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—please note that we do not perform installations on used equipment.

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


I have an Acer Aspire E1-532 Intel Pentium 3558U / 1.7 GHz. I recrently bought an XP-Pen Artist Display 16 with what I believe to be a 3.0 usb. I have had notorious problems with my usb connectivity to every mouse I've owned with my Acer, which has been about 8 by now. I have tried both wired mice and bluetooth and always experience a malfunction in the device. After downloading the drivers and calibrating the XP-Pen Artist Display, I was able to get a solid 2 hours of perfect work out of the device before it stopped working and has not been resolved since.

My question is, "Is my Acer Aspire E1-532 capable of having the dual 2.0 usb ports replaced with the 3.0 adapter here? Do you feel this would be a resonable solution to the problem I'm experiencing?"

Hi Heaven.  It would not be possible to replace your USB 2.0 ports with USB 3.0.  The issues you are experiencing with your mice, is that with your USB 2.0 port or your USB 3.0 port?  Did you also try checking with Acer directly to see if they have updated drivers for your computer?

There is a complication.  Some laptops, Like Dell only run their PCIe expresscard buses at 2.5 Gb/s, not 5.0 Gb/s.  And some express cards (Version 1) only run at 2.5 Gb/s, not 5.0 Gb/s.  So, depending on you computer/expresscard combination you may only get 2.5 Gb/s.  Also, the bus speed is the maximum.  Hardware may run slower that the bus speed allows.  So, you have no gaurantee when you buy a particular expresscard, hard drive, usb flash drive, etc. that it will run as fast as the bus that you plug it into.

My usb 3.0 laptop will not print to my usb 2.0 printer. Is there an adapter or other solution? The usb 2.0 port on the laptop is very small and I dont have anything that fits into it. I saw that this question was asked before, but it was not answered. I would appreciate your help.

To better assist you, would you happen to know what type of USB port your computer and your printer has?  If you're unsure, can you provide us with the model # of your laptop and also your printer?  Also, which version of Windows/ Mac OS is your computer running?


I just want to know if I could use my optical disk drive slot in my laptop to add usb 3.0 ports.

Something​ like Dell E-Series USB 3.0 Expansion Module AE3USB01 to fit into my Lenovo G570.

I'm sorry but I do not know if a Dell Expansion Module would work in your Lenovo G570.  For your inquiry, I would suggest try contacting Lenovo directly.

Is there some adapter I can buy to have my usb3.0 connect to usb2.0?  I have 2 3.0's on my case but my motherboard doesnt have a 20 pin connector for it but it does have a free 8 pin connector for another 2.0 to be connected.

Hi Mark - 

Please send us a detailed description of your components, including brand and model number so we may help you figure this out:                    

Has anyone tried a temporary USB upgrade for a Macbook Pro?

I have a late 2011 model, and need to upgrade USB 2.0 to USB 3.0

The Late 2011 MacBook Pro’s feature a Thunderbolt port. You can use an adapter like the Sonnet USB 3.0 + Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt Adapter ( It’s as easy as plugging in the adapter, and plugging in your USB 3.0 device. 

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Dear James

I have a toshiba satellite A100-110 and i have a slot express card 54 (PCI express) on it, does my computer supports a usb 3.0 port via the express card 34 ( transcend TS-PNU3) ?

thanks in advance. 

As long as your SATELLITE A100-110 is running XP, VIsta, Windows 7 or 8, it would be able to support a usb 3.0 port via the express card 34. 

I have a Dell Latitude D520 laptop, is there like an adapter I can plu into my usb to be able to use a 3.0 external hard drive?

USB 3.0 is backwards-compatible to USB 2.0. No adapter is needed. The trick to backward compatibility is that despite the fact that USB 3.0 cables actually have more contacts and more wires, both the "A" (host port) and "B" (device connector) USB 3.0 sockets are designed to be able to accept USB 2.0 cables. When you first see a USB 3.0 cable, especially the "B" end, you're likely to wonder how that could be - but it really does work. However, you will have 480 megabits per second (mbps), or 60 megabytes per second (MBps) transfer speed, which is the transfer speed of USB 2.0, and not USB 3.0's speed of up to 5gbps (640MBps)—which is over ten times as fast as the 2.0 maximum.

