Add USB 3.0 Connectivity to Your Computer


USB 3.0 is about 10 times faster than USB 2.0, making it a terrific upgrade, and a great way to save time  by cutting down on file transfer times. USB 3.0 peripherals are proliferating, with lots of affordably priced external hard drives, Blu-ray burners and other devices to choose from. Unfortunately, most computers in use today don’t have integrated USB 3.0 ports. Most users are stuck with USB 2.0 until they buy a new computer, even if the computer they have is relatively new. In fact, many new computers sold today still feature USB 2.0 only. If you’re stuck with USB 2.0 for the foreseeable future, you might want to add USB 3.0 connectivity to your current platform. You can do it for a minimum of around $20.


USB 1.0, introduced way back in 1996, was designed to transfer data at a maximum theoretical rate of 1.5 Mbit/s. A later version, so dubbed USB 1.1, was released in 1998 and was designed to transfer data at a maximum theoretical rate of 12 Mbit/s. USB 2.0, introduced in 2000, is theoretically 40 times faster, with transfer rates up to 480 Mbit/s. But USB 3.0 is 10 times faster than USB 2.0, with transfer rates of up to 5 Gbit/s. USB 3.0 is also backward-compatible with USB 2.0, so you can plug a USB 2.0 peripheral into a USB 3.0 port and it will function properly. You can also plug a USB 3.0 peripheral into a USB 2.0 port and it will work just fine. Although, if you plug a USB 2.0 peripheral in a USB 3.0 port or plug a USB 3.0 peripheral into a USB 2.0 port, you can only transfer data at the USB 2.0 speed.The real 5 Gbit/s magic happens when you connect a USB 3.0 peripheral to a USB 3.0 port using a USB 3.0 cable.

Much like USB 2.0, the USB 3.0 port is powered, meaning that you can connect some external components and power them without having to also connect them to an external power adapter. Unlike USB 2.0, however, USB 3.0 delivers greater power. You can recharge devices such as your MP3 player, more quickly, and you can power more devices with the use of a USB hub. Along with the faster data transfer rate, this greater power also gives bus-powered USB 3.0 external hard drives the added advantage over external drives with the eSATA interface, which is unpowered. 

USB 3.0’s increased power output of 900 milliamps is enough to power multiple devices, and more than enough to power any single device.

If your computer doesn’t have USB 3.0 ports and isn’t too old, then you’re probably in luck. If you need to upgrade your desktop or notebook computer, there are plenty of adapter cards that offer one or more USB 3.0 ports The adapter cards typically feature two USB 3.0 ports. In fact, B&H carries numerous USB 3.0 cards, for desktop systems and notebook computers.

If you have a desktop system you will need a PCI Express, or PCIe card, and your computer must have a free PCI Express slot to install it in. If you’re brave enough to open up your computer, do so with the system unplugged and install the card in an empty PCIe slot. When you power it up again the computer should detect the new card and install the drivers automatically, or it will ask you for a disc containing the necessary drivers. Then you’re ready to roll, at USB 3.0 transfer rates. If you’re uncomfortable opening up your desktop system you can always buy a card and find someone more qualified to install it. Or, if you live near the B&H SuperStore, you can always have expert B&H technicians install it for you.

If you have a notebook computer, it must have an ExpressCard slot. ExpressCard is a high-bandwidth expansion slot commonly found on notebook computers in the last five years or so. If you have an older notebook with a PC Card (also called PCMCIA) or Cardbus slot, you can’t use the latest ExpressCard peripherals. There are two form factors for ExpressCard slots and peripherals. ExpressCard/34 slots and peripherals are 34mm wide, while ExpressCard/54 slots and peripherals are 54mm wide. A 34mm slot will only accept 34mm cards, while a 54mm slot accepts 34mm and 54mm cards. Regardless, all of the ExpressCard USB 3.0 adapters are at least 34mm wide, so if your notebook has any ExpressCard slot you can plug in one of these adapters.

To be safe, you should insert the ExpressCard adapter into the computer while it’s off. After you turn on your computer, it should detect the adapter and install the drivers automatically, or it will ask you for a disc containing the necessary drivers. That’s all there is to it. In this way, you can breathe new life and speed into an older computer.

Items discussed in article

Add new comment

what about a pc

i have a pc bought this year yet it has usb2.0

my hrdware does not supoort usb 3.0

That is precisely the computer that this article is targeting. If your computer has an available expansion slot, you can add functionality to it, in this case USB 3.0. If you are unsure if your system has an expansion port, or what type of card you would need, send us an e-mail.

Be sure to include your computers manufacturer, and model number.

According to "Explaning Computers" expert reviewer the computer might not get full 5 GB transfer but only half due to the speed of the slot. Is this correct/true? (ie I have a computer with 2.0 usb of course, about 6 years old dimension 5150)

PS I meant a dell dimension 5150 (Canada) called dell dimension E510 in the US.

thank you for articles I intend on visiting your store when I get to visit NYC in a week


I routinely need to copy large amounts of data onto up to six different drives.

