USB extender types Various methods to extend USB
- What is USB and how is it used?
- USB extension cables - pros and cons
- USB Network Gate - a software alternative solution to USB extension hardware
1. What is USB and how is it used?
Universal Serial Bus (USB) is an industry standard for digital data transmission over short distances. A USB port is a cable connection interface that allows USB devices to be connected to each other or to a host such as a computer. USB connectors are standard on the majority of consumer electronics and computer peripheral devices available today. USB ports have replaced serial ports on most laptops and are currently the primary means of accessing external devices from your computer.
There are several different types of USB ports and connectors, and the same type needs to be on both ends of the connection. USB connected devices can draw power from the host machine through the port, making them extremely portable. They also offer plug-and-play capabilities, meaning they can be added to your system without the need to reboot.
There is a one-to-one relationship between the number of devices and ports that they can connect to on your computer. This can limit your ability to use all of the devices that are available to you without constantly switching cables. You can obtain a USB port extender which enables the connection of several devices to a single USB port simultaneously.
Another limitation in communication between USB ports and connected devices is the cable length that is supported for full-speed data transfer. USB 2.0 has a maximum cable length of 5 meters, with USB 3 reducing that length to 3 meters. This means that your devices need to located no more than the recommended distance from your host.
The cable length limitation can be a problem in a number of different ways. Your company may want to share devices with various users located throughout the building. This can prove to be impossible when working with the limited lengths available to USB devices.
Another instance where cable length can impact the ability to use USB devices is in remote monitoring or surveillance applications. It is not possible to use cabling when the device must be located a significant distance away. What you require in this case is a USB extension.
2. USB extension cables - pros and cons
There are USB extension cables available that can alleviate some of the problems associated with limited cable length. They contain electronics that generate the USB signal and are called active repeater cables. Using USB 2.0, you can have an active cable up to 30 meters in length. USB 3 limited this to 18 meters. Mixing standard cables and active cables lessen the extension 25 meters for USB 2.0 and 15 meters for USB 3.
USB cable extensions are bus-powered and will draw power from the USB port. Cables are available with power adapters to get around this potential issue.
Though these cables do offer some extended utilization of your USB devices, you are still constrained by their physical limitations. To truly access and share your USB devices, the best path is to share them over the network.