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Cable Modem: USB Or Ehernet

by Dariusxx / March 8, 2005 10:49 PM PST

Which is the better way to connect for a USB Modem. USB 2.0 or Ethernet.

I had read that ethernet does not use as much cpu resources as usb. Is that true?

I had read that they operate at the same speed for the connection (usb at 6 mps and ethernet at 10?) is this correct?

I have an old P3 500 mhz 384 ram and I am slways running out of resrouces. I was wondering if connecting by the ethernet card might help this. I notice that my cpu is almost always running at 100%.

One last question. Are cable modems able to run faster with USB 2.0 or do you have to have a specific USB cable modem to do this?

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 8, 2005 10:53 PM PST

Your everyday P3 does not have USB 2.0 so to add that may be more trouble than its worth. See

Take ethernet and I will beg off answering any details about resources and such since such is not caused by the connection but usually an old OS (you didn't reveal), SPYWARE and not being careful of what we pile on the old OS.

There is no fix (ever) for the old DOS Windows resources, but I do use the OPTIMIZING WINDOWS articles at


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PC Specs
by Dariusxx / March 9, 2005 3:52 AM PST
In reply to: Ethernet.

I installed a USB 2.0 card on my PC and I have no problems with it.

I am using Windows 98 SE.

I have had a resource problem since I installed Norton Anti virous 2004 and the cable modem. I was previously using DSL.

I have as much ram as my motherboard will allow. I decided not to upgrade to Windows XP because I have almost the bare minimum ram for it.

I use adaware, spybot, pest patrol and the aol spy protection. I also use spymaster to protect my browser (firefox which seems to be a resource hog as well).

I have checked out the site you linked a while back. I wil look to see if there is anything new I added.


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That 2004 version is known to be a ...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 9, 2005 3:56 AM PST
In reply to: PC Specs

You pick the word, but it's not written to curb its use of resources.


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A suggestion to speed up your computer
by EFrahm / March 10, 2005 10:33 PM PST

It sounds like Norton is the biggest issue for you here. I agree with R. Proffitt's oservations about Norton. All the big virus scanners are resource hogs. Try PC-Cillin by trend micro. They've got the Cnet editor's choice for two or three years running. You can get it off of for like $7 after a rebate for trashing your Norton. I got it a few weeks ago, and I swear by it today. No performance drag that I noticed whatsoever. Plus it gives you spyware protection. Having said that, I've got a bit more powerful computer than yours, so you may notice some performance drag over having no software running, but I guarantee it will be much better than either Norton or Symantec could ever hope to be.

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ethernet isnt that fast for me
by Killerfurbies / June 27, 2005 7:23 AM PDT
In reply to: PC Specs

I have a new computer with a usb 2.0 card and an NIC preinstalled, and I'm using ethernet for my dsl modem. I have 512 MB ram, and 130 GB free space. My processor meets a lot more than the minimum system requirements, and ethernet isn't even that fast. It always says ethernet is recomended but thats if your cable is 30 Mbps. But when its supposed to be 1.5 Mbps and its only 300 kilobits while using ethernet. It kind of makes you lose faith in what the technical details say.

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Ethernet vs USB
by Stan Chambers / March 9, 2005 6:18 AM PST

You won't go wrong using an ethernet cable. Even if you have to add an ethernet card, the cost is still very low.

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ethernet is better...
by dagger906 / March 9, 2005 12:27 PM PST
In reply to: Ethernet vs USB

Ethernet runs at 100Mbits, not 10. That was decades ago. But that much speed doesn't really matter, because the fastest cable internet connection aviliable to homes runs at 5Mbits.

Still, it's better to leave an extra USB port open for camera, mp3, or something...

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ethernet may be better
by Killerfurbies / June 27, 2005 7:11 AM PDT
In reply to: ethernet is better...

Technicaly, ethernet is 10 times better, but like you said the fastest cable modems are only 5 Mbps. But I'm using ethernet for a dsl connection and its only 300 Kbps when its supposed to be at least 1.5 Mbps. And Verizon promises you 3 Mbps (I have Verizon DSL). Well, ethernet or usb, it shouldn't matter, and it's still a lot faster than dial up.

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they should just tell us which one to use
by Killerfurbies / June 27, 2005 7:16 AM PDT
In reply to: Ethernet vs USB

Most modems say that ethernet is recomended, but they don't really know. Some computers might have a horrible NIC card and an awesome USB connection. They should just not give us the option of one of them and tell us to use the other. Then we wouldn't be having discussions about whether ethernet is better than USB.