Could I simply install three cards?  Would there be any conflict or performance concerns?

Yes, as long as you have the open expansion slots in your system, you can install multiple cards without a problem. If you do not have the open slots, you can use a USB 3.0 hub.  When using a hub you may not get the maximum performance out of six drives, but it will be far better than USB 2.0 speeds.

Targus 7-Port USB 3.0 Combo Hub

Will drivers that operate hardware designed for 2.0 also work with previously released hardware designed for 1.1?

I have a piece of hardware that is 1.1. The manufacturer released a newer model of the same hardware that operates at 2.0. The new model required an addtional driver that would allow it to operate in Win 7. Is it safe to assume that this updated 2.0 driver will safely operate my 1.1 device?

I've been told that the drivers are the same across hardware models, but I'm wondering if the difference between the older 1.1 and the newer 2.0 will be an issue if I intstall the latest driver.

Unless the drivers you are referring to specifically state that they are backward compatible to USB 1.1, they probably will not work correctly.

I have a fairly high-end HP laptop computer that is only about two years old, and it doesn't have an ExpressCard slot. So I guess I'm screwed.

yeah bro were screwed like a hole

I have an acer aspire 5250-0639 laptop that have 3 usb 2.0 ports(2 on the right and 1 on the left) but don't have any 3.0 ports. How can i upgrade to usb 3.0

Hi Timothy -

If your card has an express slot built into it you can upgrade to USB 3.0 easily. The PNU3 USB 3.0 Express Card Adapter from Transcend is a simple, but effective upgrade for adding USB 3.0 ports to your existing Windows laptop. Compatible with virtually all Windows notebook computers, the adapter fits in a free ExpressCard/34 slot and offers two USB 3.0 ports. Each port offers a connection bandwidth of up to 5Gbps. While each of these ports is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices, the adapter is ideal for use with USB 3.0 external storage devices. If you're looking for exceedingly fast USB 3.0 speed in a tidy, easy-to-install setup for your Windows laptop, look no further.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

Hi Marc Spiwak,

I have HP Pavilion DV6870ee (brought on 2008 april)
This laptop has 3 USB ports (USB 2.0)
I would like to know if one of these ports can be converted to USB 3.
I would like to know if express card USB 3.0 can be connected to my express card slot.

Hi Arun -

Your  laptop computer will accept a USB 3.0 adapter via its Express Card slot.  It appears that your computer included Windows Vista.  If you're hoping to upgrade your Windows laptop or notebook for use with USB 3.0 peripherals, Iogear has a fast, easy-to-install solution, their USB 3.0 ExpressCard. This adapter features two USB 3.0 ports and fits into an available ExpressCard /5434 slot in your laptop or notebook. Upgrading to USB 3.0 means that you will have up to 5 Gbps of connection bandwith at your disposal when using the adapter with USB 3.0 devices. In turn, you will be able to transfer data between your computer and other devices at a rate that is up to 10x faster than with a USB 2.0 connection. Each of these ports is backwards compatible with devices that have USB 2.0 and 1.1 interfaces. Connect printers, external hard drives, camcorders, or any other USB 3.0, 2.0, or 1.1 devices. If you're looking to upgrade your laptop with two exceedingly fast USB 3.0 ports in a tidy, easy-to-install setup, you might have just ended your search.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

I have a USB 3.0 connector on my laptop, and want to add a USB 3.0 hub & cables.
Which USB 3.0 cable do I need in order to connect my PC with the hub ?

Hi -

The 6 foot Pearstone Type A Male to Type A Male Cable provides a reliable way to connect USB devices to your computer for charging and data transfer. The cable allows you to benefit from the USB 3.0 SuperSpeed maximum transfer rate of 5 Gbps, which is ten times faster than USB 2.0.

This premium cable features two unidirectional paths that simultaneously transmit and receive data. With a maximum throughput of 900 mA for configured high power devices, the cable is capable of powering bigger devices that require more energy. Additionally, USB 3.0 standard type A connectors are backwards compatible with USB 2.0 standard A -- as long as one of the devices is USB 3.0 compliant.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

I have a sony vaio E series VPCEH38FN laptop that have 4 usb 2.0 ports(3 on the right and 1 on the left) but don't have any 3.0 ports. How can i upgrade to usb 3.0?

You’re computer unfortunately does not have any expansion slots, and does not have the ability to have USB 3.0 added to the system.

I have a hp 2000 2b89wm laptop with three usb 2.0 ports. Does it suppot the expansion?

Your computer does not have the necessary slot to install the USB 3.0 card so unfortunately it is not able to be upgraded.

Hi I have a HP Pavilion G72t-200 17in with Windows 8 and it has 3 USB 2.0 slots, can I upgrade them to 3.0?

I’m sorry, but that system does not have expansion slots that allow for an upgrade to USB 3.0.

