Upgrading to USB 2.0.
USB is one of the great advancements in PC peripheral connectivity over the last few years. For the longest time, if you wanted to add anything to your PC, it generally meant opening the case and doing some internal surgery. Today, you can hook up almost anything--printers, memory card readers, hard drives, keyboards or virtually whatever you can think of
-by just plugging it into the USB port. Best part of it all? You can connect or disconnect all of these devices without having to shut down your PC to do it.
Now, let's step back just a minute and discuss the "Hot Pluggable" interfaces just for clarity. First there was USB 1.1 (just called USB at the time since there wasn't a 2nd generation to speak of yet). USB 1.1 communicated with the PC at a rate of 12Mbps (Megabits per second) whereas USB 2.0 has a speed rating of 480Mbps (40 TIMES faster than 1.1!) Just as a note, most mice/keyboards only require 1.5Mbps to function, so there is no need for high speed USB, but if you are connecting memory card readers, hard drives, printers or those higher speeds are generally required and you will get much better performance by using
If your PC is a couple years old, you might only have USB 1.1 on your system. Well, you're in luck as you can purchase a USB 2.0 card, install it into your system, and be speeding right along on the USB train. When looking for a USB card be aware that some manufacturers label their cards a little different. Generally USB 1.1 is called just USB, while USB 2.0 is referred to as Hi-Speed. So if you can't find a USB 1.1 or 2.0 callout on the packaging look for it to be called Hi-Speed.
The thing to watch for here is that some companies also label their products as Full Speed USB, this is actually USB 1.1 and not what you are wanting to get. So make sure what you are looking at is called either USB 2.0 or USB Hi Speed. If you are also going to want to change the ports on the front of your case you should look for a USB 2.0/Hi Speed card that lists at least 1 INTERNAL port. You will use this plug to connect the cable coming off your cases USB ports to make them communicate at 2.0. You could also get one of the new devices that would be located in a floppy drive slot, but that would be an additional purchase to your new USB card.
So you're home with your new purchase and wondering how to go about installing it? It's actually quite simple and most cards can be installed with nothing more than a screwdriver. (I say most cards because some of the cases built by companies such as Dell and Compaq are sometimes a little different to get into, if this is your situation then you'll have to look thru the documents that came with your PC or online for the proper procedure to get into your case.)
First step of doing ANYTHING inside your PC is to completely shut it down, and disconnect it from everything. Make sure you know where everything goes back in by possibly labeling the cords and plugs. Using a screwdriver (usually a philips style) take off the side cover of your PC (I am assuming a tower style case here and not a desktop as towers are much more popular these days).
Once you are looking inside your PC you should see a large circuit board laid flat inside the case, with a couple smaller circuit boards plugged into the large one. The large circuit board is called the Motherboard (and the cards plugged in are sometimes referred to as daughter boards, not sure where all the sons are). Back to the business at hand.
There should be a row of white slots located on the motherboard and you will usually have at least 1 or 2 cards plugged into a couple of these slots. These slots are called PCI (Peripheral Component Interface) and allow you to add new features to your PC. (There are older and newer technologies, but generally PCI slots will be white, and the other slots will be different colors AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) for video is usually a brownish color, ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) is an older technology not found in most recent motherboards, but it's slot is generally longer (sometimes made of 2 different slots placed end to end) and is general gray.
Please note, the colors I am referring to are the color coding I have encountered, they could be different but the AGP slot will usually be the first one (closest to where you would plug in your mouse and keyboard, then come PCI slots and if you have ISA they will usually be at the bottom of the board.
OK, taking care to keep yourself grounded (either by resting your arms on the sides of the case, or if you have one, attaching an anti-static strap to your wrist and hooking the other end up to the case using the alligator clip) remove the back cover from your case that matches up to the PCI slot you are planning to use. Doesn't matter which PCI slot you use, I would recommend you pick one that is easy to get to, and, if possible, that doesn't make all your connections in back jumble together and thus make it difficult to plug things in.
Some of the back covers simply have a screw holding in a cover plate, and others will require you to bend the metal back and forth a couple times before it breaks off. If you have to do the latter, make sure you have a screw to use to hold your new card in place, if you don't have one, I'm sure a quick stop to your local computer store and the guys should happily give you a screw to use. If they don't, I wouldn't recommend doing business with them, anyone that has worked in computers for any length of time ends up with thousands of these screws lying around and it's just good customer relations to hand one or two out to a potential customer!
Once the back cover for the slot you are going to use is out of your way take your card (again remember to keep yourself grounded) and line it up so the metal bracket is facing the direction of the back of your case, and locate it down to the slot. Your card will have a small notch out of it down where it slides into the slot, that notch should line up perfectly with a matching notch located on the PCI slot. You might need to work it around just a little to get the tab on the bottom of the metal strap to fall into the proper place, but you shouldn't exert a lot of force. The card should slide pretty easily into the PCI slot and settle down so the screw hole on your case and the opening in the metal for the screw come right against each other. Place the screw into the location to hold the card in place and your new card is installed.
As a little aside, if you got a card to also upgrade your front USB slots on your PC case you will have to trace the wires that come from them to where they are located on your motherboard, it will usually end in a decent sized plug with one corner filled in for alignment. Unplug that from the motherboard and place it into the slot that resembles the plug on your new USB card. (One quick thing to note here is that some motherboards don't have a single plug, but rather all the wires end in small separate connectors, if this is the case you have to be VERY careful to make sure you keep them in the right order, if you are unsure about it at all I would recommend you call in an expert to handle that part for you.) Replace your side cover, reconnect your PC, and get ready to power it back up.
Make sure you read the manual that came with your card, most will require you to use the setup disc that came with the card to get it all functioning properly and your system should tell you when it needs the disc the first time you boot it up after installing the card. A final thing to note, is that installing the card won't convert any of your on-board USB slots up to 2.0 (such as the slots that are located close to your keyboard/mouse plugs and are hardwired to the motherboard) those will still function properly at 1.1 speeds and I would recommend you use those ports for the slower devices like your mouse. Also, getting a USB 2.0 Hub won't do you a bit of good if your PC is only operating at 1.1, but once you have installed your new 2.0 card, that USB 2.0 hub will give you a couple more slots to plug devices in.
There is another interface that was made popular by Apple and it is called Firewire which communicates at 400Mbps. Now if you are looking to hookup external hard drives and other peripherals that require maximum speed to get full performance out of them and they have the Firewire capability you might want to consider installing a Firewire card (or maybe a USB2.0/Firewire combo card) instead of (or along with) the USB 2.0. In lab tests, while the Firewire speed is slower than that of USB the way it communicates with the PC is structured to minimize overhead so performance is usually better for Firewire on large data transfers such that you get from a hard drive.