Feb 012020

USB-C is now present on most new computers, and many mobile devices

USB-C cable

USB-C cable

If you are part of the rush to change your old Windows 7 computer for a shiny new Windows 10 machine, then you will probably be encountering USB-C on your new computer, and it might be for the first time. You might well find at least one USB-C port on a desktop computer and you will almost certainly find at least one on anything more than an entry-level laptop.

USB-C ports

USB-C ports

USB-C is the latest iteration of the method for connecting peripherals to the computer. The USB standard was developed (and continues to be developed) by the USB Implementers Forum – “established in 1995 to support and accelerate the market and consumer adoption of USB compliant peripherals” – (source: https://www.usb.org/members).

USB-C is not just faster than previous versions of USB. It has more going for it:

  • It definitely is faster. In fact, it is twice as fast as USB 3.0 (capable, in theory, of transmitting data at 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second).
  • It is smaller than the most common, rectangular, plug on previous versions (although larger than the “nano USB” connector found on many devices).
  • It is “flippable”. In other words, you can’t get it the wrong way up as it will work both ways up. In this respect, it is like Apple’s “Lightning” connector. It’s also similar in size to Lightning, but they are not interchangeable.
  • As well as normal data, a USB-C port is capable of transmitting a video signal. Connect the right cable to it and it will, for instance, connect an external monitor via HDMI. This means that laptops no longer need the old, chunkier, lower resolution, VGA connector.
  • You can charge up some laptops via a USB-C connection, instead of having a separate charging port.
  • Since both laptops and mobile phones are adopting USB-C, you may only need to carry one cable around with you! Not only that, but the same connector is found at both ends of the cable, so you don’t even have to worry about which end to plug into which of the things you are connecting together. Better still, you no longer have to worry about the “USB micro” and “USB nano” connectors. All USB-C cables have the same size connectors at both ends as all devices have the same size USB-C port.

USB-C to USB3

USB-C to USB3 cable

You may have shortlisted a laptop that has, say, two USB 3 ports and one USB-C port. It’s quite possible that your clunky, beloved, Windows 7 laptop had four USB ports and you don’t like the idea of coming down from four to two ports. That’s much less of an issue when you know that you can put an adaptor on the USB-C port to give you old-style USB connectivity. It’s a fact that laptops generally have fewer USB ports now than ten years ago. Coming down from four to three ports is much less drastic than coming down from four to two.

It may seem to some that I am somewhat “behind the curve” in writing about USB-C now. Indeed, I have had the excellent Dell XPS15, on which I am writing this, for over three years and it has a USB-C port. However, I do know from conversations with my IT clients that people who haven’t changed their hardware for a number of years may not have come across it yet. Please don’t think that it represents “change for change’s sake” or “an un-necessary complication”. It really is an improvement and will make things simpler and better in the long run.

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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