The USB hub, that is.
If you have Saitek panels that don’t seem to be working correctly, don’t download new drivers. Make sure there’s enough power to the hub. If you have Saitek FIPs that aren’t loading, don’t mess with SPAD or SPAD.neXt. Make sure they’re not all plugged into the same hub. If you have a Saitek yoke that’s not registering, make sure it’s in a USB 2.0 hub. If you have a Saitek radio panel that’s dropped out for some reason, run turn the power management off on the USB hub.
Basically, if your Saitek stuff isn’t working right, the first stop should be checking the hub. I was reminded of this last weekend when, for no apparent reason, my Saitek gear stopped working reliably. This included, interestingly, repeated crashing of the Direct Output .dll file while running the sim. I turned off power management. I loaded SPAD. I unloaded SPAD. I reinstalled all the Saitek drivers. I plugged everything into different ports on the hubs. I pulled my hair out.
Then I remembered that I had unplugged all the USB devices and hubs from the PC when I had updated the BIOS the day before. One of those powered hubs I had plugged back into the one USB 3.1 port on the PC. They didn’t like each other. I plugged that powered hub back into a 3.0 port, and everything worked fine.
I currently have 17 USB devices running on the sim PC. These are finicky devices, and they require a lot of power. They also are a bit dated, and not all were designed with USB 3.0 (and definitely 3.1) in mind. So if you are using Saitek gear, here are my guidelines for them running as seamlessly as possible from a USB perspective. Each lesson was learned the hard way:
- Plug your Saitek yoke and pedals into USB 2.0 ports if possible. They are most reliable this way.
- Use ONLY powered hubs if you plan to use external expansion hubs.
- MAKE CERTAIN there is enough power on the powered hub to provide at least 500 milliamps to each device plugged into it. If you plan to have four devices plugged into the hub, get a hub that’s a least a 2 amp hub. The more power the better. If it’s a 1.5 amp hub, plug no more than three devices into it. THIS RULE IS VERY IMPORTANT.
- It’s OK to use the Cessna or Pro Yokes as hubs, but make sure that they, too, are powered. Plug no more than two (or maybe three) devices into each, as the yoke itself also needs power.
- Avoid 3.1 USB ports of possible. They don’t play nice with Saitek gear in my experience. Plug your Bluetooth USB keyboard dongle (or some such thing) into that instead.
- Spread your Saitek Flight Information Panels across different hubs. They definitely draw their full allotment of 500 milliamps. Putting more than one on any hub is pushing your luck.
- Go into the PC’s device settings, right click on each USB hub listed, select properties, and if there is a “Power Management” tab, click it and turn power management OFF.
- Just to be sure, download and occasionally run this free power management utility as well.
When I troubleshoot Saitek gear, I now go in this order:
- Make sure the power packs for the hubs are actually plugged in tight on both ends. Those plugs can get loose.
- Make sure you have no more than three or four devices on each hub.
- Make sure you haven’t switched a hub to a 3.1 port somewhere along the way.
- Run the power management utility and check the power management settings.
- Then start thinking drivers and other stuff …
But first, check those USB hubs. That’s where the problem probably sits.