Back in November 2009 when the first consumer products to feature USB 3.0 were shipped, I wrote a post detailing the capabilities of USB 3.0. At the time of that post, USB 3.0 was still a brand new technology, and availability was limited. It wasn’t until the following year that USB 3.0 products started to really make their way into the consumer market. As of this year though, most major PC manufacturers have equipped their newest computers with USB 3.0 technology. In spite of this, many computer users are only now just starting to get acquainted with USB 3.0.
What is USB 3.0 and How Can It Help You?
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. USB connectors have become the most common type of device connectors in computing and can be used to attach a wide range of peripherals to your computer including mice, keyboards, monitors, mobile devices, external hard drives, digital cameras, external sound cards, flash drives, and more. USB technology makes it easy to upgrade the capabilities of your PC or laptop or transfer files. The previous incarnation of USB which most people are familiar with is USB 2.0. USB 2.0 came out in 2000 and allowed a maximum data transfer rate of 480 mbps.
USB 3 is a major revision and has been dubbed the “SuperSpeed USB” by its manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Microsoft, Intel and Agere Systems. There’s a good reason for this moniker: USB3 is capable of transferring data at a maximum rate of 4.8 Gbps. That’s a tenfold increase over the capabilities of USB 2.0! Not only is the speed of USB 3.0 incredible, but it boasts some other great features as well. Here’s an overview of USB 3’s capabilities and what you need to run this new technology:
- Dual-bus architecture enables backward compatibility and forward compatibility. You can run USB 3 devices even if your computer is only equipped with USB 2.0 ports. You can also still use your USB 2.0 devices if you have USB 3.0 ports. If there is a 2.0 port or device in use though, you’ll only get the 2.0 transfer rates.
- You do need a USB 3.0 compatible cable to get the maximum transfer rate of 4.8 Gbps
- You do need the right drivers to run USB 3.0 technology as well; Windows 7 didn’t include these drivers in the initial release, but they have since been released and can be downloaded through Windows Update. Windows 8 will include inbuilt support.
- USB 3.0 can be used to power peripheral devices at a much higher level than USB 2.0. Your battery powered devices will charge faster.
- USB 3.0 is also more energy efficient; the technology uses less power when that power isn’t needed.
Benefits of USB 3
Why is all this supremely useful to you? Just think of tedious tasks like transferring files between your mobile device and your PC, or backing up files from your PC onto your external hard drive. Using USB 3.0 means you can transfer most music files instantly, and even full length films can be transferred in under two minutes. Time to reformat your computer? With USB 3 and an external hard drive, backing up your computer’s files will only take about a tenth as long as it used to. Ten-hour backup tasks can be completed in just one hour!
With all this power and speed, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 technology is really taking off right now, even though many consumers are still just learning about it. Most new PCs are already equipped with the ports, and all that’s needed to use them is a Windows Update upgrade.
Adding USB 3.0 Ports
If you don’t have a USB 3.0 port (and assuming you didn’t purchase your computer fairly recently, you probably don’t) but want to enjoy USB SuperSpeed, there’s no need to buy a brand new computer—there are card USB adapters which you can purchase right now to add USB 3.0 ports to your old computer. This is necessary if you want to enjoy the high transfer rates of USB 3.0, but remember that you can still use USB 3.0 devices even if you don’t have USB 3.0 ports. Most of these adapters are modestly priced between $15.00-$30.00.
So now’s the time to upgrade—regardless of how old your PC is, you too can enjoy USB 3.0 technology!