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usb is better than ethernet
by Killerfurbies / June 27, 2005 7:31 AM PDT
In reply to: Ethernet vs USB

Ok, ethernet supports data transfer of up to 100 Mbps, while USB 2.0 supports transfer of up to 480 MBps. So when people say that ethernet is better than usb, I'm gonna yell at them.

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(NT) (NT) Which one first you said ethernet then USB
by hpinvent / June 28, 2005 4:36 AM PDT
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Cable Modem: USB Or Ehernet
by Merlijn / March 10, 2005 7:49 PM PST

I think your question is a bit wierd.
'Which is the better way to connect for a USB Modem. USB 2.0 or Ethernet.'

As far as I know a USB modem can only be connected to a USB port. If you mean ADSL modem, than the ethernet option is better because of resources and speed. The speed is not that big an issue because the USB 2.0 speed is (at this moment anyway) way above the ADSL speeds.

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USB Or Ehernet
by OldMoose / March 10, 2005 10:24 PM PST

Actually it's quite a simple question that i haven't seen an answer to yet. My modem has two options to connect to the computer as well... USB and ethernet.... is one better than the other?

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USB or Ethernet
by gilly44 / March 10, 2005 10:36 PM PST
In reply to: USB Or Ehernet

Yes I too had to think about this, as my cable modem can use either. I thought ethernet was the way to go, but I found out that I could not swap my laptop over to use occasionally without telling my ISP what I was doing.
I then found out that if I changed to USB its hot swappable. So I told my ISP that I was changing to USB,and thats cool. Now I can plug and unplug both computers to my hearts content The speed is the same.

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USB or Ethernet
by gilly44 / March 10, 2005 10:42 PM PST
In reply to: USB or Ethernet

I forgot to add that I am only using USB 1.0 and there is no difference in speed as to when I was connected via Ethernet

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You are forgetting protection
by JoAnneMac / March 10, 2005 10:55 PM PST
In reply to: USB or Ethernet

You should not be plugging in your cable or dsl modem directly into the computer..... one of the easiest ways to get hacked, viruses and spyware. You should be hoooking modem up to a 4 port router?that will give you basic protection from the outside world and in addition will let you hook up multiple computers.

In doing so, ethernet is the way to go.

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by dagger906 / March 10, 2005 11:32 PM PST

A router does not forward incoming signals to the computer. It doesn't really make your computer much safer. Don't get an expensive router just for something like that. Get a real firewall, which you can more easily configure to let in peer to peer traffic.

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It's there.
by Jim345 / March 11, 2005 12:53 AM PST

Now days nearly all modems have at least a basic firewall if you want to bother configuring it. The firewalls in most routers are a little better than in the modems but again you have to configure it to get basic protection. True hardware firewalls do provide the best protection but then again you still have to configure it for it to be of any help.

The hardest part no matter which one you use is knowing what you want to protect, and then how to allow all your software to access the internet while still offering protection and not just the illusion of protection most people now have from improperly configured firewalls. Properly configuring a firewall is pretty tough for the average user, but not impossible if the want to spend the time to learn a few things. A software firewall like Zone Alarm should still be used to give you better ability to monitor internet traffic in and out or your machine.

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by davidmv / March 10, 2005 10:50 PM PST
In reply to: USB Or Ehernet

Ethernet doesn't get tangled up by the OS the way USB devices can be in my experience. An earlier comment was made about leaving a USB port open for other devices, and I have to say I agree with that too. Ethernet was designed specifically for networking, while USB is a more divergent technology, so why not stick with using Ethernet? It is, afterall, the faster and more reliable option.

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It depends.
by Jim345 / March 11, 2005 1:12 AM PST
In reply to: Ethernet

If all a person wants is a connection to the internet with a modem it makes no real difference which option is used because the speed between the computer and the modem far exceeds the connection speed between the modem and the ISP with either USB or Ethernet.

If they plan to connect several computers together in a home network, USB2 runs about 480 Megs while Ethernet runs 10/100 Megs unless they went with Gigabit Ethernet cards which are generally 100/1000 Megs. So in theory file sharing between several computers on a network would go in this order of speed.
100/1000 Meg ethernet (Gigabit) fastest
USB2 Second fastest
10/100 Meg Ethernet thrid fastest
USB1 slowest

Now I do know that at times configuring a USB network can be more difficult depending on the computers, operating systems and whether the ports are USB1 or USB2 standard on each connected computer.

Ethernet is the defacto standard for setting up a network and because of this, manufacturers have built more devices for ethernet networking than USB networking and the configuration of each computer is likely to be easier reguardless of the platform. One final consideration to think about is the likelyhood that you may someday want to take your system and hook it up to someone elses network, for gaming, file sharing or whatever, in which case Ethernet is the most likely way they will be set up.

