Technology Explained

Why You Should Upgrade To USB 3.0

Danny Stieben 11-03-2013

usb 3.0It’s been quite a while since USB 3.0 has been included in motherboards, but now we’ve come to the point where most devices and computers come with the new and improved ports. We all know about the technical data of the new specification, but what does all of that gibberish translate into?


What real reasons are there to use USB 3.0 or actively seek devices which offer the port?

Disk Activities

usb 3.0

Due to USB 3.0’s higher data transfer rates, you can make much better use of your external hard drives. With USB 2.0, the bottleneck did not lie in the hard drive itself, but the USB 2.0 interface. With USB 3.0, the hard drive’s RPM speed becomes the new, faster bottleneck. Therefore, you can copy files onto or off your external hard drive much more quickly, and you can even watch full HD videos without having to copy them over to your computer first.

If you also use a high-quality camera, you’ll be able to download all those pictures to your computer much more quickly. You can also synchronize your smartphone with your computer much more quickly. This is great for many situations, such as when you’ve bought a lot of new music, but you’re in a rush to leave the house. It’s a relatively small benefit, but it makes a big difference when you need it.

Power & Charging

what is usb 3.0


The benefits of USB 3.0 and smartphones don’t stop there – the amount of power which goes through USB 3.0 ports has increased, resulting in shorter charging times. Although the new port allows more power to go through it, it also supports lower voltages, which reduces the amount of power needed for gadgets which may not need much of it in the first place.

Do You Have USB 3.0?

usb 3.0

Support for USB 3.0 requires three different components – USB 3.0 ports on your computer, USB 3.0 drivers, and USB 3.0-capable devices. Usually, if your computer has USB 3.0 ports, it will have been advertised when you bought it. In most cases, you can also identify USB 3.0 ports by their blue color, whereas white ports are most likely still USB 2.0. If you have a laptop which only includes USB 2.0, the only way you can upgrade is to buy a new laptop which includes the new ports.

If you have a desktop which doesn’t include USB 3.0, you can buy a PCI or PCI-Express card with USB 3.0 ports on it, and install it into your system. Just be sure that you have an open slot available before buying a card.



Like most other devices, operating systems need the correct drivers to use them correctly. All major operating systems – Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, all include frameworks that support USB 3.0. It should work out of the box in Mac OS X and Linux, while in Windows it may work, or it may require an additional driver. Unless your motherboard uses an entirely proprietary chip for the USB 3.0 controllers, you will be fine in Windows 8. In Windows 7 or complex high-end chips, drivers will be required.


Besides operating system support, the device itself must also be able to support USB 3.0. There are plenty of external hard drives and flash drives which now include USB 3.0 support, but any earlier versions will still run with the USB 2.0 specifications, including the reduced speeds. If you find yourself using a device which is only USB 2.0-capable, the only way to use the newer technology is to upgrade your device.


The new specification drastically increases the transfer speeds, ups the amount of power which can be transmitted, and becomes more energy-efficient at the same time. It’s definitely worthwhile to upgrade to USB 3.0 ports, especially now that more and more devices support it.

If you have a lot of devices which use the old specification and you won’t be buying any new devices anytime soon, there’s no real reason to upgrade just yet as plugging in USB 2.0 devices into USB 3.0 ports doesn’t offer any benefits. However, getting USB 3.0 devices along with USB 3.0 ports can make your life quite a bit easier.


What USB 3.0 devices do you use? When did you, or are you planning to, adopt USB 3.0? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Andreas Brandmaier, William Hook, Lohan Larsson, DeclanTM

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  1. Keith Swartz
    March 12, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Have a few 3.0 USB Flash Drives. Compared to my 2.0 Flash Drives... there is none!

  2. macwitty
    March 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I see no reason to replace computers and devices that only have USB 2, but when I buy new things I choose those that have USB 3.0 because I will replace my computers at some time and they will certainly have USB 3.0. So, I'm not in a hurry

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      Exactly. I'm sure most computers that are being sold right now already include USB 3.0.

  3. Nevzat Akkaya
    March 12, 2013 at 7:29 am

    I love my all USB 3.0 portable hard disks, hard disk cases, and adapters. The only thing that bothers me in USB 3.0 is its ugly connector (I'm talking about the one that plugged into portable hard disks, that is thin,wide and seems as if two parts glued side-by-side). It feels very fragile, on the other hand, plugging in and out is hard for it, so the possibility that the connector will be broken seems high to me :(

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      That may be that specific connector, and not in general.

  4. SaapeXD MoHods
    March 12, 2013 at 1:22 am

    I am still using a Pentium 4! Hehe! Guess I am too outdated for these stuffs! Hopes to acquire better one! :D

  5. Kirby
    March 12, 2013 at 12:12 am

    I have a 1TB external HDD with USB 3.0. However, I don't have a computer that has USB3.0 ports.

    I am planning to upgrade my hardware in a couple of years though, but in the mean time, USB 2.0 speeds will still do for me.

  6. Doc
    March 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    "If you have a laptop which only includes USB 2.0, the only way you can upgrade is to buy a new laptop which includes the new ports." Wrong; you can also use an ExpressCard adapter to add USB 3.0 ports. An example:

    • Yudono Amiharto
      March 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      nice, this is what i'm looking for 'cause i have an old laptop.

      thanks a bunch for the info

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks for sharing! I forgot that's possible because my laptop doesn't have that.

  7. Noman Fayez
    March 11, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    nice article for general user!

  8. Al Kambino
    March 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    You can buy usb 3.0 express cards for your laptop if it has a slot (most do) for less than 10 bucks.

    Oh, you need FOUR items for USB3.0, you forgot cables!

    • Zhong
      March 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      So what if your computer doesn't have a pci express slot? I purchased my laptop in summer of 2010, HP pavilion dv6 3000 doesn't appear to have one. Then I'm screwed? srsly?

      • Doc
        March 11, 2013 at 10:11 pm

        On a laptop, it's not a PCI Express slot, it's and ExpressCard slot, which replaces the PCMCIA (CardBus) slots on older pre-PCI Express laptops. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, your laptop doesn't have any.

      • Danny Stieben
        March 31, 2013 at 9:27 pm

        You won't be able to upgrade the USB ports without getting a new laptop, but I wouldn't say that you're "screwed". While using USB 3.0 is nice, it won't make or break your experience most of the time.

        It's definitely not a software update which allows 3.0.

    • Kirby
      March 12, 2013 at 12:10 am

      I think the cables are classified under USB 3.0 supported devices.

  9. Bishal Mahat
    March 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    there cannot be blue usb 2.0 ports ?

    • Zhong
      March 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Go ahead and paint your usb ports.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      I suppose there can be, but I've never actually seen them painted blue. It mainly started with 3.0, to identify which ones were which. Those that have 3.0 but aren't blue usually have identifiable labels above them with "SS" for SuperSpeed.

  10. Grr
    March 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    i do not own any USB 3.0, and neither do I see a need to adopt USB 3.0.
    It's too early for adopt USB 3.0, as only a few handful *new* devices support it. Given that there is no significant need for USB 3.0, I foresee a slow adoption rate.

    • Doc
      March 11, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      People said that about USB at first, then about USB 2.0, and also said the same thing about PCI Express slots, AGP slots before that, and I'm sure that some corporate buyers said that about color monitors and sound cards. There are plenty of external USB 3.0 hard drives (you can even find them in WalMart), USB 3.0 flash drives, and I'm sure there will be external USB 3.0 DVD and Blu-Ray burners, high-speed/high-definition flatbed scanners, and more in the next year or so.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:25 pm

      USB 3.0 devices definitely have their purposes, and most modern machines support the new specification. It's simply a matter of using the new spec whenever you want/need to get new hardware.