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Universal Serial Bus is an industry standard that establishes specifications for cables and connectors and protocols for connection, communication and power supply between computers, peripherals and other computers.
USB, short for Universal Serial Bus, is a standard type of connection for many different kinds of devices. Generally, USB refers to the types of cables and connectors used to connect these many types of external devices to computers.
The Universal Serial Bus standard has been extremely successful. USB ports and cables are used to connect hardware such as printers, scanners, keyboards, mice, flash drives, external hard drives, joysticks, cameras, and more to computers of all kinds, including desktops, tablets, laptops, netbooks, etc.
In fact, USB has become so common that you’ll find the connection available on nearly any computer-like device such as video game consoles, home audio/visual equipment, and even in many automobiles.
Many portable devices, like smartphones, eBook readers, and small tablets, use USB primarily for charging. USB charging has become so common that it’s now easy to find replacement electrical outlets at home improvement stores with USB ports built it, negating the need for a USB power adapter.
USB C Versions
There have been several major USB standards, USB4 being the newest:
- USB4: Based on the Thunderbolt 3 specification, USB4 supports 40 Gbps (40,960 Mbps).
- USB 3.2 Gen 2×2: Also known as USB 3.2, compliant devices are able to transfer data at 20 Gbps (20,480 Mbps), called Superspeed+ USB dual-lane.
- USB 3.2 Gen 2: Previously called USB 3.1, compliant devices are able to transfer data at 10 Gbps (10,240 Mbps), called Superspeed+.
- Best USB 3.2 Gen 1: Previously called USB 3.0, compliant hardware can reach a maximum transmission rate of 5 Gbps (5,120 Mbps), called SuperSpeed USB.
- USB 2.0: USB 2.0 compliant devices can reach a maximum transmission rate of 480 Mbps, called High-Speed USB.
- USB 1.1: USB 1.1 devices can reach a maximum transmission rate of 12 Mbps, called Full Speed USB.
Most USB C devices and cables today adhere to USB 2.0, and a growing number to USB 3.0.
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The parts of a USB-connected system, including the host (like a computer), the cable, and the device, can all support different USB standards so long as they are physically compatible. However, all parts must support the same standard if you want it to achieve the maximum data rate possible.
Short for universal serial bus, USB (pronounced Yoo-es-bee) is a plug and play interface that allows a computer to communicate with peripheral and other devices. USB-connected devices cover a broad range; anything from keyboards and mice, to music players and flash drives. For more information on these devices, see our USB devices section.
USB may also be used to send power to certain devices, such as powering smartphones and tablets and charging their batteries. The first commercial release of the Universal Serial Bus (version 1.0) was in January 1996. This industry-standard was then quickly adopted by Intel, Compaq, Microsoft, and other companies.
- Where are the USB ports?
- USB devices
- USB connector types
- Top USB transfer speeds
- USB version compatibility
- USB cables – length and type
- Related pages.
- USB help and support.
Where are the USB ports?
All modern computers have at least one USB port. Below is a list of the typical locations where you can find them.
- Desktop computer – A desktop computer usually has two to four ports in the front and two to eight ports in the back.
- Laptop computer – A laptop computer has between one and four ports on the left, right, or both sides of the laptop.
- Tablet computer – The USB connection on a tablet is located in the charging port and is usually micro USB and sometimes USB-C. Some tablets have additional ports USB ports.
- Smartphone – similar to tablets, the USB port on smartphones is used for both charging and data transfer in the form of USB-C or micro USB.
USB C devices
Today, there are many different USB devices that connect to your computer. The list below contains a few of the most common.
- Digital Camera
- External drive
- iPod or other MP3 players
- Jump drive aka Thumb drive
USB connector types
USB connectors come in different shapes and sizes. Most of the versions of USB connectors, including the standard USB, Mini USB, and Micro USB, have two or more variations of connectors. Further information on each type is provided below.
Micro-USB, announced in 2007, was designed to replace mini-USB. The two varieties of Micro-USB are Micro-A and Micro-B, both featuring a connector size of 6.85 x 1.8 mm, although Micro-A connectors feature a larger maximum overmold size. Micro-USB cables are often used to connect computer peripherals, video game controllers, and for charging smartphones. While many companies are upgrading to USB type-C connectors (next section), Micro-USB is still commonly used with electronic devices.
The USB type-C cable is featured on most modern-day Android smartphones and other USB-connected devices. Unlike other forms of USB connections, USB-C cables are reversible, meaning they plug in properly regardless of whether or not they are “upside down.”
USB transfer speeds
USB 1.x is an external bus standard that supports data transfer rates of 12 Mbps and is capable of supporting up to 127 peripheral devices. The picture shows an example of a USB cable connected to the USB port.
USB 2.0, also known as hi-speed USB, was developed by Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, NEC, and Phillips and was introduced in 2001. Hi-Speed USB is capable of supporting a transfer rate of up to 480 megabits per second (Mbps), or 60 megabytes per second (MBps).
USB: Everything You Need to Know
USB 3.0, also known as SuperSpeed USB, was first made available in November 2009 by Buffalo Technology, but the first certified devices weren’t available until January 2010. Best USB 3.0 improved upon the USB 2.0 technology with speed and performance increases, improved power management, and increased bandwidth capability. It provides two unidirectional data paths for receiving and sending data at the same time. USB 3.0 supports transfer rates up to 5.0 gigabits per second (Gbps), or 640 megabytes per second (MBps). Following the release of USB 3.1, it’s officially renamed to “USB 3.1 Gen1” for marketing purposes. The first certified devices included motherboards from ASUS and Gigabyte Technology. Dell began including USB 3.0 ports in their Inspiron and Dell XPS series of computers in April 2011.
USB 3.1, also known as SuperSpeed+, was made available as of July 31, 2013, and is the latest version of the USB protocol. USB 3.1 is capable of transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps, putting it in line with the first generation of Apple’s Thunderbolt channel. Today, many devices use the USB 3.0 and 3.1 revisions for improved performance and speed.
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USB version compatibility
Each version of USB port is backward compatible and forward compatible, meaning it can support any version below or above its current number. For example, devices designed with USB 1.1 and 2.0 technology work in a 3.0 port. However, it should be noted that devices with lower versions run at their native transfer speeds even though USB 3.0 is capable of higher. Similarly, if you connect a USB 3.1 device into a USB 2.0 port, the 3.1 device’s max transfer rate is limited to that of the 2.0 port.
USB cables – length and type
USB cables are available in multiple lengths, from around 3 feet to a little over 16-feet. The maximum length of a USB cable is 16 feet 5 inches (5 meters) for high-speed devices and 9 feet 10 inches (3 meters) for low-speed devices. These maximum lengths are due to data transfer timing and the risk of data loss if using longer cable lengths. However, by using USB hubs, you can connect two USB cables to effectively extend the distance between the two devices.
There are different types of USB cables as well. As we mentioned above, there are different transfer speeds (2.0 and 3.0) for USB. Similarly, there are different types of USB cables to match with those speeds. You can get a USB 2.0 cable for use with a device using USB 2.0 or a USB 3.0 cable for use with a device using USB 3.0.
USB extension cables can connect to one end of a USB cable, extending the length of the connection. However, avoid extending the cable beyond the maximum USB data transfer distance of 16 feet 5 inches, unless you’re using a USB hub to boost the signal.
Related pages USB C
What does USB mean?
Universal Serial BusUSB/Full name universal Serial Bus (USB) is an industry-standard that establishes specifications for cables and connectors and protocols for connection, communication, and power supply (interfacing) between computers, peripherals, and other computers.
What is USB and how it works?
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a technology that allows a person to connect an electronic device to a computer. … This means that a device can be plugged into a free socket, and simply work. The computer will notice the device. The computer sometimes installs special software to use the device.
Select the USB connector that you want to learn more about:
- USB A-Type.
- Best USB B-Type.
- USB C-Type.
- Micro-USB A.
- USB Mini-b (5-pin)
- USB Mini-b (4-pin)
- Micro-USB B.
- USB 3.0 A-Type.
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