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9/30/05 How to upgrade an old computer from USB 1.1 to 2.0

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 29, 2005 2:35 AM PDT

I have a question about upgrading to USB 2.0. I have a Dell
Dimension 8200. When using a USB device, my computer tells me that things would go faster if I used my 2.0 connection instead of the 1.1. Could you please tell me how to upgrade to 2.0? Is it something I could do by adding or changing something (like a card perhaps)? I would rather buy whatever I need somewhere else than go to Dell, but I don't know what I should purchase. I have added memory and am not afraid to open up the machine and add or change things, but I'm lost about what to do. I would like to upgrade the front and back ports on my machine. Can you help? Any information and details would
be great. Thanks.

Submitted by: Dennis P.
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Answer submitted by Greg H.
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 29, 2005 2:55 AM PDT

USB is one of the great advancements in PC peripheral connectivity over the last few years. For the longest time, if you wanted to add anything to your PC, it generally meant opening the case and doing some internal surgery. Today, you can hook up almost anything--printers, memory card readers, hard drives, keyboards or virtually whatever you can think of
-by just plugging it into the USB port. Best part of it all? You can connect or disconnect all of these devices without having to shut down your PC to do it.

Now, let's step back just a minute and discuss the "Hot Pluggable" interfaces just for clarity. First there was USB 1.1 (just called USB at the time since there wasn't a 2nd generation to speak of yet). USB 1.1 communicated with the PC at a rate of 12Mbps (Megabits per second) whereas USB 2.0 has a speed rating of 480Mbps (40 TIMES faster than 1.1!) Just as a note, most mice/keyboards only require 1.5Mbps to function, so there is no need for high speed USB, but if you are connecting memory card readers, hard drives, printers or those higher speeds are generally required and you will get much better performance by using USB 2.0.

If your PC is a couple years old, you might only have USB 1.1 on your system. Well, you're in luck as you can purchase a USB 2.0 card, install it into your system, and be speeding right along on the USB train. When looking for a USB card be aware that some manufacturers label their cards a little different. Generally USB 1.1 is called just USB, while USB 2.0 is referred to as Hi-Speed. So if you can't find a USB 1.1 or 2.0 callout on the packaging look for it to be called Hi-Speed. The thing to watch for here is that some companies also label their products as Full Speed USB, this is actually USB 1.1 and not what you are wanting to get. So make sure what you are looking at is called either USB 2.0 or USB Hi Speed. If you are also going to want to change the ports on the front of your case you should look for a USB 2.0/Hi Speed card that lists at least 1 INTERNAL port. You will use this plug to connect the cable coming off your cases USB ports to make them communicate at 2.0. You could also get one of the new devices that would be located in a floppy drive slot, but that would be an additional purchase to your new USB card.

So you're home with your new purchase and wondering how to go about installing it? It's actually quite simple and most cards can be installed with nothing more than a screwdriver. (I say most cards because some of the cases built by companies such as Dell and Compaq are sometimes a little different to get into, if this is your situation then you'll have to look thru the documents that came with your PC or online for the proper procedure to get into your case.) First step of doing ANYTHING inside your PC is to completely shut it down, and disconnect it from everything. Make sure you know where everything goes back in by possibly labeling the cords and plugs. Using a screwdriver (usually a philips style) take off the side cover of your PC (I am assuming a tower style case here and not a desktop as towers are much more popular these days). Once you are looking inside your PC you should see a large circuit board laid flat inside the case, with a couple smaller circuit boards plugged into the large one. The large circuit board is called the Motherboard (and the cards plugged in are sometimes referred to as daughter boards, not sure where all the sons are). Back to the business at hand. There should be a row of white slots located on the motherboard and you will usually have at least 1 or 2 cards plugged into a couple of these slots. These slots are called PCI (Peripheral Component Interface) and allow you to add new features to your PC. (There are older and newer technologies, but generally PCI slots will be white, and the other slots will be different colors AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) for video is usually a brownish color, ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) is an older technology not found in most recent motherboards, but it's slot is generally longer (sometimes made of 2 different slots placed end to end) and is general gray. Please note, the colors I am referring to are the color coding I have encountered, they could be different but the AGP slot will usually be the first one (closest to where you would plug in your mouse and keyboard, then come PCI slots and if you have ISA they will usually be at the bottom of the board.