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Why it matters...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 11, 2005 1:16 AM PST
In reply to: It depends.

USB can be too finicky for some. And doesn't work in safe mode, while safe mode with networking can support an ethernet connection. covers a lot about USB and I shake my head and wonder why they messed this one up so badly.


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For me. Ethernet everytime.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 11, 2005 12:06 AM PST
In reply to: USB Or Ehernet

My choice to not elaborate.

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I don't think theres a difference
by Killerfurbies / June 27, 2005 7:07 AM PDT
In reply to: USB Or Ehernet

With my dsl modem i can connect via ethernet or usb, it says that usb is recomended but i know people that use usb and they actually connect a lot faster.

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by Mr.Wizzard / March 11, 2005 3:19 AM PST

The reason why most cable/DSL modems come with both a USB and an Ethernet connection is simply because both can be useful depending on the situation. There is no preference regarding speed, as modems use USB1.1 and Ethernet 10Mbps conections (not FastEthernet) wich are both way faster than the actual internet connection. Using USB2.0 ports or gigabit ethernet and such will not have an impact on your internet connection...

Most ISPs require you to register the MAC address of the equipment you're connecting. If you register your modem's 'USB' MAC, then you can swap your modem amongst different computers with no problems. If, however, your choose the ethernet option, you will have to register your 'ethernet' MAC and your computer's NIC MAC.

If, as most people are doing nowadays, you connect your modem to a router, or plan to share your internet connection on a LAN, then Ethernet is the way to go.

As far as resources go, USB shares its bandwith with other devices connected to that bus, hence it's better to use Ethernet. If your computer doen't have onboard USB or Ethernet, it is still better (and cheaper) to purchase a network card... Hope this helped...

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USB 2.0 Card Bus Question
by Kreet2004 / March 26, 2005 11:05 AM PST
In reply to: USB/Ethernet

Mr. Wizzard,

Have you tried to install a USB 2.0 card in the extra slot of the 2108US Compaq model? I bought an Adstech USBX-2001 and cannot get it to work; the machine loses power and freezes up.

Just wondering if you have encountered this issue and whether you have any advice to offer.


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by Mr.Wizzard / June 21, 2005 12:00 PM PDT

Hi Kreet2004! I only came back to these posts today, as a coincidence... Well I have had several problems with my 2108, specially regarding data buses. Apparently the computer's chipset is uncapable of handling a big dataflow (notice how slow it goes when burning CDs, moving large files, using add-on devices, etc). I haven't connected a USB2.0 cardbus, as I use my wired network whenever I need to move large files. However, I did purchase an Adaptec Firewire card (my computer didn't have built-in firewire) to transfer video from my camcorder. No avail. The system freezes/slows down when trying to communicate with the device. I once connected an iPod via firewire and also remember encountering issues. I finally had to buy a new desktop and leave the presario for simple, simple tasks...

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Use Ethernet!
by pmchefalo / March 11, 2005 8:09 AM PST

I have a customer whose cable modem was damaged by a lightning strike. He contacted me for a check-up because the PC gave errors during startup, without telling me the whole story. PC was fine, but because the modem was USB, PC wanted to detect and configure it! The solution was easy, disconnect the damaged modem, but for an end user to figure out is perhaps asking a lot ...

Also, use of Ethernet allows a hardware firewall. This reduces or eliminates (depends on your level of paranoia) the need for a software firewall. (In the scenario mentioned, resources are a concern, and nothing sucks up resources like a software firewall!) A cable modem / router is a cheap, easy form of protection for broadbad.

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by Dariusxx / March 11, 2005 11:04 AM PST

I'd like to thank all for their help.I decided that I will check out the ethernet option. The cards seem to be around $10-$15. If all goes well, I'll get a router with a firewall and use the virus protection that was suggested. This will allow me to get rid of Norton & ZOne Alarm Professional.

I wish I would have known this before I purchased Norton and Zone Alarm and USB 2.0 card though!

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You need a card?
by dagger906 / March 11, 2005 1:28 PM PST
In reply to: Thanks

All the computers from the last few years comes with onboard ethernet support. Onboard ethernet appeared before onboard USB. I didn't know that there are old computers with USB, but not ethernet.

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by Dariusxx / March 12, 2005 12:30 AM PST
In reply to: You need a card?

My 1999 gateway only came equipped with a 1.1 usb port, no ethernet.

I do intend to join the 21st century and get a new pc but in the meanwhile, I will use this to hold me over.

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