USB, which stands for Universal Serial Bus, is a high-speed serial data-transfer standard that, along with FireWire, has almost totally replaced the ordinary serial and parallel standards that have been used to connect peripheral devices to PCs since the 1980s. Now almost all peripheral devices (printers, external drives, flash drives, network dongles, wireless mice and keyboards, etc.) are connected to computers using the USB standard.
Click here! to go to the information on FireWire (IEEE1394) on Page 2 of this article. You can use your browser's Back button to backtrack.
Click here! to visit the pages on this site devoted to USB/FireWire problems and their solutions.
In theory, up to 127 devices can be connected to a single USB port on a computer's motherboard, using only one of a computer's 16 or 23 Interrupt Requests (IRQs), either by daisy-chaining them together, or by using a USB hub, which itself has a number of USB ports.
A USB hub can have its own power source, or draw its power through the computer to which it is attached. To avoid power problems, a powered hub is the best choice. Seven peripherals can be attached to each USB hub. One of these peripherals can be a second hub to which up to another seven peripherals can be connected, and the second hub can be attached to a third hub, etc..
To achieve proper USB connectivity the following hardware and software requirements must be present and working correctly.
1. - Support from the BIOS setup program.
2. - Support from the operating system (Windows, Linux, etc.).
3. - USB 1.0, USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 ports (plug-in sockets) on the desktop PC or laptop computer. USB 3.0 , also known as SuperSpeed USB, has only recently become available and, as such, is not present on most desktop and laptop computers. However, new motherboards are now providing USB 3.0 ports, so, unless you want to use an adapter card, if you want to use USB 3.0 devices that work at the full speed of the new standard with a desktop or laptop PC, you must make sure that it provides USB 3.0 ports (from its motherboard).
Note well that a USB 3.0 cable is required to use a USB 3.0 device. A USB 2.0 cable cannot be used with a USB 3.0 device, but can be used with a USB 2.0 device connected to a USB 3.0 port, because the new port is the same shape as its forerunner and contains all of its contacts, but adds five new connection contacts that can only be engaged with a USB SuperSpeed cable.
The image below shows the ports panel of an MSI MS-7673, Socket LGA1155, Intel-based motherboard, which provides two blue SuperSpeed ports and eight USB 2.0 ports.
USB 3.0 connectivity can be added by installing an adapter card in desktop and laptop computers, but you must have devices that support it to make sue of its higher data transfer speeds, otherwise the device will continue using the version of USB that it supports.
You can make use of a search engine to find online sellers of these adapters in your country or that ship them internationally.
Not All USB 3.0 Implementations Are Created Equal [Motherboard and adapter card USB 3.0 controllers] -
"Despite the fact that today's USB 3.0 products center on the same NEC controller, we compared a handful of different USB 3.0 drives and found performance to range from 113 to 173 MB/s, depending on the implementation used. Should you be worried?" -
USB 3.0 for Starters: An Analysis -
"The third generation of USB is faster than ever before, but how noticeable is the difference in practice?" -
USB-On-The-Go (USB OTG) is an addition to the USB standard - a protocol - that uses a USB micro-AB port, which allows the device with such a port (smartphone or other battery-powered device) to act as a host device to peripheral devices such as keyboards, mice and printers. A standard USB port on a mobile phone only allows it to act as a client device that the host device (laptop) can control. A USB OTG port allows both client and host connectivity, enabling both the host and the client device to determine when power is required. A device that supports USB OTG protocol can also inform the host device when power is no longer required, which saves battery power. Definitely a plus feature on a smartphone until all phones have one as a standard port.
USB On-The-Go and Embedded Host - http://www.usb.org/developers/onthego/
Since the USB 3.0 standard has just come out, not many laptops will have USB 3.0 ports, but they can be added via an ExpressCard adapter. Adapter cards are also available for desktop PCs. Here is a review of an adapter for a laptop:
Buffalo 2 Port USB 3.0 Express Interface Card review -
"It's the best USB3 ExpressCard adaptor we've seen, but it's not as fast as the ports on PC motherboards." - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/gadgets/278347/...
Note thet the laptop must have an ExpressCard slot (the latest standard), not an older CardBus PCMCIA slot. Click here! to go to the information in this article on those two types adapter cards and their slots.
Here are the frequently-asked questions on SuperSpeed USB 3.0:
SuperSpeed USB 3.0 FAQ -
How does USB 3.0 compare to competing interfaces (i.e. eSATA, FireWire 3200, ExpressCard 2.0)? - http://www.everythingusb.com/superspeed-usb.html#10
USB 3.0 will crush eSATA, FireWire -
4. - A USB device (mouse, keyboard, printer, scanner, external hard disk drive, etc..
5. - The correct USB cable for the device.
6. - Software device drivers from either from the operating-system developer (Microsoft for Windows, Ubuntu Linux, etc. and/or the manufacturer of the device.