OK, taking care to keep yourself grounded (either by resting your arms on the sides of the case, or if you have one, attaching an anti-static strap to your wrist and hooking the other end up to the case using the alligator clip) remove the back cover from your case that matches up to the PCI slot you are planning to use. Doesn't matter which PCI slot you use, I would recommend you pick one that is easy to get to, and, if possible, that doesn't make all your connections in back jumble together and thus make it difficult to plug things in. Some of the back covers simply have a screw holding in a cover plate, and others will require you to bend the metal back and forth a couple times before it breaks off. If you have to do the latter, make sure you have a screw to use to hold your new card in place, if you don't have one, I'm sure a quick stop to your local computer store and the guys should happily give you a screw to use. If they don't, I wouldn't recommend doing business with them, anyone that has worked in computers for any length of time ends up with thousands of these screws lying around and it's just good customer relations to hand one or two out to a potential customer!

Once the back cover for the slot you are going to use is out of your way take your card (again remember to keep yourself grounded) and line it up so the metal bracket is facing the direction of the back of your case, and locate it down to the slot. Your card will have a small notch out of it down where it slides into the slot, that notch should line up perfectly with a matching notch located on the PCI slot. You might need to work it around just a little to get the tab on the bottom of the metal strap to fall into the proper place, but you shouldn't exert a lot of force. The card should slide pretty easily into the PCI slot and settle down so the screw hole on your case and the opening in the metal for the screw come right against each other. Place the screw into the location to hold the card in place and your new card is installed. As a little aside, if you got a card to also upgrade your front USB slots on your PC case you will have to trace the wires that come from them to where they are located on your motherboard, it will usually end in a decent sized plug with one corner filled in for alignment. Unplug that from the motherboard and place it into the slot that resembles the plug on your new USB card. (One quick thing to note here is that some motherboards don't have a single plug, but rather all the wires end in small separate connectors, if this is the case you have to be VERY careful to make sure you keep them in the right order, if you are unsure about it at all I would recommend you call in an expert to handle that part for you.) Replace your side cover, reconnect your PC, and get ready to power it back up.

Make sure you read the manual that came with your card, most will require you to use the setup disc that came with the card to get it all functioning properly and your system should tell you when it needs the disc the first time you boot it up after installing the card. A final thing to note, is that installing the card won't convert any of your on-board USB slots up to 2.0 (such as the slots that are located close to your keyboard/mouse plugs and are hardwired to the motherboard) those will still function properly at 1.1 speeds and I would recommend you use those ports for the slower devices like your mouse. Also, getting a USB 2.0 Hub won't do you a bit of good if your PC is only operating at 1.1, but once you have installed your new 2.0 card, that USB 2.0 hub will give you a couple more slots to plug devices in.

There is another interface that was made popular by Apple and it is called Firewire which communicates at 400Mbps. Now if you are looking to hookup external hard drives and other peripherals that require maximum speed to get full performance out of them and they have the Firewire capability you might want to consider installing a Firewire card (or maybe a USB2.0/Firewire combo card) instead of (or along with) the USB 2.0. In lab tests, while the Firewire speed is slower than that of USB the way it communicates with the PC is structured to minimize overhead so performance is usually better for Firewire on large data transfers such that you get from a hard drive.

I hope I have explained that enough for most people, if not, there is a great article right here on C-Net Labs: that has some photos to help you along! Good luck, and happy computing!

Submitted by Greg H.
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Converting to USB 2.0
by ronjones9580 / September 29, 2005 10:40 PM PDT

Thanks for your answer on upgrading to USB 2.0. Does the answer apply to laptops also. I've made changes to my desktop but have never had the nerve to open my Gateway MD-200STM.
Thanks again.
Ron Jones

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by Themisive / September 30, 2005 1:36 AM PDT
In reply to: Converting to USB 2.0

but if you can get much into the laptop case you're a good un. Basically USB 2.0 (or the sightly later version 2.1 is available on CD-ROM from Microsoft, THAT should upgrade ALL your USB slots to a version 2.

