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USB hubs used to be really common desk accessories 10 Cool Accessories To Help Organize Your Desk 10 Cool Accessories To Help Organize Your Desk Living in a tangle of cables and gadgets? Looking for the best way to organize your desk to keep things nice and tidy? Read More , but their popularity seems to have waned in recent years. Is there still a good case for using them, or have they become largely unnecessary? It depends on your situation, but there are definitely some circumstances in which they’re really useful.

Then again, as we come to rely on USB-enabled devices a little less, a hub might not be worth having around. Here are a few arguments for both sides. Check them out and share your opinions on whether USB hubs are still necessary in the comments below!

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Get a Hub If You Use a Laptop

While there are some laptops out there that come with a bunch of USB ports, a lot of them still only pack two, which really isn’t very many in our current USB-saturated landscape. When I’m working at my desk, I use a USB keyboard and a USB mouse, so I don’t have any ports to charge devices, hook up my external hard drive, or connect my printer.

It’s not a huge deal, but it would be nice to be able to do all of those things at once. Sometimes the ports can be a bit too close together Are Your USB Ports Too Close Together? Here's How to Fix It! Are Your USB Ports Too Close Together? Here's How to Fix It! If you’re like me, you probably make good use of USB on your PC, from connecting keyboards and printers to smartphones, USB flash memory, Bluetooth, 3G or Wi-Fi dongles, headsets, game controllers and more. USB... Read More for use with multiple devices, too.

usb-hub-laptop

Of course, whether or not a USB hub will improve your laptop experience depends largely on what you do with your laptop. If you’re always on the move and you don’t need a mouse or a keyboard, you won’t have the same problem I do. Maybe you’ll just need to charge your iPad and use an external hard drive or a two-factor authentication key 3 Tools for Turning Your USB Drive Into a Secure Unlock Key for Your PC 3 Tools for Turning Your USB Drive Into a Secure Unlock Key for Your PC Read More .

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But if you use a laptop as your primary computer, or regularly do more than just sending emails and writing while you travel, a small USB hub might be a really useful tool.

Get a Hub If You Want a Charging Station

One of the best uses for a USB hub is to charge a number of different devices at once. And while unpowered USB hubs need to be plugged into your computer to do that, powered hubs let you charge your devices whether your computer is on your desk or not.

usb-hub-charging-station

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of things that can be charged via USB 4 Tips To Increase Smartphone Charging Speeds 4 Tips To Increase Smartphone Charging Speeds Faced with a low battery warning right before you need to leave? These neat tricks can help you charge your smartphone faster than usual so you aren't left with a brick in your hand. Read More . My iPad, iPhone, bicycle GPS, running GPS, and Kindle all need to be charged regularly, and it’s really convenient to be able to plug them into the same place without having to look for open outlets or computer USB ports.

Get a Hub If You Need to Move Data

This is probably a rare case, but if you find yourself in the situation of needing to move a lot of data between a bunch of different devices, a USB hub can be very useful.

If you want to back up photos from your computer, share mobile data Tethering: How To Use Mobile Internet On Your PC Tethering: How To Use Mobile Internet On Your PC Want to share your phone's data connection with your computer? Here's exactly how to do it, how fast you can expect it to be, and how it will affect your battery life. Read More via USB connection, download images from your camera, print some documents, and upload music to your iPad, a high-quality USB hub can help you do all of that at the same time.

anker-usb-hub

Again, this admittedly isn’t a common situation for most people, and it would only warrant a USB hub if it happens on a regular basis. However, if you do find yourself moving data like this a lot, investing in a USB hub is going to make your life easier.

Don’t Get a Hub If You’re All Wireless

A lot of devices are eschewing wired connections for wireless ones. Bluetooth-enabled keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, and other peripherals are becoming more common all the time, and with increased battery life and better connectivity, they’re giving USB devices a solid run for their money (though there are some good arguments against using Bluetooth devices 6 Reasons Why You Should NOT Buy a Bluetooth Keyboard 6 Reasons Why You Should NOT Buy a Bluetooth Keyboard Before you commit to buying a Bluetooth keyboard, consider these drawbacks and issues that may cause you to change your mind. Read More ).

