Before You Buy that USB Adaptor! And Why You Might Need One!

Marilynn DawsonStarred Page By Marilynn Dawson, 27th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Business>IT & Ecommerce

Eventually, some device won't work because an older cable can no longer be found, or the device needs a USB adaptor to plug into a newer system, for no other reason than the port your device needs is no longer built into the newer device you bought.

The issue of device compatibility

Device compatibility! Every computer user comes across this issue sooner or later, particularly the longer you hang around the technical world. Eventually, some device won't work because an older cable can no longer be found, or the device needs a USB adaptor to plug into a newer system, for no other reason than the port your device needs is no longer built into the newer device you bought. Then there's the issue of otherwise current devices, which, while built in the last few years and otherwise contain current technology, don't have the port needed for another current device to be attached. Apple users have found this to be annoyingly true, ending up with multiple video-to-micro-USB adaptors in order to compensate. Cell phone users have run into this as each new phone requires a different car charger. A USB car charger now exists where it will accept a normal micro-usb to USB A connector. This author needs to get one of those!

The Confusing World of Port Configurations

As a technician, I've run into this issue with corded mice, monitors, keyboard connectors, and more! Several pictures in this article are of my own adaptor collection. To make things more complicated, USB adaptors are made to fit certain incoming or outgoing port configurations. One device may require a female to male connector, while another device needs male to female, or two male or two female. Fortunately, keyboard and mice USB adaptors are generally only made one way. The keyboard's PS-2 round connector has only one standard configuration, allowing you to run to the store and get the correct adaptor the first time. 9-pin connectors however, can be more tricky and may require you travelling to the store with the cable in hand to be sure you get the right USB adaptor for it on your first trip. As I was preparing for this article, I counted a total of four different serial 9-pin adaptors in my kit! Fortunately the use of 9-pin serial is phasing out as USB continues to enter wider use.

Deciding the Right Form Factor

This growing need for USB adaptors is being met by an ever-increasing number of stores and outlets willing to help you with your particular adaptor requirements. Geeks and computer users of all stripes are even selling or reselling them on Ebay and Amazon. Adaptors now range from the basic PS-2 to USB already mentioned, to audio-video adaptors such as HDMI-USB (see video below for one company's example), and others. These adaptors come in form factors ranging from short, stubby connectors such as the USB to PS2 image above, to adaptors having anywhere from a 6in to 3ft or more cable lengths between the input and output connectors such as in the first image on this page.

This technician has even bought kits where there is a round hub containing a wide variety of USB adaptors all around it's circumference, with one regular USB connector to plug into your primary device. This unit will allow the connecting of a wide range of cell phones, cameras, backup drives, etcetera, to my computer or laptop, and has been a God-send on more than one occasion. That being said, this multi-USB adaptor still does not carry every configuration out there. The Samsung Adruino board for example, has a version of the micro-usb port that my round multi-adaptor doesn't have a connector for.

Example Adaptor

Adaptors versus Hubs

Doing a search for USB adaptors doesn't always bring up adaptors. One site brought up USB hubs and switches as well. These are not adaptors per se, but allow the use of more than one USB device being attached to the port the hub or switch is plugged into. This comes in very handy on laptops, tablets, netbooks or computers where the number of USB ports is limited.

Potential Issues using USB adaptors

Keep in mind that not all devices appreciate going through an adaptor, and can occasionally have unexpected results, or no communication at all. Printers for example, may not always work through an adaptor or a hub, and if they began working through such and then quit, their manufacturer support reps won't troubleshoot till you plug the printer directly into your tablet, netbook, laptop or computer. As a buyer and as a certified technician, this limitation by various manufacturers can get in the way of a smooth experience when requiring adaptors to get the job done.

But do your homework. Your device will more often than not work just fine with the correct USB adaptor attached. They truly are life savers!


Adapter, Usb Adaptor, Usb Connector, Usb Hub, Usb Switch

Meet the author

author avatar Marilynn Dawson
I am a computer tech by trade, as well as a Christian author and freelancer. Topics range from devotionals and online safety, to how-to's, family finances, product reviews, and more.

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