Universal Serial Bus (or USB) has rapidly become the standard for
connecting devices to your computer. In fact, many computers no longer
ship with a floppy disk drive as standard, but will have at least one
USB port. USB connectors are used by input devices (mice, keyboards,
scanners, digital cameras), output devices (portable CD writers,
printers), storage devices (external hard disk drives, flash or USB
memory keys/sticks) and even decorations and novelty items such as
mobile phone chargers, flashing light snowmen, coffee cup warmers and
mini reading lights.
This month we take a look at some of the things to look for in the USB
Plugs and cables
Not all USB plugs are created equal. It’s likely that your computer
will accept ‘type A’ plugs, but the other end that plugs into your
camera or printer may be a ‘type B’, a ‘mini’ or a ‘micro’ USB plug.
Ensure that your cable has the correct plugs for your device on both
ends. And if your USB cable seems a little short, you can buy extension
cables but you may need a special ‘booster’ if you want to go over 5
meters or 15 feet.
Devices can draw a low power current through a 5 volt supply to the USB
connection; however this may not be sufficient for high powered devices
like external hard drives. Multiple USB devices on one computer can
experience performance problems and errors if their combined power
requirement is too great. ‘Powered hubs’ are available which provide
additional USB connections and an external power source, though some
devices may still need their own power supply (e.g. printers).
After starting out with a capacity of 4 floppy disks, USB storage
devices (‘flash’ drives or USB keys) can now hold over 4,000 times that
amount, with capacities currently hitting 16 GB. Flash drive designs
range from options like lanyard attachments to crystal studded drives
that can be worn as jewellery. But if you are worried about
transporting your important files on such a small, easily lost device,
consider security features like encryption or a fingerprint
Many MP3 players are now the size of a flash drive and provide
song file storage through their USB connection, but also have special
software installed to allow the song files to be played.
Like a traditional hard disk drive, flash drive performances can vary so
if you are transferring large amounts of data you will want a fast read
and write speed. A fast speed also allows you to use your flash drive
as extra memory for Windows Vista, speeding up the performance of your
PC when you need it. Readyboost won’t work on slower performing flash
Also, make sure your computer and all USB devices adhere to the more
recent ‘USB 2.0’ or 'USB 3.0' standards, which have a faster transfer rate than the
original ‘USB 1.1’ specification.
Contact us. We're here to help with your USB
and any other questions.