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USB 2.0 vs. USB 3.0 for File Storage

Connectivity through USB (Universal Serial Bus) has been available for nearly 20 years now. While the technology has seen a number of upgrades throughout its lifespan, the basic point of USB devices, drives and cables remains the same: to facilitate quick, easy and secure access to your files and peripheral components.

USB Technology: A Brief History

USB technology was originally introduced in 1996, but it would only take four short years for developers to release the 2.0 architecture. This allowed USB devices to transfer data at a rate of 480Mbps, whereas original USB devices only allowed for a maximum of 12Mbps. USB 2.0 lasted slightly longer than its predecessor did, but it was replaced after eight years on the consumer market.

November 2008 saw the launch of USB 3.0, and it has remained in the industry spotlight ever since. Featuring the fastest and most stable framework of any USB to date, the USB 3.0 architecture is capable of handling data 10 times faster than 2.0, with a rate of 4.8 Gbps. These numbers are all theoretical, of course, and your actual device speeds are regulated by the exact hardware in your system.

Power Usage

The power usage of USB components is measured in milliamps, which is a common unit of current seen in electrical systems and devices. Whereas USB 2.0 provides a maximum power rating of 500 mA, USB 3.0 is equipped to handle as much as 900 mA. Not only does this provide increased power efficiency with each USB component, but it also lets your system power more devices from each USB hub. The streamlined power management of 3.0 also allows your devices to use less power during idle phases when compared to USB 2.0 or 1.0.

Different Types of Connections

The streamlined power usage of USB 3.0 is made possible through the use of four additional wires within the USB cable itself, giving 3.0 a total of eight wires and 2.0 a total of four. The "A" connector of a USB device, which is the side that plugs into your computer's USB port, is also different. USB 2.0 connectors are colored grey, while USB 3.0 connectors are colored blue. This lets you instantly determine whether a USB cable is of the 2.0 or 3.0 architecture. Finally, the "B" connector of a USB 2.0 cable is smaller than 3.0, which allows space for extra wires and maneuverability.

Software and System Compatibility Issues

One of the most attractive features of the entire USB framework is backwards compatibility. Because older USB ports will work with updated USB drives, you will not have to worry about upgrading your system's hardware in order to accommodate new USB peripherals and components. However, because a USB 2.0 drive is limited in the amount of data it can transfer, you won't be able to receive the full speed and stability that is offered in your 3.0 component.


Newer technology is always more expensive than outdated gear, so it is safe to say that USB 3.0 devices will cost more than their 2.0 counterparts. As the technology becomes more popular and more developers devote resources to 3.0, this price is sure to become more affordable to all.


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