What is USB Port in Computer – 11 Benefits & Drawbacks

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What is USB port in computer? USB actually is the abbreviation of ‘Universal Serial Bus.’ Most of the computers come with a USB port, in fact a couple of these, nowadays.

These common types of ports can be used for several purposes such as to connect different input and output devices to your computer including:

  • Keyboards
  • Printers
  • Mice
  • Game consoles and controllers
  • Digital cameras
  • Scanners
  • Detachable media drives and much more.

Not one or two, you can actually connect up to 127 different peripherals to a single USB port of your computer but for that you will need to use a few USB hubs. If you are dexterous, you will be able to use all of these at once.

The best thing about these USB ports is that these ports work much faster in comparison to the old and traditional ports namely the parallel and serial ports. For example:

  • If you use a USB 1.1, it will enable your computer to transfer data at an incredible speed of 12 megabytes per second.
  • If you use a USB 2.0 on the other hand, the data transfer speed can be as high as 480 Mbps.

These ports were launched way back in 1997 but it was not until the launch of Apple iMac in 1998 that these ports really took off and was used extensively.

This is considered to be a bit ironic because of the fact that USB ports were actually designed and created by other companies such as:

  • Intel
  • Digital
  • Compaq and
  • IBM.

It is noted that, in the past couple of years USB ports are extensively used in both Macs and personal computers along with several other cross-platform interfaces. Check out HDMI port pros and cons.

What is USB Port in Computer?

USB Port in computer

The USB ports in personal computers and other consumer electronics allow digital data transfer and communications within a short distance.

These ports of different devices are connected to each other with USB cables and these not only transfer data digitally among the devices but also supply the necessary electric power to the devices.

These ports have made both connection and use of different devices quick and easy. Most of the operating systems of modern computers support USB ports. These are incredibly simple ports as compared to other connectors including:

  • Parallel ports
  • Special cards and
  • Serial ports that are installed inside the PC case.

These ports are very useful and beneficial both from the viewpoint of a user and the technical aspects. Any system that comes with USB ports are more flexible than those that do not have one, because it can support several different devices.

You will get wired as well as a wireless version of USB but it is only the wired variant that will use USB ports and cables.

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Irrespective of the version of the USB, the physical layout of all will be the same. This means that a USB 1.1 will look similar to the USB 3.1 version.

To sum up, USB ports are the best alternatives to serial and parallel ports that allow data transfer 100 times or more faster than the other ports.

As an alternative to the USB ports, you can use Ethernet ports and FireWire ports, if the computer peripherals support it.

You will have faster data transfer than a USB port but these interfaces will not supply electric power to the devices through the wire.

Types of USB Ports

The different types of USB ports are categorized on the basis of its physical layout. For example:

  • USB-A or Type A ports are the rectangular connectors. These are 1.4 cm or 9/16 inches long and 0.65 cm or 1/4 inches in height. These ports are usually used to connect keyboards and mouse. Most of the USB sticks today usually have a USB-A connector.
  • USB-B or Type B ports are not so common as the Type A ports. These are somewhat square in shape and used primarily to connect electronic devices like printers, routers and different gaming consoles.
  • Micro USB is a type that comes in both USB A and USB B versions. These are much smaller in size as compared to the other counterparts and are mostly used in mobile phones and other mobile devices.
  • USB Type C ports, on the other hand, come with specifications of 0.84 cm by 0.26 cm. This is the newest standard of USB ports that has replaced both USB A and USB B. The smaller ports ensure better and firmer support to the thin form factors of the smartphones.

You will simply need to use the right type of cable with the proper interface to connect your device through these USB ports.

Ideally, most of the manufacturers today design these ports in such a way that it supports all USB cable types and combinations of male-female ports.

Life Expectancy of USB Port

Just like any other port, the USB ports are also expected to last for a long time. Technically, the lifespan of a USB port is measured in insertion cycles and it may vary according to its type. For example:

  • A micro USB is designed for 10000 insertion cycles
  • A mini USB is designed for 5000 insertion cycles and
  • A full-size USB will have 1500 insertion cycles.

Now, you may think that there is something wrong in it because the cycles should be exactly opposite.

You may be true to some extent because practically you will seldom see a full-size USB port that is broken whereas there may be plenty of broken micro USB and a fewer number of broken mini USB ports.

However, the statistics are an extract from official websites which is why you should consider these figures regarding the resilience of different types of USB ports.

The main reason is that these are the numbers based on insertion cycles and not on the probability of physical wear and tear of the ports.

