The USB interface ranks as the closest you can get to a universal controller. The original USB 1.0/1.1 was slow as a slug, but USB 2.0 (also known as "hispeed USB") runs at 480 megabits per second - which is as fast as most of the connections inside your computer. All modern Windows computers have a built-in USB controller, and any PC made in the past couple of years has USB 2.0.
The latest versions of Windows XP contain rock-solid USB drivers: If you're having trouble getting USB to work on your computer, update Windows! If you get a new computer, it will undoubtedly include a couple of USB 2.0 slots. But if you have an older computer, how can you tell if you have USB 1.1 or USB 2.0? It's easy - if you know the trick:
- Click Start, right-click on My Computer, and choose Properties.
- Click the Hardware tab.
- Click the Device Manager button. Windows XP shows you a list of all the devices on your system.
- At the bottom of the device list, click the + sign next to Universal Serial Bus Controllers.
Look for the word "Enhanced." USB 2.0 controllers are called "Enhanced controllers." If you can't find the word Enhanced, you have an older USB controller - most likely USB 1.1 (USB 1.0 is quite uncommon).
- Click the X (Close) button in the upper-right corner of the Device Manager window to close it, and then click Cancel to get out of the System Properties dialog box.
Tip There's no problem at all plugging USB 1.1 devices (such as a printer or a scanner or a camera) into USB 2.0 ports: The devices just go at the slow USB 1.1 rate. On rare occasion, you may have trouble with a USB 2.0 device plugged into a USB 1.1 slot. If that happens to you, and you can't get your computer to recognize the USB 2.0 device, take the device back to the store and get a refund. Life's too short.
The USB interface is used only for external devices. It is the most flexible interface for such devices, and the easiest to use. You can plug in or remove a USB device without restarting your computer: Just click the icon in the system tray (down near the clock) that says Safely Remove Hardware.
Windows XP simply notices the device's presence or absence and adjusts itself accordingly. You can't do that with most other types of interfaces. In fact, you may damage the device or your computer if you try.
In this tutorial:
- Finding and Installing the Hardware
- Understanding Hardware Types
- Choosing an interface
- IDE and EIDE interfaces
- USB interface
- Upgrading the Basic Stuff
- Evaluating printers
- Considering multifunction devices
- Choosing a new monitor
- Picking the right screen size
- Fighting flicker
- Checking and setting the resolution and refresh rate
- Picking a video adapter
- Getting enough memory (RAM)
- Upgrading keyboards
- Choosing a mouse - or alternatives
- Adding storage devices
- Picking CD-RW or DVD-/+RW drives
- Understanding flash memory and keydrives
- Backing up to tape
- USB Hubs
- Establishing a network
- Running high-speed Internet access
- Upgrading Imaging
- Scanning photographic film
- Adding Audio
- Hooking up speakers and headphones
- Choosing a microphone
- Choosing a Personal Data Assistant
- Installing New Hardware
- Restarting with the last known good configuration
- Installing USB hardware