Apple did away with Express Card slots (which is why I hold on to my 2008 MBP).  Not having USB3 on even my newer MBP I got a Kanex Thunderbolt-USB3 adapter and it's great.  I did this when they were first avaiable last year, and Thunderbolt docks were a bit further away in price.  Today if I needed to do the same I'd likely opt for a low end dock on sale for $150, but at the time the Kanex plus a big USB3 hub for under $100 made enough sense and it has served me well.  

My motherboard is Intel DH61WW. Can I have any option to upgrade to usb3?

PCI Data
        Slot PCI
            Slot Type    PCI
            Slot Usage    Available
            Bus Width    Unknown
            Slot Designation    PCIe X1
            Slot Number    0
        Slot PCI
            Slot Type    PCI
            Slot Usage    Available
            Bus Width    Unknown
            Slot Designation    PCIe X1
            Slot Number    1
        Slot PCI
            Slot Type    PCI
            Slot Usage    Available
            Bus Width    Unknown
            Slot Designation    PCIe X16
            Slot Number    2
        Slot PCI
            Slot Type    PCI
            Slot Usage    Available
            Bus Width    32 bit
            Slot Designation    PCI
            Slot Number    3
        Slot PCI
            Slot Type    PCI
            Slot Usage    Available
            Bus Width    Unknown
            Slot Designation    PCIe X16
            Slot Number    4

Apart from this, if I am qulifying for the upgrade, will my new USB3.0 port have speed of USB 3 or USB 2?

According to Intel that board has both a PCIe x1 and PCIe x16 slot. Both are second generation.  Providing that one, or both are free you can upgrade the computer to support USB 3.0. I recommend the StarTech 4-Port SuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCIe Card. ( It is easy to install, and reliable. Also note that it supports UASP which with supported devices can give you a big transfer speed boost.

Our Lenovo T510 Thinkpads have YSB 2.0 ports.
Does anyone "know" if they will accept one of the referenced cards to upgrade to USB 3.0 ports?


( Sorry for the typo...YSB was meant to be USB of course )

The Sonnet 2-Port SuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCI ExpressCard/34 Adapter should work for your Lenovo ThinkPad T510. You would want to check the specs on the card to make sure your operating system is supported. 

Just seeing this Andrea...thank you.

Would you also happen to know where a layout diagram of gthe T510 might exist?
It's not clear to me where such an adapter card would plug in.

I oredered and installed the above recommended PCI card from B&H Photo.
Then downloaded the drivers for it.
Have gone through the whole routine 3-4 times...with reboots...with uninstalls, then clean re-installs, etc...everything...cannot seem to get the driver installed / operational.

Tried mutliple USB drives...( all of which work fine through the T510 Thinkpad's original USB2.0 ports)...with the new USB3.0 PCI card but the Thinkpad does not see them.  Searchd the Internet for possiblde isues / solutions, so far no hitts. 

Thinking I just threw away $45 and wasted a day of my life.....any iron clad suggestiuons would be appreciated.


Wow,sorry for the it is again w/o typos:
I ordered and installed the above recommended PCI card from B&H Photo, then downloaded the drivers for it.
Have gone through the whole routine 3-4 times...with reboots...with uninstalls, then clean re-installs, etc...everything...cannot seem to get the driver installed / operational.
Tried multiple USB drives...( all of which work fine through the T510 Thinkpad's original USB2.0 ports)...with the new USB3.0 PCI card but the Thinkpad does not see them. Searched the Internet for possible issues / solutions, so far no hits.
Thinking I just threw away $45 and wasted a day of my life.....any iron clad suggestions would be appreciated.

Sorry to hear of the trouble you are experienceing. I would recommend emailing so we can further troubleshoot this issues you are having. 

Send the Email to who's attention at B&H Photo? 

Hi roundball, we have a dedicated e-mail address for issues such as the one that you describe. As Andrea O. suggested, please send an e-mail to the attention of Thanks!

I Emailed a whole description, and set of info / tech specs about the laptop and installed software...just a robot reply so far.

Hey roundball,

Someone should be getting back to you shortly. Thanks for emailing B&H!


My computer has 3.0 ports but won't recognize my 2.0 port printer. Do you have an adapter for this issue?