Visit the following page for information on how to test for USB support and on the USB settings in the BIOS setup program. -
March 24, 2010. - USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, Motherboards, And Overcoming Bottlenecks -
"Soon, 4.8 Gb/s USB 3.0 and 6 Gb/s SATA will be hitting the mainstream. But be careful when you buy your next mainstream motherboard; some don't handle these technologies very well. We compare three implementations and recommend best practice solutions." -
USB 2.0, FireWire, Or eSATA: Which Interface Should You Use? : USB/FireWire/eSATA: 2.5" And 3.5" Storage Options -
"Adding external storage to your PC can be a mess if you aren't familiar with the various interfaces in play. Should you go for compatibility with USB 2.0 or is FireWire a better choice? What about eSATA, which matches native hard drive performance?" -
The following website provides a wide variety of the following cables - audio-visual, BT phone, power supply, drives, fans, HDMI, monitor, network, SCSI/SAS, USB, FireWire, printer, etc. - scan.co.uk
The DevCon command-line utility functions as an alternative to Device Manager -
"The DevCon utility is a command-line utility that acts as an alternative to Device Manager. Using DevCon, you can enable, disable, restart, update, remove, and query individual devices or groups of devices. DevCon also provides information that is relevant to the driver developer and is not available in Device Manager. You can use DevCon with Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. You cannot use DevCon with Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Millennium Edition." -
After you plug in a USB device that gets ignored, run this program. The 'rescan' option causes the system to rescan the USB ports, which usually results in a USB device being acknowledged and becoming usable. -
From 13 August 2007, CertifiedWireless USB devices were legal to use in the UK. The CertifiedWireless USB standard uses Ultra Wide Band (UWB) radio that allows data to be sent between devices at a rate of 480Mbit/s over a distance of 3 metres and 110Mbit/s over a distance of 10 metres.
Wireless USB hubs will soon be available. Belkin will soon be making its CertifiedWireless USB Hub available.
An adapter that ressembles WiFI and USB wireless adapters fits into a USB port on the PC. The hub itself has to be plugged into the mains power supply, but no USB cables are used to connect it to the PC.
APIC mode (Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller) is a BIOS setting made available to Windows 2000/Windows XP/Windows Vista systems that increases the number of IRQ (Interrupt Request) lines available to the processor from 16 to 23.
Along with its data-transfer lines, a USB cable carries a 5 volt power supply so that small devices, such as handheld scanners or speakers, do not have to have their own sources of power.
To view images of USB cables, enter usb cables as the search query in a search engine.
The data transfer speeds of the two serial standards are now almost the same. The difference remaining between FireWire and USB 2.0 is that USB 2.0 is still a host-based standard - the devices must be connected via a computer in order to communicate. But FireWire is a peer-to-peer standard, which means that the devices can be connected without going through a computer.
Here are the frequently-asked questions on SuperSpeed USB 3.0:
SuperSpeed USB 3.0 FAQ -
How does USB 3.0 compare to competing interfaces (i.e. eSATA, FireWire 3200, ExpressCard 2.0)? - http://www.everythingusb.com/superspeed-usb.html#10
For example, two FireWire cameras or camcorders can communicate with each other without being connected to a computer. A camcorder (an analog or digital video camera) can also send and analog or digital video data to a computer in real time, which means there is enough bandwidth available so that the data is not compressed or error-corrected by hardware or software - the digital video input (or copies of it) can be brought to the screen with perfect digital clarity.
Usually a FireWire connection is used on current computers to allow camcorders to have full control of fast-forward, rewind, and other playback options. A USB connection is usually used to copy still images from the camcorder to the computer. A digital camcorder is a superior to an analog camcorder, because there is no analog-to-digital or digital-to-analog conversion involved, therefore the compression process is less involved. Note that at present even digital camcorders can usually only produce stills of poor quality, largely because of the low-resolution images produced by the Charge-Coupled Device (CCD). But progress is so fast that this situation may well not exist very soon and a camcorder will be able to replace a digital camera. Indeed, it may well be that the manufacturers want to sell both products, so maybe camcorders have been purposefully made so that they can't produce quality still images.
If it is an elderly computer, its motherboard will have a bank of USB 1.1 ports. Most computers manufactured recently have USB 2.0 (USB2) ports. Computers made during the transition between USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 could have motherboards with both types of USB port.
USB 3.0 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Serial_Bus - first became available as a standard in November 2008, but only now in late 2009 are USB 3.0 devices, such as external hard disk drives, and motherboards that support it, becoming available. The first PCI Express-to-USB3 adapter cards that add USB 3.0 ports to a PC are now available. USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapters for laptop computers are also available.
USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed USB) has a theoretical maximum throughput of 5Gb/s (gigabits per second), approximately 10 times faster than USB 2.0, at 480Mb/s (megabits per second). However, in practice, you will only see a twofold or threefold increase in data transfer speeds.
USB 3.0 peripheral devices and adapters are at present (January 2010) expensive compared to their USB 2.0 equivalents. There are also technical issues limiting their performance, so it is not advisable to upgrade to USB 3.0 yet.
Most hard disk drives are limited by the USB 2.0 interface, as they can now reach 100MB/s (100 megabytes per second or 800 megabits per second), which is nearly twice the speed of USB 1.1. (Note that a lower case b denotes bits and a capital B denotes bytes. There are 8 bits in a byte.) In practice, they are restricted to under 30MB/s, despite the USB 2.0 theoretical maximum transfer rate of 60MB/s. Even if the maximum speed of USB 3.0 (625MB/s) is halved, the fastest hard disk drives still have not exceeded the maximum transfer rate. USB 3.0 is fully backwards compatible with USB 2.0, so existing devices like keyboards, mice, hard disk drives, printers and scanners will all continue to work on a USB 3.0 interface.
A USB 3.0 cable has a blue connector to distinguish it from USB 2.0.
