USB Cables

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus, and it is an industry-standard for many cables and connectors used to attach computers and a host of different types of electronic devices. They act as a form of communication between those two devices, and you will find that many of the items that you have around the home right now probably utilize this type of technology. The cables are a fast and simple way to transfer data. Because of the quality design and capabilities, they were able to replace many of the older ports on the computer. You are going to be able to find USB ports on just about every computer – laptop and desktop – that is out there today.

Those who are looking to buy cables will have quite a variety from which to choose. It is important to make sure that you are buying the right type of cable for your device. Always check with the manufacturer’s guide or your device user guider to make sure you buy the right cable.

Who Produces USB Cables?

Billions of USB cables sell yearly around the world. With the demand so high, it’s only natural that so many different companies are producing the cables. You are going to be able to find the cables at your local electronics store, and you will be able to find them through online sellers. Some of the most popular companies manufacturing these cables today include Belkin, Rocketfish, and Dynex.

While these are some of the most popular, and ones that you are likely to run into when you are searching for a cable, they are not the only ones on the market. You are going to find quite a few different manufacturers and options when you are looking, so it is important that you have a bit more knowledge about the cables when you buy. You will want to make sure that you are always buying the highest quality cables for your computers and devices. In the case of many devices, you might even find that they come with a USB cable right in the box.

History of USB Cables

The development of the USB cable began in 1994 when a group of seven different companies got together to look for a way to make connecting devices to computers easier. At the time, different devices required different types of ports, and that means that the back of the PC was riddled with different ports. These companies were looking for something that was simpler, a single type of cable that would be able to connect all of those different types of devices.

The companies involved in this – DEC, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, Nortel, and Compaq worked toward making interfaces simpler and ensuring that the software configurations for the new cable were working properly, and making the connections as simple as possible for consumers. It took a number of years, but the first USB, the USB 1.1 released in 1998. While this was a step in the right direction for the unification of devices, it was not enough. A mere three years later and they released USB 2.0. With this advancement, they were able to increase the rate of data transfer, making them about forty times faster than the original. The 2.0 USB cables are some of the most popular, and they are still the most widely used today.

However, in 2010, we started to see the first USB 3.0. This new iteration is able to increase the data transfer rate further while decreasing the consumption of power. They are also compatible with USB 2.0 devices, which is nice. They are starting to gain more prominence, and in a couple of more years, they will likely be the dominant form of USB cable.

What Devices Need USB Cables?

Today, you will find that most of the different devices that you have around the house will connect via a USB cable. The printers that you have today will probably have USB connections, and so will the external hard drive that you use. Some types of speakers will as well. Drawing tablets are another one of the popular devices that utilized the USB port to function.

With the case of many digital cameras, they are going to utilize a modified version of the USB cable. Often called the mini-B, these cables will come with most digital cameras when you buy them. They will have one end modified that it is smaller and has a slightly different shape. This is so it will be able to fit into the port on the camera, which is naturally going to be smaller. The other end of the cable is going to look like a traditional USB, and it will fit right into the computer port. This makes it easy to transfer your data.

MP3 devices, such as the iPod will also use a type of USB connector. Again, they have one end that is modified so that it is going to be able to fit into the device, while the other end is going to be a standard USB cable. Phones are quite similar.

You will find that the USB cables are quite handy, and they are resilient. However, they are going to wear out eventually. Most of the A-type connectors should be able to last for about 1,500 connection and disconnection cycles.

What are USB Cables Used For?

The purpose of the cables is to transmit data, and in some cases, to provide the power needed to run the device. Users will be able to do quite a few different things thanks to the cables. It all depends on the type of device that you are using.

It is going to be possible to connect devices such as external hard drives, for example, and load data from the drive to your computer. You can also send data the other way. Store your files onto the device with a simple click. The data traverses the USB and goes into the hard drive. In the case of the drawing tablet, then the information that you put onto the tablet’s surface while drawing transfers through the cable and to the computer program that you are using. With high-quality cables, you should not experience much of an issue with latency.

When you plug in a USB device for the first time, it will take your computer a few seconds to recognize and configure it. However, it happens quite quickly. The cables are standard, so they should work well with any computer that has a USB port.


