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USB Ports Explained

What you need to know about USB (Universal Serial Bus)

Virtually all modern PCs come equipped with USB ports (Universal Serial Bus). USB offers a fast plug-and-play method of connecting peripherals to your computer. With USB, you no longer have to configure I/O ports and attempt to solve the mysteries of device conflicts.

Most all common devices sold today are available with USB connections. All you have to do is buy that new printer, scanner, digital camera, or other USB device and plug it into an available USB port (even while the system is running). The new hardware will be detected and the drivers will be installed automatically.

An amazing 127 USB devices can share one USB port by using cascading USB hubs. While USB 1.0 operated at a maximum speed of a very respectable 12 megabits/second, USB 2.0 can transfer data at a speedy 480 megabits/second. And when it finally becomes mainstream, USB 3.0 will transfer data at an astounding 10 times the speed of USB 2.0!

Low power USB devices such a web cam or mouse don't even need a power supply. They can draw their operating power directly from the USB port.

Most PCs on the market today come with two or more USB ports built-in, but what if you need more? There are two simple and inexpensive options (typically $30 or less) for adding additional USB ports to your system:

  1. You can purchase a four port USB expansion card that plugs into an empty PCI slot inside your computer.
  2. Even simpler, you can buy a 4 port USB hub. A USB hub simply plugs into an existing USB port which allows you to avoid opening up the system case. The downside to the hub option is you'll use up one of the existing USB ports simply by connecting the hub.

    USB hubs can be cascaded up to (seven levels deep) providing the ability to connect up to 127 USB devices to your PC (remember that each USB hub counts as a device and that the USB specification limits USB to a maximum of 127 devices). In reality, it is extremely unlikely that you'll need anywhere near that many USB connections.

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