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TECH TIP – What’s in the Back of Your Computer – the USB Port

You have a variety of ports in the back of your computer. The age of your computer determines what ports you have.  In the next couple weeks, we will talk about these ports.  But today – the USB port.

This is a new port added to PCs and Macs within the last several years.  This port first came on the scene in 1996.  It is supported in Windows 98 and above and Mac OS 8.6 and above.

Click  here to have a look at some USB ports

The USB port is used to connect a variety of peripherals to your computer, such as printers, digital cameras, MP3 portable players, keyboards, mice, scanners, zip drives, jump drives and external hard drives.  Besides the obviously benefit of faster speed, the USB port is “hot-swappable.”  That means you can plug and unplug devices without first shutting down the computer and then restarting - a great improvement over the other ports in the back of your computer.  (You should use the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon in the Task Bar to remove peripherals).

The Name of the Game is Speed.
The USB port is a significant upgrade from earlier serial and parallel ports.  When USB first came out, it had a transfer speed of 12 mbps (12 million bits per second).  That’s fast – a lot faster than the older parallel and serial ports.  This early USB port is USB 1.1

Computers manufactured after March, 2002 came out with a faster USB - USB 2.0 (also called High-Speed USB).  These connections have a transfer speed of 480 mbps.  Wow – that’s 40 times faster than USB 1.1.   

Location
The 1.1 USB ports on older computers are always in the back of the computer.  Newer computers now have two USB 2.0 ports in the front the computer – a real convenience for those who use digital cameras or jump drives – no more fumbling in the back of the computer looking for the USB port.

1.1 - 2.0 Compatibility
So what if you buy a USB 2.0 device like a camera or printer or jump drive and you only have USB 1.1 on your computer?  No Problem!  USB 2.0 is backward compatible with 1.1.  You can use your 2.0 device in a 1.1 port.   However, you won’t get the faster speed of 2.0.   Likewise, you can use a 1.1 device in a 2.0 port.  Again, you won’t get the faster 2.0 speed.

Expanding your ports
Most newer computers come with as many as 8 USB ports.  That’s probably plenty to handle all of your peripherals.  But older computers (pre-March 2002) usually came with only 2 ports – not enough to handle all the peripherals you might have.  In this case, you can buy a USB 4 port hub (or an 8 port hub).  This will give you an additional 4 (or 8) USB ports to use. (I suggest you get a self-powered hub – one with an AC power adapter).
http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_attrib.php?page_id=405&form_keyword=4+port+usb+hub&rd=1

Adding USB ports
If you have the slower USB 1.1 ports and want to upgrade to the faster 2.0 (remember, it’s 40 times faster), you can add a 2.0 USB adapter card.  The card fits into one of the slots in your computer and adds two to four high speed 2.0 USB ports.
http://www.pricegrabber.com/search.php?topcat_search=1&form_keyword=usb+pci+adapter&topcat_id=1

If you have no USB in your computer, you can add a USB adapter card to give you USB connections.  You will then be able to take advantage of all the new USB peripherals mentioned earlier.

USB is great technology and will be with us for a long time.  Take advantage of it.

Want to learn more about USB – here’s a good article:
http://www.crutchfieldadvisor.com/S-4HvpW7FpLmb/reviews/20030923/usb_formats.html?page=1

 

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E-Mail:    Marshall Adult Education

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