USB ports seem to be going crazy lately. The phone that used to charge just fine now needs twice as long, the laptop that used to always connect now takes forever, and what’s up with those weird symbols showing up on your screen? Here’s what might be going on—and more importantly, how to fix it.
Primer on USB.
There are three types of USB: 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 (also known as USB3). The numbers represent the speed at which data is transferred through them; version 1.0 transferring data at 1Mbps, 2.0 transfers up to 480 Mbps and 3.0 can transfer around 5Gbps (depending on what kind of cable you use). Each successive version improves on the previous one by leaps and bounds—an increase of 800% with 2.0 and nearly 2000% with 3.0 compared to 1.1—but there are some pretty big caveats that are often overlooked when discussing data speeds..
The main difference between versions isn’t so much how fast they can transfer data, but rather how much power they can supply. USB 1.0 and 2.0 can only provide up to 500mA (or 0.5A) of power, while USB 3.0 can provide up to 900mA (or 0.9A). This is where the problems with older devices charging via USB ports start cropping up: as phones, tablets and other devices have gotten more powerful and started drawing more power, they’ve started to exceed the amount of power that a USB 1.0 or 2.0 port can provide—which is why you’ll often see your device saying “Not Charging” when plugged into one of those ports.
USB 3.0 solves this problem by supplying more power, which is why devices that support USB 3.0 can charge more quickly when plugged into a USB 3.0 port. The downside is that not all devices support USB 3.0, so you might not be able to take advantage of its faster charging speeds depending on what you’re using.
Assuming your device supports USB 3.0, there are a few things you can do to try and speed up the charging process:
Use a high-quality cable. Cables with a higher bandwidth can transfer data more quickly, which can help when charging devices.Try using a different port on your computer. Not all ports are created equal, and some might be able to provide more power than others.
Use a USB wall charger. The wall charger that came with your device should be able to charge it much, much faster than a USB port on your computer can.
– Don’t use a USB hub or unpowered hub. A USB hub is essentially a series of USB ports connected together, and the data speeds drop down as you add more hubs to the chain. Unpowered hubs are cheaper than powered ones (which provide their own power source), but they’re also usually limited to USB 2.0 speeds—and even then, not very fast ones at that—so don’t expect them to work miracles if you’re trying to charge something quickly..
There’s one other common issue people run into when charging via USB:
some folks might refer to as “the USB death grip.” This is when you plug a device into a USB port and it doesn’t want to come out—even after you’ve unplugged it from the power source. There are a few things you can do to try and fix this:
-Try using a different cable. Cables can go bad over time, and if the one you’re using is old or damaged it might not be providing enough power to the device.
– Make sure your computer is turned off before you try to unplug anything. If the computer is on, it might be drawing too much power from the USB port and preventing the device from being removed.
– Try wiggling the cable while you’re trying to unplug it. This can sometimes help if the port is a bit loose and isn’t making a good connection.
– If all else fails, try using a USB stick or SD card to unplug the device. This might be a last resort, but it can work if none of the other methods do.
USB ports have been around for over two decades now, and in that time they’ve become one of the most ubiquitous ways to charge and connect devices. But even though USB ports are so common, they’re not always very straightforward.
The new USB Type-C port (which is also known as USB-C) supports up to 3A of power, which should be enough for pretty much any device on the market today. And if you’re using devices with older ports—like microUSB or Lightning cables—that support fast charging, they’ll still take advantage of those high speeds even if you aren’t plugging them into a new Type-C port. The one thing you shouldn’t do is use your device’s included wall charger and cable on anything other than your phone; using it with other devices—or even an adapter—could cause the charger to overheat or simply not work at all.
And if your device does support USB-C, there are a few more helpful features you can take advantage of. Not only can Type-C ports support charging, they also support data speeds of up to 10 Gbps (compared to USB 3.0’s measly 5Gbps) which means you could potentially transfer a file from one computer to another in less time than it would take on most home Wi-Fi networks. And this port is small enough that manufacturers won’t have much trouble integrating it into smaller devices like laptops and tablets, so chances are we’ll see Type-C ports pop up everywhere in the next year or two.
If you’ve got USB-C on your laptop, phone or tablet, check out our guide for everything you need to know about this exciting new port.