USB Specification and Cables

USB Cables

To connect electronic devices together, you usually have two options. The first is to use a wireless signal. The other is to use USB cables. Both methods have their benefits, but you will get more features and better security from USB. Most of the time, you do not need to worry about the specification to use it either. Normally, you just need to know what type of cable to use.

What is USB?

USB, or Universal Serial Bus, is a hardware standard that allows you to connect two or more devices together and them automatically configure them for use. The standard revolves around three different components: ports, connectors, and cables.

What is a USB Port?

USB ports are how you attach USB cables to your devices, and they have completely replaced the old serial and parallel port standards. USB ports also control the transfer rate between your devices. They regulate the flow of data to ensure your apps get the data they need when they need it.

What is a USB Connector?

USB connectors are how USB cables connect your devices. They are the part of the cable you plug into your device.

USB Devices are Stackable and Swappable

If you run out of USB ports, you can always add more using a USB hub. Hubs are small devices that allow you to connect multiple devices to one USB port, effectively turning each port into two, four, or even eight ports. You can even plug USB hubs into other USB hubs to extend the chain even further. The USB standard specification allows you to plug up to 127 devices into one master USB port.

Besides daisy-chaining, USB devices are hot-swappable. You can plug and disconnect any USB device without turning the device or your computer on and off. This is what lets you connect your mobile device to multiple computer systems and accessories without needing to reconfigure them each time.

USB-A, USB-B, and USB-C Port Types

For most people, USB port and connector type are the most technical aspects of the specification they must deal with it. As an end user, must consider the type of port your devices have to get them to communicate with each other.

There are currently five (5) different port standards:

  • USB-B (Type B) – Type B is the most common type of connector. These rectangular interfaces come on everything from routers, computers, printers, and game consoles. USB flash drives also use USB-B connectors.
  • USB-A (Type A) – Type A is nearly square in shape and is typically used for peripherals such as wired mice and keyboards.
  • Micro USB-A, Micro USB-B – Smaller than their standard cousins, these ports were popular on older mobile devices.
  • USB Type C – Type C is the latest standard. Designed to replace both A and B with smaller ports that provide better support for thinner mobile devices.

If you need to connect devices featuring different port types, you will need a cable that has the appropriate interfaces on each end. The only ways to know what type of cable you need is to know what port types your devices have. You can guess this information based on the shape of the port or you read it from your devices’ specifications sheet.

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