The connector A types of the plug are quite common. They are able to carry both data and power. You are usually going to see the connector A types on cables that affix permanently to a device. Some examples include your USB keyboard or mouse. The following are some of the common types that you will see.

  • Mini USB A
  • Mini USB AB
  • Mini USB B
  • Rectangular
  • USB, USB 2.0
  • USB A, USB Ax2
  • USB B


The B connectors have a slightly different look to them with beveled corners. They will usually be on devices that have fully removable cables. A good example of this would be a printer or an external hard drive. In some cases, they are only for power, while others are also able to transfer data. The following are some of the popular connector types.

  • Crimp Socket
  • D-SUB 9-Pin
  • DIN
  • DVI-I
  • Header
  • Male 2x D-Sub 9-Pin
  • Male USB B
  • Micro USB B
  • Mini USB A

What Lengths Do They Come In?

One of the things that most people want to know when they are buying USB cables is just how long the cables are. You will find that the cables can vary greatly in size. Some are only a couple of feet long. With the older USB 1.1, the cable limit was about 10 feet. With the USB 2.0, the limit is 16 feet. The newer USB 3.0 does not have a specified limit, but it is best to keep the cable to under about 10 feet. The reason that you can’t have cables that are longer than this is that the longer the cable the more delay. Up to about 16 feet, this is not noticeable. However, with longer cables, you will find that it could be quite problematic.

What are These USB Types?

When you look into USB cables and their history, you will find that they break down into three basic sections USB 1.1, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0. You are going to want to make sure that you have at least a basic understanding of what the differences are between these three different USB types.

The USB 1.1 is the first iteration of the USB cable. These were the initial cables that came to the market in 1998. These were the older and slower cables, and allowed a max transfer rate of 12 Mbps. These were popular for some types of devices, such as mice and keyboards, which only needed a fraction of this transfer speed. While some of the older devices that used 1.1 are going to work with the newer 2.0 cables, you will find that they still have to adhere to the slower transfer rate.

USB 2.0 is quite a bit faster, and is actually able to transfer data at 480 Mbps. As mentioned earlier, this is about forty times faster than the old 1.1 cables. This was able to make transfer of data in larger chunks much faster and easier. Of course, the advancement did not stop there.

With USB 3.0, the developers were able to achieve veritable “super speed” with the cables. They were now able to transfer at up to 5 gigabytes per second! They are backwards compatible with 2.0, and they were able to reduce power consumption. It is quite possible that the transfer speed is going to increase even more. Recent developments show that they are likely to hit as fast as 10 gigabytes per second by the middle to end of 2013.

While most today are still using the 2.0 cables, times are changing. As 3.0 starts to become more important in the world, and as we replace old cables, more and more will start using the faster cables.


You will find that the connector A cables are the typical USB connectors. They are flat and rectangular, and they are the ones that you are generally going to be plugging into your computer and devices. These cables are going to go upstream and towards the computer. Some of the common types of connectors you will find include:

  • Female Mine USB B
  • Female USB A
  • Female USB A x 2
  • Female USB B
  • Male Mini USB
  • Male Mini USB A
  • Male Mini USB AB
  • Male Mini USB B
  • Male RS232
  • Male USB
  • Male USB 2.0
  • Male A
  • Male B
  • 16 Way Male Rectangular


These cables are heading downstream and away from the computer to different devices. These connectors have more of a square appearance to them rather than the rectangular shape.

  • Crimp Socket
  • Female DIN
  • Female Micro USB B
  • Female Mini USB B
  • Female USB A
  • Female USB B
  • Female DVI-I
  • Male D-SUB 9-Pin
  • Male Micro USB
  • Male Micro B
  • Male Mini USB
  • Male Mini A
  • Male Mini B
  • Male USB
  • Male USB 2.0
  • Male USB A
  • Male USB B
  • Micro Male USB B
  • Pigtail
  • 2x D-Sub 9-pin
  • 5 Way Male Header
  • 6 Way Male Header

The sockets for these different connectors look quite a bit different, and that is a good thing. It makes it much easier to know what type of cable you need for your devices.

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