SuperSpeed USB 3.0 FAQ -
Gigabyte launches motherboards with USB 3, SATA 3 and extra USB power -
USB 3.0 Performance: Two Solutions From Asus And Gigabyte : Just Another New Interface? -
"Intel might have postponed USB 3.0 support for chipsets, but that hasn't stopped motherboard manufacturers from offering it. We look at solutions from Asus and Gigabyte at two distinct budget levels." -
USB 3.0 On A Stick: Super Talent's RAIDDrive 64 GB -
"Wondering how fast USB 3.0 runs compared to USB 2.0 and eSATA? We take three flash-based thumb drives and run them through our storage benchmarks. We don't expect to see the interface's 500 MB/s maximum any time soon, but the results might surprise you." - http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/usb-3.0-raiddrive-thumb-drive,review-31912.html
Most current notebook/laptop computers that cost around £500 provide 4 USB ports, but earlier models may only have a single USB port, so if you need to make use of more than one USB port at the same time, make sure that you buy a model that has the required number of ports or you will have to make use of a USB hub to add additional ports.
The image below, from an MSI motherboard manual, shows where the USB ports are located on the ports panel of an ATX motherboard that also has inbuilt sound and video chips and ports.
All of MSI's motherboard manuals can be downloaded free of charge from msi.com. Locate motherboards or mainboards under the Products menu item.
Below is the ports panel of a motherboard with USB and FireWire ports that retains PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports (far left), the parallel port (red), and, below it, a single serial port. The round coloured ports belong to the incorporated sound chip, and the two blocks on the left and right with three ports each incorporate a single FireWire port each (top), and two USB ports. With the motherboard fitted into a PC's tower case, all of the ports appear at the back of the case - aligned vertically. They would be aligned horizontally, as they are seen here, in a desktop case that lies on its side.
USB and FireWire ports can also be built into the case itself. If so, they are either clearly visible in the front of the case, or you have to reveal them from behind a panel that conseals them. Such ports have to be connected by their cables to their respective headers on the PC's motherboard.
The latest FireWire implementation is much faster than USB 1.1, and quite a bit faster than USB 2.0, but FireWire is not yet nearly as prevalent as USB. - A situation that is might change in FireWire's favour over the next few years, because Microsoft originally intended to support FireWire and not to support USB in Windows XP. Then it eventually gave in to the pressure and included support for USB in Windows XP.
Why Microsoft took this line so soon is difficult to understand, because the USB connection - for hooking up a PC to printers, scanners, digital cameras, CD burners, modems, and every other kind of peripheral - has become the most successful interface in the history of personal computers. So much so that USB is shared by both Apple and Windows-based PCs.
Moreover, USB 2.0 came under renewed attack, because a newer version of FireWire that is twice as fast as USB 2.0 and its own forerunner, known as IEEE 1394b (or FireWire 800 because of its 800Mbps transfer rate). FireWire 800 is available on PCI and PCI Express adapter cards and motherboards for desktop PCs and laptops. However, USB 3.0 is now the fastest data-transfer standard by far.
USB 3.0 will crush eSATA, FireWire -
|FAQs on USB (Universal Serial Bus)||http://www.bb-elec.com/tech_articles/usb_faq.asp|
|USB Flash Drive FAQ||http://usbflashstore.stores.yahoo.net/usbfldrfaq.html|
|How do I connect an analog camcorder video output to a USB port?||Use a USB-to-Video or S-Video adapter cable|
|How do I add USB ports to my Mac or PC?||Install a USB controller card that contains USB ports in a PCI slot in your Mac or PC (or a Cardbus or PCMCIA adapter for a laptop that adds USB ports)|
|How do I network computers with USB ports in order to share files and peripheral devices?||Install wired Ethernet PCI or PCI Express or wireless USB network adapters in all of the computers to create an Ad Hock network, or add a wired/wireless switch/Access Point or router to create a peer-to-peer network, or use a USB network cable|
|How do I connect a device that is more than 16 feet from my USB hub?||Use an "active" repeater extension cable that has an inbuilt repeater that increases the strength of the signal|
|How do I use a USB port to connect a computer to a wired Ethernet network?||Use a USB-to-Ethernet adapter|
|How can I connect a parallel-port printer to a USB port?||Use a USB-to-Parallel (IEEE-1284) converter cable|
|How do I connect my PS/2 mouse and PS/2 keyboard to a USB port?||Use a USB-to-PS/2-Port converter cable|
|How do I connect a serial device such as an external dial-up modem or GPS to USB?||Use a Serial-to-USB converter cable|
|How do I share USB devices between computers?||Use a USB switchbox (hub) and as many cables as there are computers|
October 18, 2007. - The USB Implementers Forum has announced the specifications for the development of the USB 3.0 and Certified Wireless USB 1.1 standards, which are to be developed over the next three years.
USB 3.0, also known as SuperSpeed USB, is the next generation of wired USB technology, which is being designed to cope with the ever-increasing amounts of data flowing between devices. It will have a data transfer speed of up to 5Gbit/s, compared to the 480Mbit/s transfer speed of USB 2.0 - a tenfold increase. This much faster speed means that a very large High Definition video file of 25GB could be transferred in 70 seconds. 1GB of data is transferred in 3.3 seconds. A 4MB MP3 file would transfer in 0.01 seconds. The new standard is designed to synchronise data as it is transferred, thereby eliminating wait times that can be up to one and a half minutes with USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is designed to take advantage of the fast potential data transfer rates of flash memory devices, such as MP3 players, smartphones, and storage devices. The USB 3.0 specification is expected to be completed in the first half of 2008, and the first devices to use it should be made available in late 2009 or early in 2010. It will be backward-compatible with the existing USB standards, which means that users should be able to connect USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 devices to a USB 3.0 interface.
Certified Wireless USB 1.1 is being developed over a similar three-year period as USB 3.0, and is to be build on the current Wireless USB 1.0 specification. The development of WUSB 1.1 will include support to allow devices to communicate using Ultra Wide Band radio frequencies above 6GHz. The WUSB 1.1 standard is set to allow wireless data transfer speeds of up to 1Gbit/s. Certified Wireless USB 1.1 devices are likely to become available in early 2010. Certified Wireless USB 1.0 devices are set to be made available in the UK within the next six months.