I have a LG P310-K. It has some wide port on side will it accept the adapter for usb 3

Your LG computer has an ExpressCard/34 slot on its side. You would be able to use a device like the Sonnet 2-Port USB 3.0 expansion card. It will work from Windows XP through Windows 8.

I'm trying to figure out a way to upload video files from my Sony HDR FX-1000 camera to my laptop, HP 584-30-001, which has a 2.0 usb port. Will this card idea work for this laptop model?


Without having Firewire on the computer capturing direct from the cameras Firewire port is not possible. You can, however, use the AV outputs from the camcorder with a USB capture device as a possible back up option. This will not be the same quality as capturing through Firewire though and will only capture in standard defintiion.

One that I would recommend for USB capture would be the Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device

For HD capture you would need to get a computer with Firewire on board to retain the quality.

I Have an Acer Extenza 5620z with two slots I believe, will this work for me?

The Acer Extenza 5620z has an Express 54 slot so you can add USB 3.0. I would recommend using the Sonnet 2-Port USB 3.0 Expansion Card.

I have an HP G71-340 us laptop.
It has 3 USB 2.0 ports.
Can they be upgraded to USB 3.0 and if so, how?

Hi Pioneerbc  -

Without the benefit of an Express 34 expansion slot, your current laptop cannot be upgraded to USB 3.0. 

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

I have a Toshiba NB100 Notebook - is it possible to upgrade to USB3

The Toshiba NB100 is not able to be upgraded to USB 3.0.

I don't know if this thread of November 2011 is still active. I am considering adding a usb 3.0 card to my Asus P5B-VM motherboard. Do I still need a usb 3.0 certified card reader to connect to the usb 3.0 slots?

Hi Arch -

You will still need a 3.0 card reader to utilize USB 3.0 speed of your upgraded ports.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

I have a dell inspiron i1545 purchased in 2009. Will it support a usb 3.0 slot and where do i put it?

You can upgrade your system to support USB 3.0. The Dell i1545 has an ExpressCard 34 slot, and there are adapters available. I recommend the Buffalo IFC-EC2U3/UC2 USB 3.0 adapter. It will provide two USB 3.0 ports.

i have a samsung s3520, is this able to upgrade?

Hi -

Samsung does not list your notebook computer as having an Express Slot.  Unfortunately you will not be upgrade this machine to USB 3.0.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:

I have a Compaq Presario SR5030NX. I installed a Renesas 3.0 card in my spare slot but I cannot get it to work. All the correct drivers are installed and I get a "This device cannot start. (Code 10)" message in device manager. Is my computer too old to support a USB 3.0 card? Is there something I'm missing?

As long as you are running Windows XP or newer, your system will support the card. A Code 10 error usually means that the drivers are not properly installed. I would recommend uninstalling, and reinstalling them. Be sure that you install the proper version of the driver, paying attention to 32 vs 64-bit. If you still have issues with the card, please send an e-mail to

I just bought a Gateway desktop unit with Windows 8.1 and USB 3.0. I have an (old) HP Laser Jet 1012 printer which has USB 2.0, and it connects to the computer via a Belkin USB 2.0 switch (in order to share the printer among several computers). I was hoping the backwards compatibility of USB would allow a functioning connection, but that goal has not been achieved yet. Quite frankly, I don't know if it is the switch or the printer. Do you have any thoughts on this subject, or can you point me to some better on-line resources than I have been able to find myself? Thanks.

I would recommend downloading the most current driver for your printer. Please note that HP has Windows 8, and 8.1 drivers available. If you have a 32-bit version of Windows 8.1, there is no driver available. For the 64-bit Windows 8.1 driver, visit the downloads page for the HP LaserJet 1012 Printer

I've got an HP a4313w computer. Can I upgrade 2 of the 6 USB 2.0's to 3.0? If so, what card would you recommend?

You cannot upgrade the existing ports on the desktop. You can install a card to add USB 3.0 though. I would recommend the Sabrent USB 3.0 2 Port PCI Express Card.

I have a Dell desktop XPS 8300 with a second gen i7 processor running Windows 7 64 bit. Can I upgrade this pc with a USB 3.2 card and if so, which would you recommend for my system?

To add USB 3.0 to that computer you can install the Sabrent USB 3.0 2-Port Desktop PCI Express Card.

I have an Acer Aspire X1420-G-U5832....can I upgrade it to USB 3.0 ?

Your system shipped with one free PCIe x1 slot. If it is still unused, you can install a card to add USB 3.0 to your computer. The SIIG 4-Port Dual Profile PCI Express USB 3.0 Host Adapter will be compatible, and includes a low profile bracket for your computer.

I have an older Dell latitude D630 and I have what I believe is a PCMCIA slot to use.. can you recommend an adapter card or can I switch out the existing USBs to 3.0??? Thanks!!!

Hi airgordon -

Your computer will not natively support a PCMICIA 34mm ExpressCard (Supports 34mm ExpressCard via USB interface through PCMCIA adapter). You will need a USB through PCMIA Dell adapter.  We do not offer this Dell adapter.  Please contact Dell directly:

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: