Upgrade USB 2.0 to 3.0

Upgrade to USB 3.0 - fast USB 3.0 standard upgrade for PC and laptop

You've bought that great new hard drive that's been on your wish list for so long. It always has to be fast for you. That's why you made sure to buy a hard drive with USB 3.0, which is after all the latest standard at the moment. BUt you didn't think about the fact that your computer doesn't have a USB 3.0 port. While your new hard drive will work with this port, it won't provide the speed you were hoping for. Now you're faced with a choice: buy a new computer or simply upgrade to USB 3.0. What you should know about upgrading to USB 3.0 and how to do it, is explained in our guide.


What is the difference between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0?

USB 3.0 is the latest USB standard. However, it is no longer completely new, since it was already released in November 2008. There are some differences compared to its previous standard, USB 2.0.

  • A big difference can be found in the speed. While USB 2.0 only reaches up to 480 MBit/s, USB 3.0 is up to 10 times faster and transfers at a maximum of 4.8 GBit/s.
  • The two standards also differ in terms of maximum current. It was increased from 500 mA to 900 mA with USB 3.0. 2.5-inch hard drives no longer need an external power supply.
  • USB 3.0 works full-duplex, whereas its pre standard, USB 2.0 is half-duplex. This is an important difference, because USB 3.0 is able to transfer data in both directions at the same time, while USB 2.0 is only capable of one direction.
  • USB 3.0 has a blue connector, which is how this standard is usually recognized. USB 2.0, on the other hand, is completely black.
  • There is also a difference in the cable length. While USB 2.0 cables can have a length of up to 5 meters, the cable length for USB 3.0 is limited to a maximum of 3 meters.
  • A difference can also be seen in the price of devices or sticks. For example, USB 2.0 sticks with 16 GBytes are priced at around 5 7 Euros, while a comparable USB 3.0 stick is around two to three Euros more expensive.
  • USB 3.0 is far more advanced in the areas of power supply and power management.
  • The number of connection wires is 4 for USB 2.0 and 9 for USB 3.0.

What can the new USB standard do?

USB 3.0 already appeared in 2008, but it was not until 2011 that this standard was actually available on the market. The most important innovation in the new standard was the higher transfer rate. The higher possible power for the transmission via the cables and ports, which may be up to 4.5 W, is also very useful. Just two years later, USB 3.1 came onto the market. This standard offers even higher data rates of up to 10 GBit. This bit rate is now also fast enough for SSDs with PCI Express interface. In addition, it also brought a new connector, the USB Type-C connector. From that point on, the original USB 3.0 standard also got a new name. It was renamed USB 3.1 Gen 1. The new connector became USB 3.1 Gen 2. Nevertheless, the original USB 3 connector is still called the same today.

Black Laptop with USB 3 Port

Are USB 2.0 and 3.0 compatible?

USB type 2 and USB type 3

Since USB 3.0 ports are backward compatible like all USB ports, devices with USB 2.0 or an even earlier version can also be connected to them. USB 3.0 devices also offer this backwards compatibility. This means that a USB 3.0 flash drive can also be connected to a COmputer with a USB 2.0 port and read at any time. It is important to note that a device with USB 3.0, for example, always works at the speed of the port, which is USB 2.0 in this case. This means that the extremely fast transfer rate of USB 3.0 cannot be fully utilized.

What hardware do I need to upgrade to USB 3.0?

If you only have a USB 2.0 port in your computer but would like to use USB 3.0, you can easily upgrade your PC from USB 2.0 to 3.0. The condition for this is that the motherboard supports the PCI Express 2.0 standard. This is the case with most computers built from 2008 onwards. A USB 3.0 controller is required for the upgrade, which is available for about 20 to 70 Euros. This controller should also support PCI Express 2.0. It is also important to make sure that the controller has the right number of ports. Controllers with 2 or even 4 ports are available. Since only two ports are possible on many computers, you should make sure that the card is really compatible before buying it.

Can USB 3.0 be added later?

Yes, it is possible to upgrade USB 3.0, both for desktop PCs and partly for laptops.

Retrofitting USB 3.0 on the desktop computer:

Great care should always be taken when performing any work on the PC.

  1. First, turn off the computer and remove the power cable. Then remove the cover.
  2. Remove the old USB 2.0 controller. First remove the screws and disconnect the connector.
  3. Now install the new controller exactly where the old one was. Then replace the cover and close the PC.

Retrofit USB 3.0 on the laptop:

While most desktop PCs can be upgraded to USB 3.0 with a corresponding controller, such an upgrade is only possible for laptops if the device has an ExpressCard slot. This is often no longer the case with newer models. The upgrade is therefore carried out by means of a so-called ExpressCard. This is simply inserted into the appropriate ExpressCard slot and is usually automatically recognized. Software and drivers are installed automatically in this case. Unfortunately, the device cannot be upgraded to USB 3.0 if the laptop does not have such a slot.

Can USB 2.0 be connected to 3.1?

This is possible without any problems, since USB is backward compatible. However, it must be noted that the transfer speed is reduced to the slower standard, in this case USB 2.0. It is only important that both the plug and the socket are of the same type.

Is there a USB 2.0 to 3.0 adapter?