Computerworld's big guide to USB peripherals -
"Whether you want something useful, something playful or something just plain fun, there's a USB device for you..." -
September 16, 2006. - USB flash memory drives are experiencing an increase in failures as a result of quality-control issues, and, according to the experts, file fragmentation will soon have to be dealt with in the same way in which it is dealt with on hard disk drives as the capacity of flash drives continues to increase.
NAND flash drives are generally acknowledged to last for an average of 100,000 read-write cycles, which is currently in excess of the requirements of most users. However, that will not be the case with a badly fragmented flash drive, because the more fragmented the files are due to a large file being saved in a series of small memory spaces instead of as a contiguous file, the more read-write cycles are required to render it. In short, the finite number of cycles are used much more rapidly than if the flash drive had no fragmented files.
According to Koby Biller, founder of the Israeli software firm, Disklace Ltd, software, currently not available, will have to be created to measure the fragmentation and then defragment flash drives in order not to reduce their life-spans.
May 29, 2005. - The Wireless USB 1.0 standard has been completed. Based on one of two competing Ultrawideband (UWB) technologies, the Wireless USB 1.0 standard enables cable-free connections between computers and devices that work at the same speed as USB 2.0 (480Mbit/s) but without having to make use of wireless PCI or USB network interface cards or adapters.
Backing from Intel and Microsoft should assure it a future in spite of the failure of the IEEE standards body to establish a single UWB specification. The format is to be handed over by the Wireless USB Promoter Group to the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), which will certify all products before they can display a Wireless logo. If all of the present developments take place, the Wireless USB 1.0 standard will become one of three competing wireless connectivity options. A wireless version of FireWire is under development, and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group has revealed plans to integrate UWB technology into Bluetooth in order to boost its speed and possible applications.
US consumers can look forward to a handful of Wireless USB products appearing in shops by the end of this year, with many more products following in the first half of 2006.
Many different kinds of USB extension cable are available. If your computer only has USB ports at the back of its case it's a good idea to use an extension cable to make devices, such as a USB flash drive, easier to connect and disconnect. This following page presents the different types of cable very well:
USB extension cables - http://www.usbgear.com/USB-Extension.html
Small USB hubs are also available. I use one that has four USB ports and a short cable so that it connects to a USB port at the back of the case, which is placed close to a wall, and hangs there on its cable, making it easy to connect and disconnect a flash drive.
The myriad of cables that are in use are often very confusing to the home computer user. The following link provides a slide show of the cables and information on what each cable is used for that should dispel most of the confusion.
A World of Cables, Unknotted [Slideshow of all the cables used with a computer] -
"You can spend weeks researching which TV or Blu-ray player to buy, and then you would still have to deal with the conundrum of the cables. Other format wars get resolved fairly quickly and definitively (Blu-ray over HD-DVD, VHS over Beta), but cable formats last, it would seem, forever." -
Here is another similar page that goes through every possible type of connector:
Pictorial guide to PC sockets and cables -
Bandwidth achieved in practice
USB 1.1 (old)
12 MBit/s [1.5MB/s]
480 MBit/s [60MB/s]
FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394A) / i.Link
400 MBit/s [50MB/s]
FireWire 800 (IEEE 1394B) / i.Link
800 MBit/s [100MB/s]
Serial ATA (SATA)
1500 MBit/s [187.5MB/s]
The bandwidth of each of the interfaces, which is a theoretical or actual measure of the data transfer speeds of an interface, is shown in megabits per second (MBit/s), and megabytes per second (MB/s). There are eight bits in a byte, so dividing MBits/s by eight converts it to MB/s.
Click here! to go directly to information about serial ATA (SATA) external hard disk drives on the second of the Disk Drives pages on this site. Use your Browser's Back button to return to this point on this page.
i.Link is the Sony version of FireWire, which is technically identical to it but uses an external mains power supply instead of taking power through the computer, thereby making it an excellent choice for a notebook owner who doesn't want to run the portable computer's battery down by having to use a power-hungry external device with it.
Note well that USB and FireWire (IEEE 1394) support hot docking, which allows a USB/FireWire device to be plugged into the motherboard while the computer is running. Windows then loads the appropriate device driver for the device automatically.
USB and FireWire devices are serial devices. All serial devices support hot docking (also know as hot plugging). A serial ATA (SATA) hard disk drives and an optical SATA CD/DVD drives are also serial devices.
Hot docking/hot plugging should never be done with other devices that are attached directly to the motherboard, such as a parallel printer or a keyboard. To attach devices that do not support hot docking, the computer must be switched off, otherwise the sudden extra load on the motherboard could destroy it.
In any case, Windows will not be able to load the appropriate drivers for non-USB devices without being rebooted. However, a standard 33.6K or 56K dial-up modem can be connected to a telephone line while the computer is running, because the extra load is small, and it is dealt with by the modem's circuitry, not the motherboard's. But don't ever try it with a printer or a scanner.
Note that unlike the old 'legacy' serial and parallel ports, USB ports can deliver power to USB devices, so, unless the device is particularly power hungry, it will not require an external power supply.
This feature has caused problems with certain USB modems that draw more power than the USB port can supply, and hence fail while accessing the Internet. So, if you are having connection problems with a USB modem, have a look at its manufacturer's website to find out if it lists the likely causes.
Remember always to only purchase devices the manufacturer's of which have websites. You will then be able to obtain driver updates, and find out about any problems with that device.