  • Scientifically, the larger USB ports will break sooner than the others because it has a larger contact surface area. On the other hand, the smaller connectors are more fragile.
  • Mathematically, if you use a USB port that has a 5000-insertion cycle, it will take roughly 27 years to complete the insertion cycle or break the port if you change the boards daily.
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However, irrespective of the insertion cycles, it is the port connector that may wear off. In case of a Micro USB port, the female port end will not break easily.

You can increase the life of the USB port if you use it in an enclosure. This will ensure secure movement.

Also, you should avoid unnecessary sideways or lateral movements because that may damage the moving contact parts of the USB port. As for the cables, these typically do not break because they do not have any moving parts in them.

Working Process of USB Ports

All devices connected to the host device bus are assigned an address once the host device is powered up. This process of identifying and addressing is called enumeration.

In addition to that, the host device finds out the type of data each of the devices connected to its bus wishes to transfer to it. This helps the host device to identify the mode each of these connected devices would take up for transferring the data. For example:

  • A keyboard or a mouse will take the interrupt mode because it transfers a very small amount of data
  • A printer will choose the bulk mode because it receives large number of data in bulk, usually in a 64-byte chunk and
  • The streaming devices such as speakers will use isochronous mode to transfer data in real time between the devices.

If there is no error in the connection, then commands, data, and query parameters can also be transferred by the host in control packets.

After enumeration, the host device will keep a track of the overall bandwidth requested by the interrupt and isochronous devices.

These devices can literally consume 90% of the total 480 Mbps of bandwidth available. If a USB 3.0 port is used, the data transfer speed can increase up to 4.8 GB per second.

The host denies access to other devices once this 90% of the bandwidth is used up. The left-over bandwidth is used by the bulk transfer and control packets.

The USB will divide the total bandwidth available into different frames that are controlled by the host device. Each of these frames consists of 1,500 bytes, and, after every millisecond, a new frame is started.

During this framing process, each of the isochronous and interrupt devices are allotted a slot so that they are guaranteed to get the necessary bandwidth.

Benefits

1. Simple to use

USB ports and cables are easy to use and can also increase the connectivity by using a USB hub. It is very easy to install requiring only an operating system. There is no need for any external power.

2. Support

These small ports provide adequate support for different data transfers to different distances at a fast rate ranging from 1.5 MB pers second to 5 GB per second.

3. Error free communication

Use of a USB port will ensure an error free connection. If there is any error, the ports follow the USB protocol and notify the transmitter about the error requesting a re-transmission of data.

4. Cost

The USB ports along with all its components, connectors and cables are available at a low cost in the market.

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5. Power

The USB ports consume less power in the mA range and can operate only at +5 volts.

6. Versatile

The versatile nature of these ports allows using multiple devices through a single interface. This eliminates the need for different hardware and connector types for every specific peripheral.

7. Auto configuration

You will need to install the USB host device driver only once and the driver will later on be loaded automatically and start configuring the plugged-in device.

Drawbacks

8. Speed comparison

USB V3 and V4 may transfer data at a high speed but it is much lower as compared to FireWire and Ethernet interfaces.

9. Communication

Though the USB port will support communication between the peers and the host and the connected devices but it will not support communications between two hosts. You will need to use the OTG or On the Go USB to resolve this issue.

10. Distance

The USB ports can transmit data in short distances beyond which you will need to use USB hubs.

11. Broadcasting

Communication through the USB port is limited to the host and peripherals only and does not allow broadcasting over a larger location.

USB Port FAQ:

What is the function of the USB port?

The function of the USB port is to act as an interface for different consumer electronic appliances and personal computers just like any other average cable connection.

These ports will establish a stable connection to transfer data digitally through the USB cables. Sometimes, through these ports electric power can also be supplied to devices through the cable.

Are all USB ports the same?

Irrespective of the different types and same purpose served, all USB ports are certainly not the same. The primary difference between the different types of these physical connectors is the speed of data transfer.

Another major difference is that the newer protocols of the new USB 2.0 ports supplies more power to the devices.

What happens if you plug a USB 2.0 into a USB 3.0 port?

You will experience a slight increase in the rate of data transfer. However, you must make sure that your computer is not designed to block such ‘unusual’ connectivity.

How do you identify my USB ports?

For that, first you will need to know how exactly a USB port looks like. Ideally, it can be the most common, rectangular Type A or the oval-shaped Type C.

Then, check the labels on your computer ports and look for 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, or 3.1 written there. You can also check it in the technical specifications of your motherboard or through the ‘Device Manager.’

Final Words

The USB ports in your computer is an important paraphernalia that allow easy connectivity of other devices to ensure a better user experience and smoother operation while using your computer.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin