Technology Explained

USB Over Ethernet: The Most Powerful System You Aren’t Using

Mihir Patkar 19-02-2018

The USB port on your computer is invaluable. It connects your computer to almost every other important device. The internet is also invaluable. It connects your computer to any other in the world.


Combine the two and USB over Ethernet is an incredibly powerful system you haven’t been using. This isn’t the same as one of those USB-to-Ethernet adapters, by the way, which convert your USB ports into plugs for Ethernet cables.

What Is USB Over Ethernet?

USB over Ethernet (also called USB over Network or USB over IP) is a system to share USB-based devices over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or even the internet. In essence, you will control USB devices like printers, flash drives, and webcams remotely from a different computer. And of course, you can access data from a USB flash drive The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to USB Thumb Drives Flash drives today are not just about storing your important files: you can use them to run programs and even entire operating systems. Read More .

The terms get confusing because USB Over Ethernet, USB Over Network, and USB Over IP are the names of popular software to implement such a system.

What’s the Best USB Over Ethernet App?

usb over internet network ip

There are quite a few of these programs, and it can be hard to choose the right for you. In most cases, it’s going to come down to three factors: price, how many different types of operating systems you need, and how many USB devices you need to connect.


Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect in the most popular programs:

We tested six of the best USB over Ethernet or Wi-Fi programs:

  1. USB/IP: Windows and Linux. Only free program. We couldn’t get it working in our tests, but a free app is always worth a try first.
  2. USB Over Ethernet: Windows only. Cost-effective.
  3. USB Over Network: Windows and Linux. Costly.
  4. FlexiHub: Windows host device only, but any platform can remotely access the USB of the Windows host. Easiest setup. Cost-effective as it is priced by active connections, not total number of devices FlexiHub is installed on. Secure with 256-bit encryption.
  5. USB Network Gate: Windows, Linux, or Mac host device. Most powerful, setup isn’t complicated. Made by same developer as FlexiHub, so you can use the FlexiHub interface on top of this. Secure with 256-bit encryption.
  6. VirtualHere: Windows, Linux, Mac, NAS, and Android host device supported. Untested due to an error in our device, but online reviews indicate it works well. By far the cheapest option.

What Can You Do With USB Over Ethernet?

A lot! Here are a few examples, followed by deeper explanations of how to do each one:

  1. Share a USB drive’s data across all computers
  2. Unlock multiple computers with a single USB key
  3. One Bluetooth or Wi-Fi dongle for any device that needs it
  4. Share a printer with multiple computers
  5. See what’s happening on a connected webcam
  6. One projector that any laptop can use in a click
  7. Use a single keyboard and mouse for any computer

1. Share a USB Drive’s Data Across All Computers

usb over internet network ip


This is the basic function that most people want to unlock, and it works the best too. Plug in a USB flash drive and it will show up in your software. Click “Share” and then anyone on your LAN network or remote desktop network can read or copy its contents like any normal USB drive.

But the function is where the similarity stops. You won’t get the same speed as a fast USB flash drive 5 of the Fastest and Best USB 3.0 Flash Drives Which are the fastest USB 3.0 flash drives you can buy? Here are five of the best, ranging from $20 to $200. Read More when you use it over a network. In fact, it is likely to be a lot slower than normal, so be prepared for longer wait times.

2. Unlock Multiple Computers With a Single USB Key

usb over internet network ip

Work environments often need a bit of extra protection. You can get two-factor authentication through a USB key.


Most of the aforementioned programs will let you use a USB key plugged in the host computer to unlock or authenticate a different computer. It’s a good way to lock the whole network by removing your one key too.

3. One Bluetooth or Wi-Fi Dongle for Any Device That Needs It

usb over internet network ip

Desktop PCs don’t often come with wireless connectivity options in the form of a built-in Wi-Fi adapter or Bluetooth. Now, a single dongle on the host device can give any other computer on the network that ability.

Bluetooth dongles don’t work flawlessly with all of the above programs. FlexiHub and USB Network Gate were excellent in our tests and worth a recommendation. But that still won’t solve the inherent problems of bad dongles 3 Reasons Your Wi-Fi Dongle Speed and Performance Sucks Wi-Fi dongles are great at granting connectivity to a network-free device. But they don't always live up to expectation. Here are 3 reasons your Wi-Fi dongle sucks -- and how to fix them. Read More .