Note that a battery-powered computer that uses Advanced Power Management (APM) or Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) may experience increased power consumption that leads to a more rapid discharge of battery power when a USB device is attached to it.
Someone who reformatted the boot drive and reinstalled Windows XP, discovered that the USB ports were not powering devices such as a broadband modem, a webcam, and a scanner, but that a USB-powered memory-card reader did work.
Many but not all USB devices must have their device drivers installed before they're plugged into a USB port, so they shouldn't be plugged in during the reinstallation of any version of Windows that supports USB (any version of Windows 95 from version OSR2, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, and Windows XP).
The user could unplug all of the USB devices and perform a repair installation of Windows XP. Visit this site for information on how to carry out such a repair installation. -
Or he or she could unplug the USB devices and perform a full reformat and reinstallation of Windows XP by booting from the Windows CD. Windows XP should not be reinstalled over itself if it is set to use the NTFS file system, because of the following anomaly...
Reinstalling Windows XP over itself by booting from the CD will not remove the customised settings and data, but if the NTFS instead of the FAT32 file system is installed, it will create a new user account - even if you use the same user name as you did when XP was first installed. A new user account will not be created if XP is using FAT32. (XP's native file system is NTFS, but it will automatically use FAT32 if upgraded to from a Windows 98/Me system.) Because of this anomaly, if Windows XP is using NTFS, after the reinstallation you won't be able to access the old user' s My Documents and e-mail files, etc., since each user account is associated with a different Security Identifier (SID) - a unique 128-bit random number generated during the installation process.
Opening My Computer, right-clicking on the C: drive, and then clicking Properties brings up a window that tells you which file system that drive is configured to use in Windows 95/98/Me/XP. The same applies to any of the other hard disk or logical drives listed in My Computer.
See the Recovering Windows XP page on this site if you want to know how to correct the above situation.
If you are having problems installing a USB device, the first action to take is to make sure that the USB option is enabled in the BIOS and that you have installed the latest USB Controller. This should be available from the PC/motherboard manufacturer's site. While you are there, obtain any other updates. Note that the USB Controller appears as a device in the Windows Device Manager, but the individual USB ports do not.
You can use a USB hub to attach several USB devices to the motherboard via one of its USB ports.
Below is an image of Device Manager from a Windows XP system. Click Image2.htm (or the image itself) to see an image of the Device Manager in a Windows 95/98/Me system, and two images of the Device Manager in Windows XP, the second of which shows the USB Serial Bus controllers category opened. In the image below, the Modems category is shown opened.
It can be a simple matter to connect a USB device to a non-USB computer (one that doesn't have any USB ports) when the USB device is a simple one such as a basic mouse, keyboard, joystick, etc.
In cases where the USB device isn't making use of USB's more-advanced capabilities and is simply transmitting exactly the same data as the non-USB version of the device, all that is required is to employ the correct adapter, which connects to and transmits the signals through a non-USB port.
Many manufacturers include a simple "pass-through adapter" with the simple USB device.
If an adapter plug isn't provided with a USB mouse, keyboard, etc., you should be able to buy one for just a few pounds or dollars.
For example, entering a search query in a search engine, such as ps/2 + usb + converter, should produce links to several vendors selling PS/2-to-USB mouse/keyboard converters for under £5/$10 that make it possible to connect a USB mouse/keyboard to a non-USB computer via its PS/2 ports.
Keyboards and mice are inexpensive devices, so it may be cheaper just to buy a replacement that has the type of plug that your computer requires.
More complex USB devices, such as external USB hard disk drives, CD/DVD drives, etc., can't make use of a simple pass-through adapter, because they make use of the much more complex USB signals that can't be converted by any kind of adapter. Therefore, they have to be plugged into a true USB socket.
If you have a complex USB device, such as a network adapter, and your computer doesn't have any USB ports, the solution is to use a PCI USB adapter card. Such an adapter card adds two or four USB ports to a desktop computer (or to a laptop/notebook computer), and is priced at around £15/$25 for the most basic models. It is installed internally in a PCI slot that all computers purchased in the last ten years have.
If you have, say, an older external modem that still works, it requires a classic serial (COM/RS-232) port to plug into.
If your new computer has only USB ports is it possible to buy an adapter that fits to a USB port that allows you to keep on using your external serial modem? And what about being able to continue using older printers, scanners, cameras, serial GPS systems, or the myriad of other devices that connect through a classic serial or parallel port?
If your computer only has USB ports, you should be able to find a suitable adapter.
To use a serial external modem, a special adapter would be required that has a USB connector on one end and a classic RS-232 serial socket on the other and a microchip capable of converting data from the USB format to the RS-232/COM format, and vice versa, thereby allowing high-speed two-way communication through the adapter. Of course, due to the complexity of the conversion, the adapter would require a device driver that makes Windows view it as if it were an ordinary COM port.
Fortunately, dozens of such adapters are available that come with the necessary device drivers. The prices are variable, but you can buy a basic USB-to-RS-232 adapter for between £10/$20 and £15/$30.
Using a search query such as rs-232 + usb + adapter (also adaptor in the UK) in a web search engine should produce many links to local vendors. If rs-232 doesn't work, try using just rs232.
Likewise, there are many USB-to-parallel (printer) port adapters that are used to connect printers, scanners, etc., to USB ports. Using the search query parallel + usb + adapter in a web search engine should produce many links to local vendors.
Therefore, no matter which legacy device you need to connect to a computer that only has USB/FireWire ports, there's probably a suitable adapter available.
Click here! to go to a table on this site that answers the most common questions with regard to USB connectivity.
RamElectronics has an excellent how-to on adding or enabling USB in Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Be, and Unix:
See below for a few examples of these adapters.
