Ten years ago, the tech world was just starting to coalesce around a connectivity standard. Back then, being tech-savvy meant carrying lots of different cables for your devices.
USB 3.0 was released in 2008, but some of us still don’t see the differences between this iteration and USB 2.0. Since then, USB has become the universally accepted standard for connecting our peripherals. USB adoption was certainly fueled by the introduction of micro-USB in the mobile space, which thwarted any attempts to push custom charging ports.
But while all of today’s USB ports look and behave the same, there are some differences between them that are easy to overlook. For example, you may have noticed that your phone charges faster when you plug it into a specific USB port on your computer. Or you may find that you can only charge your phone on one of your ports when the computer is off. Why is that happend? You may be suffering from a classic confusion between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0.
USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0
There’s a good reason why USB 3.0 gained popularity early on. Manufacturers were quick to adopt this technology because it is exponentially faster than USB 2.0.
In terms of speed, the USB 3.0 port can theoretically transfer data 10 times faster (up to 5Gbps) compared to USB 2.0 (480Mbps). I used the word theoretical because the transfer rate is highly dependent on your setup and the data cable you are using. More precisely, with USB 3.0 you can reach practical speeds of around 300 MB/s, while the maximum speed of USB 2.0 is around 40 MB/s.
USB 3.0 is also better when it comes to power consumption. While USB 2.0 can only draw 500mA, USB 3.0 can draw more than 900mA. This results in faster charging times for your mobile devices when powering from a PC/laptop.
Check if your computer/laptop has a USB 3.0 port
If you recently bought a new computer, it probably has at least one USB 3.0 port. Slightly older laptops usually have one USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports. However, before trying to find the correct port, you must first confirm that you have a USB 3.0 port. This is like:
- Hurry Windows key + R to open a Run dialog box. paste devmgmt.msc and hit come in.
- In Device Manager, scroll down to Universal serial bus controller and expand the dropdown menu. If it detects a USB 3.0 input and a host controller driver, you can assume you have at least one USB 3.0 port.
- click it apple icon top left of the screen. Then select About this Mac.
- inside About this Mac select window system report.
Note: If you still have OS X 10.9 (outsider) or below, click More information.
- Inside system informationclick on materialThen expand the USB tab.
- Just like in Windows, USB ports are listed by their type. Confirm you have a USB 3.0 port by seeing if something “USB3.0“In the title.
Now that you’ve confirmed that you have a USB 3.0 port on your computer, let’s look at which port it is.
Identify the USB 3.0 port on your laptop/computer
If your system has a USB 3.0 port, it’s good to know which port will give you the best performance. You can identify your USB 3.0 connector in two main ways: by the logo and by the color of the connector.
USB 3.0 was also marketed as SuperSpeed USB. Most manufacturers use the SuperSpeed USB logo to let you know it’s a USB 3.0 port. If you see the SS prefix before the normal USB logo, you have correctly identified the USB 3.0 port.
Note: If you have a new laptop/PC, your manufacturer may have removed the SS prefix from the icon. This is common on newer systems where every port is USB 3.0.
You can also find the USB logo followed by a loading icon. This means the port can take advantage of the higher transfer rates of USB 3.0 to charge your mobile devices faster.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find that your computer continues to provide power to this charging port while the system is off. This allows you to use this port much like an electrical outlet and charge your mobile devices without turning on your computer.
Note: Even normal ports without a lightning bolt icon can charge your mobile devices. But even if it is USB 3.0, its performance is limited and the overall charging time is longer.
Official guidelines for manufacturers using USB 3.0 connectors recommend using a blue color for the inside of the connector. This makes it easier to distinguish them from USB 2.0, which have a black or white interior.
Note: This guideline is followed by the vast majority of manufacturers, regardless of the gender of the USB 3.0 connector (male or female).
If you’re wondering about backwards compatibility, a USB 3.0 product is fully backwards compatible with a USB 2.0 port. However, the USB 3.0 product is limited to the speed of the USB 2.0 port, so the speed or performance benefits are not realized.
It’s clear that USB 2.0 is slowly being replaced by newer, more powerful iterations of the USB connector. In 2017, the developer group behind USB announced USB 3.2. This technology is able to process multiple data lines at the same time, resulting in even higher transmission speeds.
But the tech giants are already laying the groundwork for the new universal standard. For the foreseeable future, USB-C will be the only port that will charge and connect our phones, laptops, and consoles.
Also note that if you still can’t see your computer’s ports, you should just go to your laptop/motherboard’s product page and you should have all the specs down there. If your computer does not have a USB 3.0 port, you can purchase PCI cards with USB 3.0. Just fill your PCI slot with one of these cards and you should now have USB 3.0 ports.
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