4. Share a Printer With Multiple Computers

These days, Wi-Fi is a must-have in printers and that’s the easy way to print out anything in your small office.

But in case you still haven’t gone in for a wireless printer, you can share it over the network The 3 Easiest Ways to Share a Printer Over a Network You can share your one printer with multiple PCs across a local network. We explain how to set this up in Windows. We also show you alternative ways to share your printer. Read More using USB over Ethernet.

5. See What’s Happening on a Connected Webcam

usb over internet network ip

You can use a webcam for home surveillance Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools Having your own home surveillance system can be a powerful deterrent to would-be intruders, snooping roommates, or frustrating co-workers. Here are 6 great options for webcam-based surveillance products you can use today! Read More already, so how about you see the contents of any webcam connected to your network. Or maybe even use it as a regular webcam itself!

Streaming the webcam’s footage on your computer’s screen is a little tricky, but it’s not too difficult either, as this FlexiHub guide shows. There is a lot you can do with a webcam 10 Ways You Could Use Your Webcam That You Haven't Thought Of Yet There's a surprising amount you can do with that webcam, so let's take a look at some uses you might not have thought of. Read More , so don’t be afraid to be creative.

6. One Projector That Any Laptop Can Use in a Click

You’re all seated in the conference room. One person’s laptop is connected to the projector. If someone else wants to beam something on the screen, USB Over Ethernet lets anyone on the network connect to the projector wirelessly.

usb over internet network ip

So get a good projector The Best Projectors for Your Smartphone, Tablet, or Laptop Looking for the best projectors around? We've rounded up some of the best projectors for your smartphone, tablet, or laptop for all budgets! Read More for your office and start sharing it easily in meetings. Just remember to close the Minesweeper window before you activate your screen.

7. Use a Single Keyboard and Mouse for Multiple Computers

usb over internet network ip

If you’re using USB Over Ethernet on your home network, then this is one use you didn’t think of. With a single keyboard and mouse combo on your host device, you can control any computer.

It’s not as efficient as the other options to ditch a KVM switch for multiple PCs Why You No Longer Need a KVM Switch for Multi-PC Setups If you have more than one PC, a KVM switch can boost your productivity. Here's how to use software KVM to set up your multi-PC system. Read More , but hey, if you already have USB Over Ethernet, why not use it?

Explore more about: Ethernet, Internet Connection Sharing, USB.

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  1. Oliver
    September 24, 2018 at 7:35 am

    I know a program that does an excellent job with this application. I have been using the USB network gate program from Eltima for about a year now. For my work, it's great.

  2. Curious
    February 20, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Who paid for this advertisement?

  3. Curious
    February 20, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Which company paid for this advertisement?

  4. GodSponge
    February 20, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    If this requires a host device, how is this any easier or better than using the built in file and printer sharing in Windows?

    • Xyphis
      March 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      There are a few niche cases where it can come in handy.

      I've been trying to set up a Raspberry Pi with Moonlight to play console games in my living room without having to move my PC. That also includes Wii games, where I usually use a DolphinBar to connect Wii remotes which then function as if they were connected to an actual Wii without any kind of setup. However with the way Moonlight handles controllers, the DolphinBar can't properly communicate with the emulator. I could switch the DolphinBar to a different mode and bind all of the settings in Dolphin manually, but that's a massive pain and would probably add input lag.

      Having a way to send data from a USB device over LAN separately solves this completely. Once I set up the free version of VirtualHere I had zero problems aside from the popups messing with fullscreen applications.

      Unfortunately since it's such a niche thing, there's only one free (Also open source) solution (USBIP) and a bunch of price-gouging companies charging ridiculous amounts for extremely limited licenses or subscriptions and restricting their trials and free versions into near unusability. And then there's VirtualHere doing the exact same thing but at a lower price point and pretending to be charitable as if $50 per device is in any way fair or reasonable for a small utility you'll only use a couple times a month...

  5. csm2
    February 20, 2018 at 12:23 am

    A new delivery vector for malware.

    • Moinulhaqq
      February 20, 2018 at 6:47 am

      Just my thought.