If you run several devices that use a legacy parallel (LPT) port, you can buy USB-to-parallel-port conversion cables from most reputable component suppliers that make it possible to link them via a self-powered or unpowered USB hub instead of a manual or automatic parallel-port switch box.
You can also buy a USB-to-IDE converter that allows you to connect an IDE hard drive or CD/DVD optical drive to a USB port. If necessary you could probably connect it to USB header on the computer's motherboard so that you can install the drive in a bay in the PC's case instead of as an external drive.
If you need a way to connect a PDA, or other serial device to the USB port on a Windows system or Apple Macintosh, Baffo's USB-to-Serial- Port Adapter is a simple, inexpensive way to do so. The adapter plugs into any USB port on a PC or Mac, and provides one DB9 RS-232 serial port for connection to Palm organisers, Sharp Wizard, Windows CE PDA, or other serial devices.
You can make use of a search engine to search for more information on these conversion cables and vendors for them. For example, for information on USB-to-IDE converters, try using: usb 2.0 ide converter as the search query.
If, say, your notebook/laptop computer doesn't have a port for a FireWire (IEEE 1394) lead, but your video camera does, you can't use a FireWire-to-USB cable to link the camera to the computer. There is no such thing, because FireWire and USB are completely different standards; you can't convert the flow of data of one of them into a flow of data for the other.
Some cameras have a USB port in addition to a FireWire port, but it's only usually used for transferring still images to a computer. You should buy a PC Card FireWire adapter for your notebook computer that usually has two FireWire ports and plugs into the notebook just like any other PC card. You can purchase one from cableuniverse.co.uk. If the FireWire cable that came with the video camera has a standard six-pin connector, you can buy an adapter from the same site that converts it into the compact four-pin version that plugs into the smaller ports found on many recent notebook computers. Look under the FIREWIRE IEEE 1394 heading on that site. Other USB and FireWire cables and adapters are available.
Initially Microsoft announced that it would only be providing support for Apple's FireWire (IEEE 1394) super-fast serial port technology, and would not be providing support for the slower USB 2.0 serial port technology. Microsoft has changed its mind on the matter.
"The new 1394b standard is expected deliver data at up to 800 megabits per second, while USB 2.0 is designed to exchange data at 480mbps.
"USB 2.0 will be 40 times the speed of USB 1.1 and slightly faster than the 400mbps under the current version of FireWire. This means that a file that took 80 seconds to transfer using USB 1.1 theoretically will take about 2 seconds using either USB 2.0 or today's FireWire. With the new version of FireWire, it will take about 1 second...
"Microsoft still doesn't plan to natively support USB 2.0 but will support the standard through add-on drivers."
That was the position before the release of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows XP. [Note that the SP2 and SP3 service packs were made available for Windows XP some time ago. SP3 is the last service pack for Windows XP.]
The following somewhat misleading information (at the time of writing, "Updated: January 13, 2003") appeared in an article on Microsoft's site:
"Over the past two years, Microsoft has been working with industry partners on the USB 2.0 project. We are pleased to announce that USB 2.0 drivers will be available for Microsoft Windows XP through Windows Update early in 2002. USB 2.0 driver support for Windows 2000 is still under development, and will be available later in the first quarter of 2002. Microsoft will not provide USB 2.0 support for the Windows 9x [Windows 95/98/Me] platform or Windows NT 4.0."
However, with their Service Packs installed, Windows 98 SE and Windows Me both support USB 2.0 - but only if you install the "OrangeWare" device drivers. Microsoft does not supply drivers for USB 2.0 in Windows 98 SE or Windows Me, as the article at the following link states, but third parties do. - See http://www.orangeware.com/.
BipolarBill, chief moderator on the Sysopt.com Forums, had this to say on the subject:
"One thing to note is that there are 5 brands of USB 2.0 chipsets: ALi, Intel, NEC, SiS, and VIA. Orangeware USB 2.0 drivers, which are written for one of those chipsets, will also work in the same brand of chipset. In other words, you don't always have to get Orangeware drivers from a USB card or motherboard maker - you can "borrow" from another maker."
You can use a generic USB driver for USB storage devices for Windows 98 that were written by a German programmer called Maximus Decim. It works with a wide range of USB storage devices. There is no home page and no support. To find download sites, you just have to enter the man's name in a search engine. I found the following page that might not exist when you click on its link.
Windows 98 USB Mass Storage Device Drivers -
Here is a page that provides useful information on using USB in Windows 98 SE:
Windows98 SE USB Guide - http://www.usbman.com/win98seusbguide.htm
If you use a joystick and a standard game port to play games such as Sidewinder 3.02, it will not work under Windows XP, and Sidewinder 4.0 is not compatible with the game port. You have to use a USB joystick.
Microsoft has decided to make the game port history, so Windows XP only has very limited support for game-port devices. You may be able to configure such a joystick by using one of the standard profiles in XP, but you won't be able to program all of the buttons and hat switches, nor maintain different profiles for each game.
Therefore, if you use a game-port joystick, either don't upgrade to XP, use a dual-boot Windows 98/XP system, or buy a USB joystick. Dual-booting Windows 98 and XP is the cheapest option.
Just remember that you have to have Windows 98 installed first, because, without employing an elaborate fix, 98 won't install if it detects that another operating system is installed.
The latest Linux distributions support USB 1.1/2.0 and FireWire devices. See these sites for more information -
Linux USB - http://www.linux-usb.org/
Linux FireWire - http://www.linux1394.org/
Note that even though the system (operating system, motherboard's chipset, and BIOS) supports USB/FireWire it does not necessarily mean that a Linux device driver is available for a particular device.
