via either the speaker or the earphone jack — but this would be very slow and sound quality would suffer. So the question at hand was, how can I get Windows 7 to recognize the DVR reliably?

I was currently having this problem with Windows 7 x64. But I think I had also had the problem with earlier versions of Windows, including x32 and XP.

In the comments following a previous post, I had added several notes about different approaches I had tried, to get the computer to recognize the Olympus DVR. Probably the first thing to do was to make sure that the latest version of Digital Wave Player was installed. That was version 2.1.4. It had not been updated for some years. With that software installed, there should have been at least one time when the computer did recognize and download from the DVR. (Note that Digital Wave Player would not automatically offer to do the upload until the user went into that program’s Transfer > Transfer Options dialog and checked the relevant box.) If there had never been a single successful transfer, then the problem might be with the installation, not with the hardware.

At this writing, the notes following that previous post might be best summarized as follows. Until just recently, the best approach that I had found was one that combined several steps. As stated in more detail in those prior notes, the basic idea was to let the computer forget about it. This would entail either turning the computer off for maybe 15 to 30 minutes and then trying again, or removing all power sources (including both the battery and the power cable from a laptop, and possibly including the lithium battery from a desktop motherboard) for five or ten minutes. Then I would boot into Safe Mode, connect the VN-960PC, let it be recognized in Device Manager, uninstall it in Device Manager, disconnect and connect it again, let it be recognized again, and this time not disconnect until after the reboot. That process seemed to work most of the time.

Just recently, however, I had discovered something else. When I connected the mini-USB cable to a USB hub instead of connecting it directly to the computer, the situation changed. I was using a Plugable USB3-HUB7A (ASIN B00D7P6176, UPC 649241924654) seven-port USB 3.0 hub.

That Plugable USB hub had a power button on the end. I found that the problem went away if I used that power button to turn off the hub before disconnecting the mini-USB cable from the VN-960PC DVR. In other words, I would connect the DVR, upload the files to the computer, hit the power button to turn off the hub, and only then disconnect the mini-USB cable from the VN-960PC. The implication was that the problem of the unrecognized VN-960PC was created by an improper previous disconnection of the VN-960PC. It seemed that turning the hub off first somehow resolved that problem.

I was not sure if this would work with other USB hubs. For instance, what if I used a USB hub that did not have a power button — would this solution work if I just unplugged that hub’s USB cable from the computer before unplugging the mini-USB cable from the DVR?

Sadly, the Plugable hub died just six months after I wrote the foregoing words (but 2.5 years after first being put into service). I found that another hub, a HooToo HT-UH007, would also work. It appeared, in fact, that when the Plugable hub was dying, it was polluting the entire USB network, so that the computer would not recognize the VN-960PC in any USB socket. After trying every possible combination, I unplugged the Plugable unit, plugged in the HooToo, and presto! just like that, the computer was uploading from the VN-960PC with no problem.

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