Bluetooth & USB 3.0 - A guide to resolving your Bluetooth woes

Testing for the Bluetooth+USB3 problem

> I am sure that I have the problem and want to skip this test


Test 2 : Checking your Bluetooth Signal Strength
On many computers the Bluetooth hardware reports a constant signal strength status to the operating system, in a similar way to how WiFi signal strength is reported and visualized for computers that support wireless internet. Follow the steps below to try and obtain this information.

  1. First you need to find the signal strength option on your computer.

    On a Windows PC
    Windows doesn't actually report a read out of the Bluetooth signal strength as standard. With a lot of Bluetooth hardware you can obtain this though via a great little 3rd party utility called Bennett. Click here to obtain a copy.

    In the unlikely event that your Bluetooth adapter is connecting to a Bluetooth Internet Access point, right clicking on the connection icon within the list of remote connections should reveal a Status option. Clicking this should open a status window that does show a signal strength indicator.

    On an Apple Mac computer running OS X
    From OS X 10.7 onwards an easy to use visualization of Bluetooth signal strength was added. Just go to System Preferences and then click the Bluetooth icon. The window that appears lists all your connected Bluetooth devices. You can click on each one in turn to open a new window that includes a small visualization of the current signal strength.

    If you have a version of OS X less than 10.7 try clicking on the Bluetooth menu bar icon at the top of the screen. This should contain basic status information about your Bluetooth adapter. A sub menu in the pop-up menu called Devices should be visible. If you browse into this the signal strength of the item should be revealed, probably against a value called RSSI. If the value reported is from 0 to minus 60 its a good signal strength. Any value that is minus 70 or less is bad, with a signal strength of -90 or more being very bad. For more details and screen-shots on doing this click here.


  2. Assuming you can obtain a Bluetooth signal strength reading continue with the following steps
  3. Now unplug all USB 3.0 devices from their USB 3.0 ports - If you have any uncertainty about what USB revision a USB device is then remove it.  Remember to check all sides of your computer for USB ports. If your using a desktop computer there may be some hidden around the back out of view.
  4. Check the signal strength setting reported by your system. Watch it to see if it fluctuates much and when your happy that it is fairly stable make a note of the value reported.
  5. Connect any Bluetooth devices you have with your computer. If necessary pair them again and use them for a second to ensure they work OK.  It's best to pair and activate all the Bluetooth devices you own.
  6. Now one at a time plug into your computer any USB 3 devices into free USB 3 ports.
  7. After inserting each USB 3 device use your Bluetooth devices for a few minutes before plugging in any more USB 3 devices to ensure that you have given the device a bit of time to interfere with your Bluetooth signal. If your Bluetooth device is a mouse make sure you move it around the screen for a minute to check if the pointer on screen starts to suddenly jump around (as if a common symptom for wireless mice with bad reception). If you have a Bluetooth speaker make sure your sending it music. If you have more than one Bluetooth device ideally try and use them all simultaneously. I.e. play music and use your keyboard or mouse at the same time.

    As you do this check the signal strength setting again on your computer to notice for any change in the value reported. Is it lower? If so then it would appear that the USB 3.0 device is the cause of this.
Did it work?
The way to confirm your suspicions is to turn off the USB 3.0 devices and hopefully the reported signal strength will return to the first value you wrote down before inserting any USB 3.0 devices.