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What is a USB port hub used for? Main types and features of USB hubs


  1. USB hub description and usage
  2. Accessing your USB hub remotely
  3. Types of USB hubs
  4. Choosing the best USB hub for you

USB hub description and usage

Most of the peripheral devices that you use with your computer have a USB connector. You many have several devices that you want to use at the same time such as a keyboard, external disk drive, and printer. Maybe you want to charge your phone as well. In many cases you are limited by the number of USB ports available on your computer or laptop. There is no way to use all of your devices without constantly swapping connections among your USB ports.

A USB hub will solve your problem by allowing you to expand the number of ports available to your system. Essentially, a USB hub is a piece of equipment that offers a number of USB ports that all use the same USB connector to communicate to your computer.

USB hub

Using a USB port hub will instantly increase the number of external devices your computer can support. You are no longer limited by the computer’s design and you can stop spending time swapping cables to get your work done.

Accessing your USB hub remotely

Now that you have all of your devices configured and connected using a USB hub, wouldn’t it be nice if you could access them remotely? Perhaps you want to share your printer with a co-worker across town, or a hard drive with your world wide sales team. It is not feasible for all users to have physical access to these devices.

USB Network Gate by Electronic Team, Inc.

USB Network Gate, a software application from Electronic Team, Inc., allows you to share your USB hub and all attached devices across the Internet or any local network. This software lets you easily connect to and use remote devices as if they were locally attached to your machine.
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USB Network Gate

Share USB over Ethernet on Windows
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USB Network Gate

Simply install the software on the computer that has the hub connected and choose to share it or the devices attached to it. Then on the client machines that will access these devices, install the USB Network Gate software and choose to connect to your chosen device. You now have access as if it is a local device. It really is that simple!

Hopefully you can see how the use of a USB hub can increase the functionality of your computer. This functionality can be increased exponentially by sharing your devices over the network using a software tool like USB Network Gate.

Types of USB hubs

USB hubs come in a wide variety of types designed to meet the needs of any user. Desktop users have the option of obtaining an expansion card that provides a USB hub. This can be essential for older machines or models that do not supply any USB ports. All you need is an open slot in your system to use this type of hub.

Most USB hubs are self-contained units that can be used with any computer or laptop that has at least one USB port. They can be split into two broad categories: those that are self powered, and bus powered USB hubs.

A bus powered USB hub draws its power from the connection to the host machine. This can be a computer or another USB hub. These hubs are generally less expensive than self-powered hubs. Bus powered hubs also are the most portable option, as you do not need to worry about finding an open outlet to plug in its power supply.

There is a potential price to pay when you go with the simplicity of the bus powered USB hub. Your computer now must power not only the hub but also the devices plugged into it unless they are self-powered. This power consumption can cause performance degradation in your host computer system. You will also drain your battery more quickly if working remotely with a laptop.

System performance and power consumption considerations are eliminated when using a self-powered USB hub. Self-powered hubs will be more expensive than a bus powered model, and will entail finding another plug and having another cord on your desktop. Once you resolve these issues you can use your hub to power and charge your devices with no concern over their impact to your computer.

You can obtain USB 2 hubs and USB 3 hubs that support the associated USB protocol. They can be used interchangeably as the connectors and ports are physically identical. You will, however, not be able to take full advantage of your USB 3 devices if you are using a USB 2 hub. To achieve the full speed and performance offered by USB 3 you need all ports, connections and cables to be fully USB 3 compliant.

Micro USB hubs are also available for use with smaller devices like cell phones and tablets. These can be very handy for charging multiple devices from one that is plugged in and fitted with a micro USB hub. You can also use these hubs to attach external devices such as drives to transfer data to your mobile device.

Choosing the best USB hub for you

When buying a USB hub, consider where you will use it and what devices you plan on connecting through the hub. If you want the mobility of being able to plug a bunch of devices into your laptop wherever you are, then you should opt for a bus powered hub.

If you work in a more stationary manner, then a self-powered hub is recommended. Once in place you can use it to connect to and charge as many devices as it can take without any negative impact to your system. Desktop computer users should seriously consider an expansion card to satisfy their USB hub needs.

There is no negative side to buying a USB 3 compatible hub. It may cost a little more, but will be able to handle all USB 2 and USB 3 devices that you have. If your computer only has a USB 2 port, you may want to save a little and go with the USB 2 hub, as you will not be able to take advantage of the advanced features of USB 3.

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USB Network Gate
Share USB over Ethernet on Windows
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Also Available: USB Network Gate is a cross-platform solution compatible with Mac, Linux and Android OSes:

UNG for Mac

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UNG for Android