Since USB is both upward and downward compatible, no adapter is needed for this. It is possible to connect USB 2.0 devices to USB 3.0 ports without any problems. The same applies to USB 3.0 devices that are connected to a USB 2.0. There are only internal adapters that are used, for example, to connect a modern case with a USB 3.0 front port to an older motherboard that does not have an internal USB 3.0 port. Furthermore, suitable adapters are available if the device and the socket do not have the same type.

USB 2.0 to 3.0 adapter

How can I recognize a USB 3.0 port?

usb 3 port at motherboard

Recognizing a USB 3.0 port is usually quite easy. One look at the port is enough in most cases. Usually, USB 2.0 ports are equipped with black cables and marked in black. USB 3.0 ports, on the other hand, are blue. These color assignments are not fixed in the USB specifications of the USB Implementers Forum. This means that the manufacturers make these markings absolutely voluntarily. If you want to be on the safe side, you can identify the standard via the entry in the device manager.

How can I tell if I have USB 3.0?

As already mentioned, the standard USB 3.0 can often already be recognized by the color coding, but unfortunately this is not always the case. There are manufacturers that do not follow this color coding. This includes Apple, for example. Therefore, the color of a USB socket can be quite deceptive. If there are several USB ports with different colors on a computer, it can be assumed that the blue ones are probably USB 3.0 ports. If you want to be sure that the port is really USB 3.0, you can look for a double S directly on the port. Often, the note "SuperSpeed" is also noted on it. The best way to determine if the computer has USB 3.0 is to open the device manager. In the device manager you can see the branch USB controller, there should be a corresponding entry, for example USB 3.0 host controller.

How do I activate a USB port?

The status of a USB port is changed in the Device Manager. To open the Run window, the Windows key + R must be pressed. Then in the window enter the command devmgmt.msc and confirm with Enter. In the device manager click on the computer at the top, then all devices are displayed that are installed on the computer. In this list look for the entry USB-Controller and click on the yellow triangle in front of it. With the right mouse button now click on the desired port and then select "Activate". In the menu that is now displayed, click on "Activate device". Now just click on "Next" and then restart the computer.

Can you connect a USB 3.0 hard drive to USB 2.0?

Connecting USB 3.0 hard disk to USB 2.0 port

Since new USB versions are always backward compatible, it is possible to operate a USB 3.0 hard drive on a USB 2.0 port. This reduces the transfer speed. Some hard drives may have problems with the power. In general, USB 2.0 ports supply less current, they can only handle up to 500 mA. USB 3.0 ports have 900 mA available. If an external 2.5-inch hard drive is then to be used on the USB 2.0 port without a power supply, problems can arise. In that case, it is not possible for the USB 2.0 port to cover the hard drive's necessary power requirements. Hard drives with a USB 3.0 interface that have their own power supply can usually also be used on a USB 2.0 port without any problems.

How can I test a USB port?

If a Desktop PCs has several USB ports, it is often interesting to know what each of them can do. It is possible to test a USB port with a free program. The USBDeview program ensures that interesting information about the USB ports in use is provided. This information includes the amount of power that the USB port provides. The program is really easy to use. Right after launching, it lists all the devices that are connected to the computer via a USB port. The port to be tested is then selected from the list and double-clicked. The properties dialog opens. There is, for example, the entry Power, which provides information about the current that the port supplies. But this program is not very accurate. If you really want to test your connection properly, you should invest in an appropriate measuring device.

What to do if the USB port does not work?

If the USB port does not work, there is often a very simple solution to the problem. These three methods usually bring the desired success.

Restart computer

In most cases, if the USB port does not work, just restarting the computer will help. If the problem is not caused by hardware issues, this is the easiest and fastest method. The reason for the problems is often that devices have been connected and disconnected several times in short intervals. This problem can be solved by restarting the computer.

Search for modified software

If this does not solve the problem, the next step is to use the "Search for modified software" function. To do this, the device manager must be called up. Click on the "Action" option and select the "Search for modified hardware" item from the drop-down list. After that, you can try again to see if the problem has been fixed.

Deactivate and reactivate USB controller

Another reason why the USB port no longer works could be outdated drivers. In that case, disabling and reactivating the USB controller can help. Click on the USB controller in the Device Manager window, then some items will be displayed. Right-click on the first USB controller in the list and select "Disable Device" from the pop-up menu. Repeat the step until all USB controllers from the list are disabled. Then perform a reboot. This will cause Windows to automatically search for changed hardware after the restart and reinstall the USB controllers including drivers completely. Afterwards, the USB devices can be reconnected.

What to do if a USB device is not recognized?

In this case it is also advisable to first try restarting the computer. This will reload all drivers that are needed. The USB-Controller could then be recognized again. In some cases it is just enough to switch off the USB device, unplug it briefly and then plug it in again. Switch the device on again.

If this does not work either, there is another possibility. The program USBDeview can be helpful here as well. It lists all USB devices that have ever been connected along with their stored parameters. By deleting this connection data the problem can be solved. If the USB device is connected again and the computer is restarted, a new detection process is started. Often the problem can be solved this way, provided there is no hardware problem. If these tips do not work, it can be assumed that there is hardware damage or a problem with the driver.


It doesn't always have to be a new computer if you want to use the fast USB 3.0 standard. Even a desktop PC can be easily upgraded so that you can enjoy the full capabilities of devices with USB 3.0 ports. Only laptops prove to be difficult or impossible to upgrade. With a few simple steps, your computer is ready and can work at fast speeds.

Created: 21.October 2022