That description give about the various slot types ONLY applies to Desktop computers.

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up grade to 2.0 portson laptop
by akerrn / September 30, 2005 9:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Yes

You stated a disk from Microsoft will change my ports (1.1) to 2.0. can you give me directions to page where i can get the disk? Thanks Linda Connors

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USB 1.1 & USB 2.0 are different hardware devices
by Joe845 / October 1, 2005 4:34 AM PDT

The upgrade requires a hardware change. A USB 1.1 port is different electronics than a USB 2.0 port. A Microsoft CD-ROM may have different software components to support USB 2.0, but it cannot have software that will make a USB 1.1 port function as a USB 2.0 port.

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USB1 or what?
by gargoyle / October 1, 2005 8:51 PM PDT

I have to add that I approached Dell about this earlier this year (re Inspiron 8200) and was told that I am stuck with USB 1 unless I care to buy a new laptop! I guess that's your answer joe845.

I just do not understand why Dell could not suggest what is being suggested here.

Begs the respectful question: Who is more likely to be right?

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Converting laptop from 1.1 to 2.0
by slam5 / October 3, 2005 6:47 PM PDT

Hmm.. Do you mean you have USB 1.1 ports on my laptop? If that is the case, you can't upgrade it just by changing a driver. That is impossible as the h/w is different. What you need is a PCMIA card that gives you extra USP port. Provided that laptop has a PCMCIA slot, of course. Hope this helps!

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by gargoyle / October 4, 2005 4:59 AM PDT

If I don't ask then I'll never know.

Is this the samne as a PC card slot?

(Slinks back into corner)

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My laptop calls it that too
by chronic352 / October 21, 2005 6:40 AM PDT
In reply to: PCMCIA ?

Is the PC card the same as PCMCIA?

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Laptop USB 2.0
by gwhicks / September 30, 2005 2:41 AM PDT
In reply to: Converting to USB 2.0

I had the same problem, my laptop is only equipped with USB 1.1 and I wanted to use some external hard drives with it. They work fine at the slower speed, but are SLOW. They also have PCMCIA USB 2.0 cards you can get, these just slide into the PCMCIA slot located on the side of your laptop. You might need to install the drivers and such, but you will get the higher speed pretty simple.
Just a little note, a lot of these adapters also come with an external power source. That plug is usually only needed if you are going to connect multiple devices to the card, and those devices don't have their own power sources. Otherwise the power output by the USB card is split between all your items plugged in, and some of them might not work if they are not getting adequate power.
Greg Hicks

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Power Source for USB Device
by gatorback / September 30, 2005 4:19 AM PDT
In reply to: Laptop USB 2.0

My experience is if you USB device has the capability to be powered by an external source: USE IT. Failure to do so has damaged USB cards in my desktop and crashed my laptop.

Best practices include using a POWERED hub and connect all device through the hub: this protects the USB card from (a potentially fatal) current spike (drain).

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USB2 vs USB 1 on Cardbus laptop
by clamoreaux / October 11, 2005 1:48 PM PDT
In reply to: Laptop USB 2.0

BTDT but the cardbus USB2 card in my IBM Thinkpad has memory farts. IOW the hard drive that it drives often gives a "device disconnected" message and says "Bad boy, don't do that again". Something like that. <g> By switching the external HD to the built-in USB 1 port, the HD performs flawlessly.

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Dell Latitude CP and USB 2.0
by fenix_jn / September 30, 2005 1:39 PM PDT
In reply to: Converting to USB 2.0

very interesting, I have a question: It is possible to upgrade a Dell latitude CP laptop? This has only ONE USB port and it is a USB 1.1

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USB 2.0 Upgrade
by nyislander27 / September 29, 2005 11:26 PM PDT

When upgrading to USB 2.0 do I also need to upgrade the device cables to 2.0????

