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.