What is a USB Hub ?

What is a USB Hub?

A USB Hub is a small unit with two or more USB ports, which plugs into a USB port on your computer, allowing you to connect more USB devices without disconnecting others. This effectively increases the number of USB ports available to your computer. This not only saves wear and tear on your USB ports and connectors, but also puts and end to all that clambering around behind your PC!

USB Hub

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Why use a USB Hub?

Since the mid 90’s we have seen the birth and growth of a connective technology called Universal Serial Bus (USB). Originally designed to connect computers and telecoms equipment, it has slowly become the primary means of connecting a large range of other devices and has made significant contributions to today’s IT world.

The large number of USB products on the market today is just amazing, from mice and keyboards, modems, external hard drives to USB fans, lights and coffee cup warmers! Most external computer related devices today connect to a computer via a USB port. So it’s no wonder that before long, most computer users find themselves wondering what to do when the USB ports (sockets) on their computer are all used.

There are two solutions to the problem, constantly plug and unplug connectors when swapping between USB devices, or invest in a simple, low cost device called a USB Hub.

Four Types of USB Hubs

Generally speaking, there are four types of USB Hubs available:

1. Internal USB PCI Card

An internal PCI USB Card needs to be installed by opening up the case of your PC and inserting a card into a vacant PCI slot on the motherboard. This type of USB expansion is not advised unless you are familiar with working on the inside of computers. If you have the older USB1.1 and upgrade to USB2.0, your version of Windows will also need to be updated so that your PC can support USB2.0 functionality.

The StarTech.com 2 Port PCI Express SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Card Adapter PEXUSB3S2 is a good example of an Internal USB PCI Card.

2. Non-Powered USB Hub

An external non-powered USB Hub is a cheap and simple device that plugs directly into one of your computer’s existing USB ports. That’s all there is to it. They usually very compact and so make ideal solutions for mobile users with laptops and for desktop users.

Be aware that some USB devices require a small amount of power through the USB port, usually mechanical devices such as printers, scanners, digital cameras and so on. This type of USB Hub may not be able to supply adequate power to these devices especially if you are using a few USB devices together.

3. Powered USB Hub

An external Powered USB Hub is also compact and plugs directly into one of your computer’s existing USB ports. So again there is no need to open up your computer to install it. The only difference is that the Powered USB Hub comes with a separate power supply that must be plugged into the mains socket. This supplies power to all the USB ports on the hub allowing ANY and all types of USB devices to function properly.

Most Powered Hubs come with a sensible length of USB cable allowing the USB Hub itself to be positioned in a more accessible place e.g. on top of your computer or on your desk. This makes plugging and unplugging USB devices much easier. The Powered USB Hub is the best all round solution for desktop computer users.

A popular Powered USB Hub is the Plugable USB 2.0 10 Port Hub (with Power Adapter).

4. USB PC Card

If you use a Laptop and are on the move, you have an additional choice, the USB PC Card also known as the PCMCIA USB Card. This device slots into the PCMCIA slot/port found on the side of your Laptop and instantly provides two extra USB ports without using up any of your existing USB ports.

This is the most popular solution for mobile Laptop users. When buying a suitable external USB Hub, consider the location of your computer’s USB ports. If they are located at the back of your computer or in an awkward position, you can make your life so much easier by using a USB Hub that comes with a USB extension cable, or by buying a separate USB extension cable. This allows the USB Hub to be positioned to a more accessible place for plugging and unplugging your USB devices.

The TRENDnet 2-Port USB 2.0 PC Card TU2-H2PC is an example of a top sellingUSB PC Card.

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