Troubleshooting USB 2.0 (DirectShow) Camera Installation Problems

Updated Jan 26, 2024



  • Measurement & Automation Explorer (MAX)


  • Vision Acquisition Software


  • USB 2.0 (DirectShow) Cameras

I am having issues installing and communicating with USB 2.0 or other DirectShow camera. Common problems with installing a USB 2.0 device or other DirectShow camera consist of not seeing the device in Measurement & Automation Explorer or Device Manager or not being able to acquire from the camera. These types of problems and others often stem from three root causes:
  • Software Compatibility
  • Hardware Compatibility
  • Damaged Hardware
This article will go through the troubleshooting steps to get a USB 2.0 device working.

Note: You must log in as an administrator or have administrator privileges in Windows to install any NI software and hardware.

Software Compatibility​

  • Compliant Camera — USB 2.0 cameras must be compliant with the DirectShow specification to work with NI-IMAQdx or NI-IMAQ for USB Cameras. Attributes need to be available through the DirectShow programmatic API in order to be accessed by the NI-IMAQdx driver. If not all attributes are available through the DirectShow programmatic API then only those available will be accessible with the NI-IMAQdx.
  • Driver Installation — The camera driver allows the NI Software to interface with the camera.
    • The manufacturer's device driver must be installed. NI drivers for USB 2.0 devices use the DirectShow interface of the manufacturer's device driver to communicate with the device. Validate with the manufacturer or in your camera's user manual if an additional procedure needs to be completed to enable DirectShow on the device after the manufacturer's driver has been installed. 
    • For LabVIEW 8.2 or later, verify that you have the latest version of the NI-IMAQdx driver installed and activated. USB 2.0 devices are supported by NI-IMAQdx 3.4 or later. Please see the Vision Acquisition Software Product Page to purchase the software license. Also, see Vision Acquisition Software Downloads to download an evaluation version of this driver.
    • For LabVIEW 7.0 through LabVIEW 8.0, verify that you have downloaded and installed the NI-IMAQ for the USB Cameras driver.
    • For LabVIEW versions earlier than 7.0, USB 2.0 cameras are not supported.
    • Verify that your operating system is supported by the driver.
    • Ensure that the driver is allowed through your computer's anti-virus software and a firewall.
    • Since NI-IMAQdx is 32-bit software, the camera driver also needs to be 32-bit to be able to interact with NI-IMAQdx.
  • Windows Device Manager — The Windows Device Manager shows all hardware recognized by the operating system.
    • If the USB 2.0 device does not appear in the Windows Device Manager it cannot be seen by the driver. 
      1. Launch Device Manager by selecting Start>>Control Panel>>System>>Hardware Tab>>Device Manager.
      2. Your camera should be listed in the Universal Serial Bus Controllers category. It may have the manufacturer's name or be listed as something like "USB Composite Device"
    • If the device does not appear in the Device Manager under Universal Serial Bus Controllers, verify that the manufacturer's device driver is installed. It may appear under "Other devices" with an exclamation mark next to it indicating the device driver is not installed.
    • If the camera appears intermittently, verify that the latest service pack has been installed for the operating system or upgrade to the latest operating system. Also, verify that the power requirements are met as described below.
  • MAX (Measurement & Automation Explorer)
    • Make sure the manufacturer's driver is associated with the camera.
      1. Launch MAX or select View>>Refresh (F5)
      2. Expand the Devices and Interfaces tab to find your camera.
      3. If you are using NI-IMAQdx, the device will show up under NI-IMAQdx Devices. If you are using NI-IMAQ for USB Cameras, the camera will not appear in MAX.
    •  If you can acquire images in LabVIEW or Vision Builder but cannot see them in MAX,  the most common reason is due to a corrupt MAX database. To fix the corrupt database follow this tutorial: Reset and Fix the NI Measurement & Automation Explorer Database File. Alternatively, use the following command to regenerate the configuration file. You should execute this command from a command prompt. Make sure you close MAX when executing the command:
      1. Select Start>>Run...
      2. Type in cmd
      3. Go to the MAX directory by typing cd <root directory>\Program Files\National Instruments\MAX 
      4. Enter the following: mxsr.exe -uconfig.mxs
  • Use Third-Party Software to Test - There are third-party applications, such as Microsoft's AMCap, that also interface with DirectShow. AMCap is a thin, low-level application that allows for testing without many extra variables. A sample AMCap application is installed with Windows SDK. However, AMCap is capable of hosting a custom user interface. If this is how it is accessing attributes then the functionality may not be available through NI-IMAQdx. 

Hardware Compatibility​

  • Power Requirements
    • Make sure that the camera is plugged into the USB port of the computer and has power. Some USB 2.0 cameras have an LED power indicator. 
      1. Multiple Cameras on the Same Hub — A hub may have multiple ports. If there are too many cameras on one hub, an external USB hub that has its own power source could be used. 
      2. Cable Too Long — If the cable is too long the power or signal provided may dissipate before it reaches the camera.
  • Try a Different Slot/Port, Computer or, Device — The following steps have a dual purpose of testing hardware compatibility and damage. They may not all be required:
    • Install the camera in a different port.
    • Install the camera on another computer (if available) and verify that it installs properly.
    • If you have a duplicate camera that works, test it on the computer in question.
  • Firmware
    • The camera's firmware may be out of date. 

Damaged Hardware​

  • If the steps above have narrowed the problem down to the camera or the card it may be damaged. Please contact the vendor of the camera or the card to determine what options you have for repair or replacement.