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A USB 2.0 card- example a card TigerDirect (online store)
by raykaczmarek / September 30, 2005 12:24 AM PDT
In reply to: USB 2.0 Upgrade
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USB 2.0 Cables too?
by gwhicks / September 30, 2005 2:52 AM PDT
In reply to: USB 2.0 Upgrade

This is a debatable question. If you have bought the cables in about the last year or so they are most likely 2.0 compatible. I have even used cables I got with a specific 1.1 device on a 2.0 setup and gotten speeds that seemed comparable to 2.0.
My suggestion? Try using your cables, if you have problems replace them, or if you think you aren't getting full speed replace them with newer cables.
Greg Hicks

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USB SubSystems Fully Explained
by Shantar / September 29, 2005 11:37 PM PDT

This article will hlep dispel many of the myths of USB Subsystems aka Universal Serial Bus (Connections).
First of all USB is like all things OS (Operating System) dependant. And OS systems are typically dependant on your CPU (Central Processing Unit) chip.
We must first look at the CPU types. All CPU chips can take on USB families but Celeron tends to restrict many operations not only USB but most other addons so we won't discuss Celeron. However the Pentium families love USB. the 386 and 286 families tend to have trouble finding the speeds required to keep up the the USB speeds.
First came USB 1.0 then came along USB 2.0 and now the new buzzword is "firewire".
Typically in the Pentium families you have to look at either having an existing USB port on your computer or at least an IDE slot on the motherboard.
If you have an existing USB port then you can simply add an external USB hub and a recommended 4 port hub is a good choice. If not then using an empty IDE slot you can add a USB card into your computer by opening up the case and inserting the card.
Now here can be the tricky part. Your OS will determine your next step. If your using winME then change the OS Immediately. winME is bug dependant and born to fail no matter what you do. 98SE will require drivers and the manufacturer of your new USB hub or card should have sent you a cd of drivers with the device. With winXP or winXP Pro don't worry about it, they come with your OS. With linux contact the manufacturer.
As a Digital and DATA researcher and consultant we have found the best manufacturer of USB and Firewire devices are linksys hubs external and Ultra for both cards and hubs. We chose these two manufacturers by both perfromance and cost. Typically Ultra will sell you from third party retailers either a 4 port card or hub or a 2 port firewire card for about 20 bucks.
The procedure of adding these are quite simple. If it's an external hub then just shutdown your system, plug it in, restart the computer and load the drivers if necessary and then reboot it once again to use it.
If it's a card then of course shut it down, unplug it and open the case. ( I like to do this on a carpet after I've sprayed it with frabreese or some other static killing spray. Insert the card into an open IDE slot, close the case and plug it all back on then load drivers if necessary (remember winXP should automatically see the device) then once the system is fully back up and running just reboot once again to use the product. (Reboots are a good thing, and with win98 and win98SE reboots fix many headaches).
NOTE: If in a win98 or win98SE environment you still have problems do what we call a "hard boot" which is simple, reboot to a safe mode, drop to dos and delete the *.swp file. (don't worry, the system will rebuild it on reboot). Then restart the system and go from there.
Of the six USB hubs and cards we've tested in the past few years we still recommend Ultra for both USB and firewire cards but for no brainer external hubs we still prefer linksys USB hubs but they are more costly so keep that in mind.
If you wish to find proven statistics that your USB or Firewire ports are working you can always go into the control panel then into your system icon and hardware settings in the device manager and verify your new hardware is there and working properly.

Submitted by:
Rick Shover

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Replace an existing LAPTOP USB 1.1
by ProfessorGT / September 29, 2005 11:38 PM PDT

Okay, I've done the USB 2.0 card upgrade adding a front case drive slot plate w/two additional ports, some time ago, but now my challenge is to upgrade the USB 1.1 port on my newly acquired OLD Dell Lattitude 600 series laptop. My question is: If in fact the USB port connector is integrated into the motherboard itself (I don't know the answer to this yet), can a USB 2.0 ''upgrade'' be added let's say through a PCMCIA adapter, or am I out of luck because of the system's design? If anyone out there has any experience or info on this please let me know.