I'm kind of newbie when it comes to Desktop PCs, but I have a prebuilt PC from Ironside computers, that I'm hoping will allow me to add 3.0 capability to it, as it currently has 1 empty USB3.0 port on the front casing of the tower. On the FM2 Chipset motherboard, it says what I currently have:

USB 2.0: 4
USB 3.0: 0
Number of Ram Slots: 2
Supported Ram Speeds: 1866/1600/1333/1066
CPU Socket Type: FM2+ / FM2
PCI E x 16 Slots: 1
PCI Slots: 1
Form Factor: Micro ATX

Will I be able to add USB3.0 functionality to this? And if so, I would like to know what is recommended for my PC?

My overall computer's specs:

AMD Athlon(tm) X4 860K Quad Core 3.70 GHz

RAM: 8.00 GB

Graphics Card: Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 2GB

System type: Windows 8.1 64-bit,  x64- based processor

Unfortunately USB 3.0 cannot be added to your computer. The only slot that would support a USB 3.0 card is occupied by your graphics card.

Hi James,

I planning to assemble a new desktop.In that I am planning to use Asus M5A97 2.0 MoBo, fx 8320 CPU and gtx 970.But I am confused while choosing the case.I actually like this case NZXT CABINET GUARDIAN 921 RB very much in terms of looks and all but only problem is all its USB ports are 2.0.So my question is with this config and case combined will I be able to have a USB 3.0 port, with process you explained.If yes then will it perform like an original USB 3.0 and last can you recommend any specific PCIE card that i should buy as per this config?

All these queries if solved will be very helpful for me in buying my new rig.

PS: An economical way would be preffered because if it costs too much then i will adjust with another case that already supports USB 3.0 rather then spending too much money on upgrading this case .


Vaibhav :)

The front USB ports on the case will be USB 2.0. The two USB 3.0 ports on your main board can be accessed from the rear of the computer without an issue in the case.


I have a Lenovo T400 and I would like to upgrade it to support USB 3.0.  How should I go about doing it?  Thanks.

I would recommend the Sonnet 2-Port SuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCI ExpressCard/34 Adapter. ( This ExpressCard/34 will fit into your ExpressCard/54 slot, and is compatible with Windows XP or newer.

Some of these questions indicate the person didn't even take the time to read the article.  PEBDAC;  the problem exists between the desk and chair.


I have a very old Dell E1505 that has 2 lateral and 2 rear usb ports, can these be replaced with USB 3.0 ?

I have a Toshiba C605SP4101A, this computer has 2 USB ports, one is usb 1 and the other is usb 2.0, is it possible to replace it with  with usb 3.0  ports?

Your Toshiba model does not have any expansion capabilities. You are not able to upgrade to USB 3.0.

Hello, I have a Hewlet Packard Pavilion P6000 Series, Model no p6675uk, Serial No. CZC0424W63, Desktop, can you tell me if I can upgrade this machine to USB3, what items would I need, and do you stock the appropriate items?


Richard Gillitt

USB 3.0 can be added to your computer. Please see the link below for the Kingwin 2-Port USB 3.0 PCIe Host Controller Card.

The computer is an HP Omni120-1333w, is there a 3.0USB card or port/cable/card available.

No. This system does not have the option to upgrade to USB 3.0.

Hi, I have a HP 2000-2d59TU notebook with only 3 x USB 2.0 slots, is there a slot for USB 3.0?

Hi John -

Unfortunately, there is nowhere to install an ExpressCard/34 Slot 3.0 adapter.  One of the USB ports may be a 3.0 port but the available HP documentation is not clear. Please contact HP directly regarding the USB configuration for your PC:

Tel: 800-752-0900 or 800-474-6836


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

i have a dell e6410 laptop how can i install a 3.0 usb port

Hi Nosson-

The 2-Port ExpressCard 54mm USB 3.0 Card Adapter with UASP from StarTech allows you to add two USB 3.0 ports to your ExpressCard-enabled laptop. This SuperSpeed USB 3.0 card supports data transfer rates of up to 5 Gb/s. It is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1/1.0 with data transfer rates up to 480 Mb/s and 12/1.5 Mb/s, respectively. This USB 3.0 card has a flush-mount design that allows it to sit flush in a standard 54mm laptop ExpressCard slot, creating a seamless add-on that can be left installed even while you are on the move, preventing damage to either the card or the ExpressCard slot.

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

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