There are a number of things you can hook up to your wireless router, too, including hard drives, printers, and media storage devices, meaning you need even fewer USB or Bluetooth-connected devices. If you take advantage of this as well, you could get by with very few — maybe even no — USB ports.

bluetooth-headphones

This is the biggest argument against USB hubs, and it’s why the new MacBooks only have a single port Should the New MacBook's Single Port Scare You Away? Should the New MacBook's Single Port Scare You Away? Apple recently revealed the new MacBook, and it's a jaw-dropper — but it also has only a single port. Was this a blunder, or a sign of the future? Read More : for a significant portion of people, that’s all that’s needed.

There are plenty of USB power adapters that you can plug your devices into when they need to be charged — especially now that wall outlets and power strips are packing USB ports — and with increasing battery life How Bluetooth 4.0 Is Shaping the Future of Mobile Connectivity How Bluetooth 4.0 Is Shaping the Future of Mobile Connectivity Bluetooth is the forgotten star on the device specifications sheet. Read More , you don’t have to charge them as often.

Don’t Get a Hub If You Have Extra Ports

Even if you don’t have a lot of USB ports, you might still have other options.

Many monitors, for example, now come with USB ports that you can use to connect and power devices. If you can use an HDMI port to connect it to your computer, you’ll be getting a port or two (or more) without taking up any of the USB space that’s provided by your computer.

usb-ports-on-travel-router

Routers often have a number of USB ports as well, and these can be used to connect some devices. This works best when you’re connecting something you don’t need to access very often or if your router is close to your computer, so it might not work for everyone, but it’s another good option.

Do You Have a USB Hub?

In the days of increasingly wireless peripheral devices, a USB hub might not seem like a great investment, even though the highest-end options are pretty affordable. But there are some cases where it makes a lot of sense to get one — especially if you’re using a laptop.

On the other hand, there are a lot of technologies that obviate the need for one. As with most things, it depends on your situation.

What about you? Do you use a USB hub? Or have you transitioned away from them? Do you think they’ll disappear as more devices become Bluetooth-compatible? Share your thoughts below!

Image Credits: 7 port usb hub by Clive Darra via Shutterstock, Sylvie Bouchard via Shutterstock, sripfoto via Shutterstock

  1. Read and Share
    June 28, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Looking for a 4-6 USB 3.0 hub with one USB port for charging a laptop. Anyone?

    • Read and Share
      June 28, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      Oops... never mind.

  2. me
    June 28, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Yes, I have 14 motherboard USB ports, but only 4-6 are USB 3 and unless I want data transfer at the speed of slight I can't use the USB 2 ports. About the only thing the 2.0 ports are good for is a mouse and keyboard, and maybe a scanner. So I have 2 powered USB 3 hubs already.

  3. jungman
    June 28, 2016 at 4:49 am

    I use external drives quite a bit for backing up data and having USB (powered) HUB's on my desktop with an extender cable to the rear of my desktop(s) is much safer than trying to balance the ext hard drives with their shorty cables on the top of my PC towers. Also it's a pain to try and reach behind the PC to connect/disconnect them. I find the front USB ports are often lacking sufficient power (voltage drop due to internal cable length) to properly spin up an external drive. Because my towers are right beside my it's dangerous to use the front USB ports with USB sticks as I may break them off as my chair rotates and moves about. So for me it's all about convenience and safety for the devices I am plugging in.

    • Dann Albright
      July 7, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      The physical location of the ports is also an important consideration; thanks for making that point!

  4. Susan
    June 28, 2016 at 2:41 am

    My all-in-one has usb ports that are hard to get at if I want to use a thumb drive or external drive or hook up my phone so I have a powered hub close by.

  5. ddd
    June 27, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    If you need more ports, get a hub. If you don't need more ports, don't get one. If you can't figure it out without this article, you don't need a computer -- you need a keeper.

    • Neoalfa
      June 28, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Took the words right out of my mouth. I'm lucky I don't pay to read Makeuseof, otherwise I'd have to ask for a refund.

  6. kxp
    June 27, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    Don't get a hub if you want a charging station, buy a charging station. USB hubs are really lousy at this. Non-powered USB ports provide 1A total for all ports, powered will provide a little bit more. However an actual multiport chargin station can easily provide you 10A or more, giving you the ability to quick-charge, charge multiple devices and all with fast speeds and no compromise (besides the missing data link).

    • me
      June 28, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      Actually the skiva octa-fire kickstarter had 8 ports at 2.4A for a total of 19A beating your quick charges 10A. Also a anker one has 9 @2.4

      • Dann Albright
        July 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm

        A charging station can be really useful, but as me ("I"?) pointed out, there are some hubs that have some great charging capabilities, too, making them slightly more versatile. It largely depends on what you need!

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