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Upgrade for Laptop to USB 2.0
by dherbert / September 30, 2005 1:18 AM PDT

Just yesterday, I upgraded my Dell Latitude 820 with a PCMCIA card that has 3 USB 2.0 slots. The card was $35 at Circuit City. Plug in, turn on, works like a charm. Just make sure you have an available PCMCIA slot. I had to do this in order to talk to the new iPods, which surprisingly are not USB 1.1 compatible.


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Update for Dell Laptop
by oppegro / September 30, 2005 9:31 AM PDT

What brand did you buy? I have a Dell Inspiron 2650 laptop that's just old enuf to have USB1.1. So I bought at Amazon what I thought was a USB2 card, put it into the slot on laptop side, but laptop still doesn't recognize my new ipod photo. But it was recognized on someone else's laptop that I tried.

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versatile solution for laptops
by jhb045 / October 1, 2005 12:16 AM PDT

We have a few old Inspiron and Latitude (CPX) laptops. We bought one USB 2.0 PC card (on ebay --- didn't cost much) with four ports. This lets us swap it around from laptop to laptop, depending upon which one might happen to need it at any given time (for backups to external HD, camera downloads, etc.). For most other purposes, like moving stuff to and from flash drives, we're really ok with the old 1.1 port. The only disadvantage of this solution is that the card is so large that it doesn't allow simultaneous use of a wifi card. The solution to this problem was to buy a USB-WiFi card. This was a bit steep, but we only needed one of them -- just for whichever PC happened to be using the USB 2 adapter.

Hope this helps! -

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usb 2.0 card that can be combined with a gprs card
by t.gerritsen / October 1, 2005 7:06 PM PDT

I got the same sort of problem with my usb 2.0 card. It is so large at the end that it cannot be combined with my gprs-card in the slot next to it on my Dell laptop. Does anybody know of a usb card that has the thick part on the under side of the card? Or some other (not too expensive) alternative?

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by ProfessorGT / October 3, 2005 11:17 AM PDT

Thenks for all the replies to my post. I found a nice card on ebay that will solve my issue. I did some searching, and found that there are quite a few out there, but they are all basically the same.
Happy Hunting!

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Keep it simple!
by u2in99 / September 29, 2005 11:41 PM PDT

Very nice, was that the college course? Here is the quick and simple instruction for the person asking about usb 2.0.

1) If you have a machine you wish to add usb 2.0, first determine by opening the case with the ac plug
fully disconnected, that you have two or more empty pci (white usually) slots in a row available and free.
2) If you do, take your unit to Staples or CompUSA and have an aftermarket usb 2.0 card added to the system. 3)If you feel competent to do it yourself, be sure to insert the card fully and follow proper procedures regarding static electricity.
4)win xp will usually install plug and play but win me or 98 2nd ed. will need a driver that should come with the aftermarket card. Cost of card determined by number of slots usually choice of 2 or 4
-all the best.

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Capitalization of Letters Make Reading Easier
by LindaSegal / September 30, 2005 4:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Keep it simple!

"win me" also is a sentence.

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Upgrading to USB 2.0
by jjdetjr / September 29, 2005 11:46 PM PDT

The readers should be warned that some motherboarde with USB 1.0 cannot be upgraded to USB 2.0. I have two boards (a Soya and a Tyan) that support Super7 processors (AMD K6-2 550 Mhz) and neither will support USB 2.0 cards.

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bios upgrades and usb2
by nance459 / September 30, 2005 6:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Upgrading to USB 2.0

sometimes there are bios upgrades that allow the upgrade on older boards, did you check the manufacturer site for it?

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Bios Upgrade for USB 2.0 support
by jjdetjr / October 3, 2005 11:23 AM PDT
In reply to: bios upgrades and usb2

Unfortunately Tyans response was no such luck. I appreciated Tyans frank response.

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USB 2 upgrade
by zimstock / September 29, 2005 11:53 PM PDT

How does all of this apply to a Thinkpad latptop?


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USB 2.0
by papajulz / September 30, 2005 12:16 AM PDT

are all mother board compatible with 2.0 usb??? i have pc100 mother board and i wan't to use it again...

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