Trying to get these rudimentary RS-232 connections to work correctly is a delicate mixture of science, art, and prayer. The output cable varies depending on whether you connect a Data Terminal (DTE) or a Data Transfer Device (DCE). You must also make sure the connectors are of the correct gender (male or female) and have the correct PIN (either 9 or 25).
Finally, once the hardware connection is in place, you have to do some software settings like 8 data bits versus 7 bits, baud rate (communication speed), and parity or zero. It’s a confusing mess, and if a setting is incorrect, then the communication between the computer and the peripheral will be garbled, effectively rendering the device useless.
The introduction of USB 1.0 in January 1998 changed all that. Instead of having to pull all your hair out while messing with cables, connectors, and settings, you plug the standard cable into the standard connector and install the software from the CD.
What’s more, the software installation itself is usually handled automatically for you behind the operating system’s scenes. What a huge improvement!
Thanks to USB 1.0, a virtual PC novice can buy a new printer or another USB device and be up and running in minutes with a fret!
Better still, the maximum speed at which data can be transferred over a USB 1.0 connection is lightning fast compared to the RS-232. And with the introduction of USB 2.0 in April 2000, the maximum speed increased by 40 times. And now USB 3.0 here, we can transfer data at ten times the rate of USB 2.0!
But there’s a problem
Many computers in use today are still equipped with USB 2.0 ports, not the new USB 3.0. Even worse, some “new” computers sold today are always equipped with USB 2.0 ports. This means that while the brand new USB 3.0 external hard drive you just bought will work fine with your PC, it will only work at much slower USB 2.0 speeds.
But there’s also good news. Depending on your computer, the chances are excellent that you can add two or more USB ports at a very reasonable cost.
If your computer is a desktop computer
If your computer is a desktop computer, it will need an empty PCI Express (PCIe) slot in which you can plug into a USB 3.0 adapter card with 2 or 4 USB 3.0 ports. You can easily find out if your computer has an empty PCIe slot by paying for a visit to Google and searching for your PC model and model along with the word “specifications”.
For example, I would type “Gateway DX4860-UB20P specifications” into the search box without quotes and hit the Enter key. Several sites will appear in search results listing the PC’s specifications in question, including the type and number of expansion slots.
If all that fails, you can bring your PC to your nearest computer store and ask them to check on your behalf. No matter where you go if you can determine that your computer has an empty PCIe slot, you should go!
You can buy 2 or 4 USB 3.0 PCIe expansion cards at almost any electronics or computer store, but I recommend saving some money and picking one from Amazon’s great option.
If your computer is a laptop
If your PC is a laptop, you won’t install an internal USB 3.0 card. Instead, you’ll need to plug in an external USB 3.0 Express Card adapter. Unfortunately, if your laptop is an old model with a PC Card connection instead of an Express Card connection, you won’t be able to upgrade to USB 3.0.
You can buy a USB 3.0 Express card adapter at the same place mentioned earlier, including Amazon.
Installing it is easy – plug it into the slot next to your laptop and install the Driver (Windows will automatically install the driver for you.)
Now that you have USB 3.0 at your fingertips, your new external USB 3.0 hard drive will work at blazing speeds!