USB Cables

The USB cable adapter and more

USB cables are essential if you own any type of external computer accessory. They make it easy to connect both large and small devices to your computer, from cameras and phones to printers and hard drives. USB cables are great for mobilizing businesses with laptop users – you can easily connect your devices to your computer when you're at a desk, and just as easily disconnect them when you want to take your laptop, and your work, on the road.

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Types of USB Cables

You can find a USB cable adapter for nearly any type of connector, but here are some of the most common types of USB cables and their functions:

  • USB to parallel cables (or parallel to USB cables) are typically used on printers and are distinguishable by their large plug-in.
  • USB to USB mini cables (or USB mini to USB cables) are often used on smaller devices like PDAs and cameras. Not surprisingly, their connector looks similar to a USB connector, but smaller.
  • USB extension cables will have a USB connection on one end and a receiving USB connection on the other. They come in varying lengths, so you can extend the reach of your current USB cable as far as you want.

Another, less common, set of USB cables you might want to keep on hand are USB external drive cables. These cables allow you to easily connect external hard drives to your computer.

Choosing USB Cables

While the device you're attempting to install will dictate which type of cable you need, it's important to remember that not all cables are created equal. Keep these tips in mind before you buy:

  • Make sure the cable is compatible. Some device models will only work with certain cables, so be sure you read the cable packaging to see if your model is compatible. (Your device user guide may also tell you which cables are compatible.)
  • Go to the source. If your device does require a special cable, the best way to get it can be from the device manufacturer. Sometimes it may be a little more expensive to go this way, but knowing you'll have the right cable can save you some hassle.
  • Be cost-conscious. Many big-name USB cable brands claim their cables have all the bells and whistles and will perform better than their less expensive counterparts. Depending on your needs, a generic cable may work just as well.
  • Try colored USB cables. If you're going to have a lot of USB cables running to and from your computer, buy different colors so you can keep them straight.