If you require more information on the subject, use a web search engine to conduct a search for queries such as: usb linux or firewire linux.
Click here! to go the section on this site devoted to Linux<, which contains many links to sites.
Unlike desktop computers, which usually have a bank of two USB ports on the motherboard, laptop/notebook computers usually only have a single USB port.
Powering USB devices from a laptop/notebook computer can often be problematic, because devices such as scanners draw more power than the laptop can provide.
If you are using a USB 2.0 scanner, and you can't get it to install, try disabling any USB 1.1 ports.
If it then installs but won't work, you can purchase a PCMCIA USB card that has the capacity to provide an external power source to the USB ports.
The problem with the above solution is that it limits the portability of the laptop, because the external power source requires to be connected to the mains supply.
Creative has such a device on the market, currently (June 2011) called the Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro. You can view all of the Creative products at creative.com.
If you have a problem installing a USB sound card, this Q&A on this site might solve it: I can't get my external Creative USB Audigy 2 ZS sound card to work on my notebook computer.
Visit the Sound pages on this site for more information on computer sound and sound cards.
The USB standard specifies a maximum length of 5 metres (approx. 16 feet) for USB cables. Extension cables are available, but are not recommended. If a cable longer than 5 metres is required, it is possible to connect a hub that allows a further 5 metres. Or it is possible to use an 'active repeater' cable - essentially a cable with its own mini-hub built in to one end. You can 'daisy-chain' up to 5 five-metre cables, using 4 hubs, or 4 'active repeaters', plus one plain cable, to give a maximum of 25 metres (80 feet).
See this page for information about USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 cables. -
I received the following e-mail on this subject from Martin Webb.
"I found your interesting USB article, and it explained a few things that I was not aware of. I am a user of Windows XP, but have an interest in DOS. - See DOS: The Alternative Operating System at http://www.mwpms.uklinux.net. Although, as you say, USB is not supported in DOS, there are ways to get external mass storage devices, and floppy drives recognised."
The forum at http://www.computing.net provides information on USB in DOS.
On its own, MS DOS can't know anything about USB devices because USB as a standard came out long after DOS, and Microsoft has not added USB support to the versions of DOS that still form the bedrock of Windows 95/98/Me.
This can be problematic if you boot to DOS, or start a computer from a DOS boot floppy disk and then find that your USB keyboard and mouse no longer function. The computer will start but you won't have any way of controlling it. Even if the keyboard and mouse work fine in DOS due to a setting being enabled in the BIOS, or by using the manufacturers' DOS drivers, you probably won't have access to USB peripherals such as a USB printer, external hard disk drive, or CD/DVD burner.
Although there is no single, universal fix that provides USB/DOS support, there are solutions for each device. For example, you may be able to enable DOS support for a USB keyboard through a USB/Legacy option available in the computer's BIOS setup program, access to which is achieved by pressing the DEL or some other key specified on the start-up screen to enter SETUP during the first few seconds of the start-up. Once in the BIOS setup program, search the settings that relate to USB, for a "legacy" option. If available, simply enabling it can allow you to use a USB keyboard in MS DOS. If the option isn't available or doesn't work, try visiting the keyboard manufacturer's website. It may provide an MS DOS driver for that make and model of keyboard. Alternatively, your computer's original manufacturer's set-up CD(s) may provide DOS drivers, because sometimes they are included with a fairly recent computer in order to enable the use of a USB keyboard or mouse with the DOS-level system-recovery software.
Tip: If you put the hidusb.sys file on a boot floppy disk and boot the system with it, the USB mouse should work. I discovered that when I tried to use a USB mouse in Windows 98 SE with DOS-level Drive Image and discovered that the PS/2 mouse driver wouldn't work. Hidusb.sys is a Microsoft USB driver originally from Windows 98 that is also included in later versions of Windows.
Apart from checking the website of the manufacturer whose USB device you're trying to get to work in DOS, as a starting point for your search for DOS USB drivers, try visiting http://www.usb-drivers.com/, which lists thousands of USB drivers and related files from hundreds of vendors.
If you're still at a loss, you can search for other sites by entering usb + dos + drivers as the search query in a web search engine.
It's possible to transfer files - or even a backup image of a whole system created by using programs such as Norton Ghost or Drive Image - via a USB cable that links computers together.
Visit http://www.windowsnetworking.com/... for a full explanation.
New compact portable backup storage devices that plug into USB ports are now available. Plextor calls its USB storage devices Flash Drives. Iomega also makes them. They are also called Micro Vaults, or just memory sticks. This peripheral device looks much like a wireless USB network adapter that you just plug into a USB port. You can take it out and plug it into any other computer that has the device's drivers installed.
Computer Shopper (UK) has given the drives a five-star rating. Plextor drives of three capacities are available - 128, 256, and 512MB - that cost £58, £106, and £211 (June 2003) respectively from Dabs.com in the UK.
Pen drives, thumb drives, jump drives, keychain drives, they carry many different labels, and they can employ varied technologies, but they all have a few features in common: they're compact, removable drives that attach to a computer via a USB port to add anywhere from 16MB to over 4GB of portable back-up storage to a computer.
In operation, all these USB drives can act much like an ordinary floppy or hard disk drive. Many of these devices are even bootable, if the computer they're installed on is recent enough to allow booting from a USB device. The newest operating systems such as Windows XP, Windows 2000, and some Linux distributions, can automatically recognise and mount one of these USB drives, assigning the next-available drive letter to it. Older operating systems, such as Windows 98, may require a driver to recognise this kind of USB drive, but every USB-drive vendor I've investigated provides such drivers at no extra cost. Free and open-source drivers are also relatively easy to obtain.
