USB devices

Your computer has quite a variety of connectors. The most important for you to understand is the USB (Universal Serial Bus) connector. These are small rectangular receptacles that you will find on the back of your computer and in most, more recent computers on the front as well, also on the sides of notebook PCs.

USB devices can be connected and disconnected without affecting your computer while it is running. This applies to Ethernet connectors as well. Other types of connectors do not allow this. There are a huge variety of USB equipped devices, e.g., mouse, keyboard, MP3 player, GPS, storage keys, external hard drive.

When you plug in a USB connector pay attention to the receptacle.  It is solid in part of the rectangle and open on the other half.  You must match the two or you will break your connector — they are not repairable.

It is important that you do NOT disconnect a USB storage device BEFORE telling Windows that you want to do this. If you do not take this step, there is a slight chance the data on the device you are disconnecting will be corrupted and no longer usable. If you watch carefully, when you plug in a USB device, if it is the first time the computer has “seen” it, it will go through an installation process. You will see small yellow flags near the system tray (bottom right) telling you that it is doing this. It will also tell you when it is ready to use. If the device has been “seen” by your computer before, it will simply place a small green and gray icon in your system tray.

When you want to disconnect the device, click the icon ONCE, wait a second. A tiny window will pop up listing the USB devices that can be removed. Choose the one you want to remove and click it ONCE. Wait a second or two and you will see a Safe to remove notification.  If you see a different notification, you need to close any windows associated with the device.  If that does not result in an OK to remove, you will need to restart your computer, removing it when it is in a shut down state.

There have been three USB standards: 1.1, 2.0 and now 3.0. You want to buy USB 3 capable devices only.   Sooner or later, you will have a computer that is 3.0 compatible. You probably don’t now. 3.0 is theoretically capable of moving data at 5 times the speed of 2.0.  On some computers you can tell which version each port is on your computer by examining the small plastic rectangle in it.  If it is blue, it is 3.0.

Computer ports for USB have been universally shaped until lately.  There is new plug shape.  It is called C and is slimmer.  If your computer has C ports, you need to make sure the USB devices you buy have those connectors