Home >> (USB) Universal Serial Bus – Everything You Need to Know

(USB) Universal Serial Bus – Everything You Need to Know


USB, short for Universal Serial Bus, is a standard type of connection for many kinds of devices. Generally, USB refers to the types of cables and connectors used to connect these many types of external devices to computers. Most of the electronics and all the computers that are purchased come with either one or multiple universal serial bus ports (USB) or connectors.


USB was developed in 1994 by a group of 7 companies.
Compaq, DEC, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, NEC and Nortel. It was created to enable the connection of external devices to PCs. USB can connect to multiple platforms like Windows, Mac and Linux.

What is (USB) Universal Serial Bus?

The Universal Serial Bus standard has been extremely successful. A Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a common interface that enables communication between devices and a host controller such as a personal computer (PC) or smartphone.  It connects peripheral devices such as digital cameras, mice, keyboards, printers, scanners, media devices, external hard drives and flash drives. Because of its wide variety of uses, including support for electrical power, the USB has replaced a wide range of interfaces like the parallel and serial port.

USB Flash Drive

Plug-and-play enables the operating system (OS) to spontaneously configure and discover a new peripheral device without having to restart the computer. Also, the exchange allows the removal and replacement of a new peripheral device without having to restart.

USB Versions

There have been several major USB standards, USB4 being the newest:

 USB 2.0                          Data Rate

 USB 2.0 High Speed               480 Mbps
 USB 2.0 Full Speed               12 Mbps
 USB 2.0 Slow Speed               1.5 Mbps

 USB 3.2                          Data Rate          Lanes

 USB 3.2 Gen 1x1                  5 Gbps              1
 (a.k.a. USB 3.0)
 (a.k.a. USB 3.1 Gen 1)

 USB 3.2 Gen 2x1                  10 Gbps             1
 (a.k.a. USB 3.1 
 (a.k.a. USB 3.1 Gen 2)

 USB 3.2 Gen 1x2**                10 Gbps             2
 USB 3.2 Gen 2x2**                20 Gbps             2

 USB 4                            40 Gbps             2

 ** Dual-lane requires USB-C cables

USB Devices

Today, many different USB devices connect to your computer. The list below contains a few of the most common.

  • Digital cameras
  • External disk
  • Game table
  • Headset
  • iPod or other MP3 players
  • Keyboard
  • Keypad
  • Microphone
  • Mousey
  • Printer
  • Lever
  • Jump drive aka thumb drive
  • Scanner
  • smartphones
  • Speakers
  • Tablet
  • Webcams

USB Connector Types

USB connectors come in different shapes and sizes. Most of the 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.

  • Mini-USB also known as mini-B, is used with digital cameras and computer peripherals.
  • 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 over mold 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.
  • USB Type-C cable is featured on most modern-day Android smartphones, flagship laptops, and other USB-connected devices. In addition to charging batteries and transferring data, USB-C cables can display video. For this reason, some manufacturers have removed both the standard USB and HDMI ports in favor of USB-C ports, as seen in the MacBook series of laptops.

USB Transfer Speeds

  • USB 1.x is an external bus standard that supports data transfer rates of 12 Mbps and can support 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 can support a transfer rate of up to 480 megabits per second (Mbps) or 60 megabytes per second (MBps).
  • 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. USB 3.0 improved 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 “USB 3.1 Gen1” for marketing purposes. The first certified devices included motherboards from ASUS and Gigabyte Technology. Dell started 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 can transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps, putting it in line with Apple’s first generation Thunderbolt channel. Today, many devices use USB 3.0 and 3.1 revisions for improved performance and speed.

USB Cables – Length and Type

USB cables are available in multiple lengths, from a few inches to 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. Using USB hubs, you can connect two USB cables to effectively extend the distance between two devices.

There are also different types of USB cables. As mentioned above, there are different transfer speeds (2.0 and 3.0) for USB. Similarly, there are different types of USB cables that match those speeds. You can get a USB 2.0 cable for use with a device that uses USB 2.0 or a USB 3.0 cable for use with a device that uses USB 3.0.

USB extension cables can be connected to one end of a USB cable, extending the connection length. However, avoid extending the cable beyond the maximum 16-foot 5-inch USB data transfer distance unless you use a USB hub to amplify the signal.

USB Flash Drive

A USB flash drive is a small external device that plugs into your laptop, camera, or phone in order to save digital data. A USB flash drive is a device used for data storage that includes a flash memory and an integrated Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface. Most USB flash drives are removable and rewritable. Physically, they are small, durable and reliable. The larger their storage space, the faster they tend to operate. USB flash drives are mechanically very robust because there are no moving parts. They derive the power to operate from the device to which they are connected (typically a computer) via the USB port.

USB Hubs

A USB Hub is a handy way of adding additional USB ports to a setup. They’re the USB version of a regular plug extension lead, converting a single USB socket into a hub of them. You plug it into your computer, then use the additional ports to use mice, keyboards, and other USB devices all from a single port. Much like extension leads, USB hubs also have limitations. You can’t load too many power-hungry devices onto it, else difficulties arise. However, if you want to use a keyboard, mouse, and a phone charger on one USB port, a hub can achieve this.

USB Version Compatibility

Any version of the USB port can support any version below or above the current number. Devices designed with USB 1.1 and 2.0 technology running on a 3.0 port. It should be noted that devices with lower versions operate at their original transfer speeds, although USB 3.0 is able to achieve more. If you connect a USB 3.1 device to a USB 2.0 port, the maximum transfer speed of the 3.1 device differs from that of port 2.0.

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 on the front and two to eight ports on the back.
  • Laptop computer – A laptop computer has one to 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 – Like tablets, the USB port on smartphones is used for both charging and data transfer in the form of USB-C or Micro-USB.

How to Connect USB with Computer

Insert the USB device into the USB port of the pc to make the connection between the USB and computers. It will automatically detect the device after you insert it and work on it further. Rebooting the computer after the USB device has been inserted into the computer is not required. There are different size of Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices are available.

  • Micro size USB
  • Mini size USB
  • Standard size USB

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