Here are some other examples of these drives, most of which look like ordinary small laptop-sized hard disk drives with a USB flash drive attached to them:
The Lacie USB Mobile Hard Drive - retail price, in June 2004, only £87. There are 40GB, 60GB ,and 80GB versions available. Power can be drawn from an additional USB socket or a PS/2 connector when the USB 2.0 data connection doesn't supply enough power. A USB connection draws power through the computer, which, if it is insufficient has to be boosted by using an external self-powered USB hub, or by alternative methods.
The Freecom FHD-XS is a external 20GB hard disk drive - retail price, in June 2004, £130 - is housed in an aluminium case. The USB attachment is retractable. Given a five-star product rating by Computer Shopper (UK).
The smaller of the high-speed USB CompactFlash drives (64MB, 128MB, 256MB), known by several names such as thumb and pen drives, have enough permanent flash memory to make them a viable on- and off-site back-up option for data files. The drives with the highest capacities now have enough flash memory to store an entire system made up of the operating system, the applications it runs, and the data files that the applications generate. Current drives offer capacities between 1GB and 4GB, with 8GB capacities on the way, with, of course, the promise of still larger drives in the future.
Crucial, Corsair, Kingston, and other memory manufacturers have brought out lines of inexpensive second generation USB 2.0 thumb drives that are smaller, faster, and weigh less than the previous generation. The pen drives are no wider than their USB 2.0 connector, which is accessed by removing the drive's cap.
Visit the US crucial.com site or crucial.com/uk site to see examples of the flash drives Crucial sells.
To lose data on burned CD/DVD disks only requires the disk to be damaged or scratched, and it is known that recorded disks have a limited shelf life that can be as low a five years for cheaper makes of disk.
However, Flash drives are very durable, and the data stored in one will remain intact as long as the drive can be accessed, which is effectively for as long as there are computers that have USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 ports, because the drives can work on the earlier and slower USB 1.1 ports. It is known that the drives can survive and still be accessed after having gone through a full washing cycle in a domestic washing machine.
The data reading and writing rates vary from drive to drive, but they are fast. For example, Kingston's Data Traveler Elite has nearly a 20MB/s (20 megabytes per second) reading rate, and up to 12MB/s writing rate, and has integrated data protection by providing optional 128-bit DES hardware encryption. Corsair's Flash drives have a reading rate of almost 20MB/s, a writing rate of 14MB/s. Moreover, the rubber cladding around them makes them waterproof and well suited for outdoor use.
Click here! to go to more information on flash drives on this site.
It's possible to buy a high-capacity USB MP3 player that can transfer data as well as music. Connecting a USB MP3 player via a USB 2.0 port provides high-speed data transfer between a computer and a USB MP3 player, allowing a user to play MP3 audio files and and to use it as a handy external hard disk drive. Players with Direct USB are also available. This allows the charging of the internal battery via the USB port without the need for extra cables.
The connection is amazingly fast, allowing you to transfer up to a song per second, but the computer must have a USB 2.0 port in order to make use of the fast USB 2.0 transfer rates. If the computer has only standard USB 1.1 ports, a USB 2.0 MP3 player can still use it, but the files are transferred at the much slower USB 1.1 data-transfer speed.
How much music can a given MP3 player store? - The basic rule of thumb is one megabyte holds one minute of music. That is, for every megabyte of memory, you can store about a minute of compressed music at near-CD quality.
|Capacity||Hours of MP3 music at near-CD sound quality|
|4GB (4,096MB)||66 hours|
|20GB (20,480MB)||333 hours|
|40GB (40,960MB)||666 hours|
Flash memory is rugged and very compact, and, because it is solid-state memory that has no mechanical moving parts, the player can't skip. Therefore, players that use flash memory are the best choice for listening to music during activity, such as jogging.
Examples of removable flash memory include the Secure Digital card and the MagicGate Memory Stick Duo. The benefit of using this type of memory is that to add storage capacity you just buy more cards. Embedded flash memory is built into the MP3 player itself. Some MP3 players can use both removable and embedded memory.
A third category of MP3 players store music on a miniature hard disk drive (HDD), of the kind used in a computer, but smaller. MP3 players with HDDs can store many times more music than players using flash memory - up to a thousand hours of audio or more - but they also tend to be a bit heavier. Their large LCD screens are often backlit, and their interfaces are designed to provide easy navigation through an entire music library consisting of hundreds of files. Since HDDs are mechanical devices that contain moving parts, they can be susceptible to skipping. However, most hard-drive MP3 players use memory buffers that virtually eliminate skipping.
To locate vendors and information on these products, enter a search query such as usb + mp3 + player in a search query.
A company that I know of does a great deal of video editing. It's staff use a digital camcorder to shoot video footage, which is downloaded on to a computer using a FireWire connection in the AVI format. When the video has been edited using specialised software, the Windows Media Encoder is used to compress it into the Windows Media Format, because this has been found to produce the best compression-to-quality ratio. The computer being used runs an Intel Pentium 4 1.7GHz processor, 256MB of DDR RAM, and a 40GB SCSI hard disk drive that runs at 10,000 rpm, with the Windows 2000 Pro SP2 operating system.
For editing video, the capabilities of the software package is as important as the speed of the hardware.
Entering usb or firewire or usb troubleshooting, etc., as search queries in a search engine will bring up enough pages to keep you reading about the subject all day. Note that Google is not the only search engine. There are many others just as good, such as Bing from Microsoft, the search engine used by Facebook.
Click here! to visit the pages on this site devoted to USB/FireWire problems and their solutions.