New MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models have serious USB flaw — what to do

MacBook Air 2020 ports
(Image credit: Future)

If you've been having trouble with the USB ports on your 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) and MacBook Air (2020), then you're not alone.

MacRumors reports (via TechRadar) that the newest MacBooks are struggling to work with USB 2.0 accessories, with reports coming from the MacRumors forums, Reddit and Apple Communities. These two models only have USB-C ports built in (which use the newer USB 3.0 standard), so anyone who needs to plug in an adapter or USB-C hub to connect other accessories could encounter this problem.

The problem seems to affect all kinds of USB accessories like headphones, mice and keyboards, both with the peripherals losing their connection not working, and with the MacBook itself experiencing slowdowns and freezes when they're connected. 

One user reports that when this happens, the HDMI connection that goes through their hub to a separate monitor still works, which means the hubs and accessories are most likely not at fault. Software fixes, like resets, swapping accounts and installation have proved ineffective. Even users who have had their MacBook replaced by Apple still find they have the problem with the new laptops. 

Another user says that certain USB hubs can be used as a workaround however. They give the example of one made by CalDigit which works perfectly, likely due to its internal software which switches any USB 2.0 connection to a virtual USB 3.0 one before interfacing with the laptop.

One Reddit user who tried to diagnose the problem believes that this is a software issue, stemming from how the newest version of the software, MacOS Catalina, treats devices with older USB connectors. 

A software problem would be great news, as Apple could then solve these issues with an update. If the problem is tied to the MacBooks' hardware, it could force Apple to start an expensive recall program to replace whichever components are faulty.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.