Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

How do I upgrade to USB 2.0?

My computer apparently has only USB 1.1. Is there a download or something to
upgrade to 2.0? What do I need? Will I hurt anything if I plug in a USB 2.0
device to my USB 1.1 socket?

Unfortunately, upgrading from USB 1.1 to 2.0 requires more than software; it
actually requires new hardware.

The good news is that the hardware is typically inexpensive. In addition,
depending on the 2.0 device, it’s possible, though not guaranteed, that it’ll
work just fine with your 1.1 interface.

But it certainly won’t hurt anything to try.

Let me explain…

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

The biggest visible difference between USB 1.1 and 2.0 is that 2.0 is
faster.

The biggest invisible difference is that a USB 2.0 interface requires
different hardware – hardware that is capable of the higher speeds that USB 2.0
supports.

So, to “upgrade” from 1.1 to 2.0 typically isn’t a software upgrade at all;
it’s an addition of hardware. For desktop machines you can purchase a
relatively inexpensive USB 2.0 interface that you add to your machine. For your
laptop you’ll probably purchase a PCMCIA card that adds a USB 2.0
interface.

In either case, if the machine already had a 1.1 interface, that’s still
there, and still runs at 1.1 speeds. The old interface is still perfect for
devices that don’t require the speed supported by 2.0. The new interface then
can support the higher-speed devices.

Now, a 2.0-capable USB device doesn’t necessarily require USB 2.0.
A great example is the Maxtor external USB drives I use for backup. If I plug
them into a computer with only a USB 1.1 interface, they work just fine.
They’re slower, much slower in fact, but they do work well.

“…a USB 2.0 interface requires different hardware –
hardware that is capable of the higher speeds that USB 2.0 supports.”

In most cases, in that situation, about the worst that will happen, besides
the slower performance, is that Windows may pop-up a message indicating that
“this device could perform better if plugged into a USB 2.0 interface”. Which
is quite true, and otherwise benign.

That’s not true for all USB 2.0 devices. Some specifically require a USB 2.0
interface because they require the faster data rates. But again, plugging them
into a 1.1 interface won’t damage anything. The software supporting a device
that requires 2.0 should simply report that the device won’t work or
that some features may be disabled. At worst, the device won’t work or some
features may be disabled – without any warning.

A final note on USB cables: Cables are not devices and aren’t “recognized”
by USB interfaces or devices. Plug just a USB cable into a computer’s USB
interface and nothing will happen until you plug a USB device at the other end
of the cable.

USB 1.1 and 2.0 cables are essentially identical. The difference is simply
that the USB 2.0 cables are of a higher quality required to support the higher
data rates possible with 2.0. You can safely use a 2.0 cable for any USB
application. You can probably use a cable marked as 1.1 for many 2.0 devices. I
certainly have, but if you experience problems, replacing it with a cable
rated for USB 2.0 would be one of my first steps.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

22 comments on “How do I upgrade to USB 2.0?”

  1. Recent helped a friend with very sick Dell Dimension 2400. Had to format hd and install XP Pro and SP2. However, after talking to Dell tech support (via India) they tell me that shouldn’t installed SP2 because the Mass storage device, mulitmedia devive and USB 2 need SP1. I will need to reformat the HD and install SP1-whats’ up with that? Those that make sense to you? Do you have any recommendations?

    Reply
  2. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    It makes zero sense to me. SP2 should support everything SP1
    does and more, and with more security and bug fixes.

    Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFHk+avCMEe9B/8oqERArWvAJ9v8w94HLU490Hfutu8Ozbn6M8e4gCcCYK8
    SItoKmZUtN3wQ0vT2jJSy3Q=
    =M5Ll
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

    Reply
  3. Thanks for your web help. I’m still not convinced (per an old magz article) that a usb1.1 motherboard will/can process/handle data any faster. Is it not the case that the card will only ensure COMPATIBILITY with usb2.0 device attachments? Regards.

    Reply
  4. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    *Motherboards* are neither USB 1.0 or 2.0, they’re just
    motherboards. An add-in card attaches to a highspeed buss on
    the motherboard and should support 2.0 speeds just fine.

    Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFHpMGZCMEe9B/8oqERAt+jAKCJnxwl8UpnJpiGig6PGmqePRSj9ACdHOhQ
    Ss2uOM1LI8689Dgs3qjox/I=
    =fQjD
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

    Reply
  5. Thanks for your reply..I was searching for this answers whole day…I will try to buy some adapter for my hard drive which is with USB 2.0
    Anyhow, thanks for your info..

    Reply
  6. I have a xfx nforce 780I sli motherboard on winxp sp3, but all my usb devices are opperating at 1.1, how do fix this. I’m always getting the messages that “this device can preform faster”. thanks

    Reply
  7. the problem i has it i has to reinstall xp pro and now that i have its saying all my usbs are a non 2.0 when before they all was 2.0

    Reply
  8. I have a Dell Dimension 2400. Will any of the USB2 cards with a PCI interface work or do I need to look for some other specifications?

    Reply
  9. can i download usb2 drivers and convert from 1.1 to 2.0 without having to install any additional hardware???

    Please read the article you just commented on. It answers this very question.

    Leo
    28-Nov-2009

    Reply
  10. Hi. My newer EMachine claims to have 6 2.0 usb ports. Device manager reads “enhanced”, or should I say one line reads enhanced pci, the other standard hcd. The problem is my usb760 modem is a speed demon if using the back ports, while speeds are halved while using the 2 front ports(speedtest.net confirms this over and over.). My Toshiba pen drive seems to work just as fast in either the front or back. The guy at the computer store, and various other sources, assure me there is no physical difference between 1.1 and 2.0; that it is all in the drivers. I noticed you state the hardware is different. Is there a physical difference? If so, what is it please? If I find the guy at the computer store is jerking me around…I WILL punch him in the nose! Well, maybe I’ll just give him a verbal chastising, and set him straight. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  11. How critical is the availability of standard Enhanced PCI to USB host controller on the mother board? I have an Intel Monterrey Motherboard 1.4ghz R0 running XP professional but it does not show enhanced capability, so what do I need to do to upgrade to 2.0 USB?

    Reply
  12. i have used a pcncia to usb 2.0 card to upgrade my usb 1.1 to 2.0 but whenever i try to install it the windows gets hang or freezes, after many trails i have install it but it can’t be started and error massage shows that due to non avaibility of resources this device can nt be started
    please help

    Typically that’s a driver issue – I’d contact the manufacturer of the card to see if they have updated drivers or can suggest a solution.

    Leo
    20-Jan-2011

    Reply
  13. My computer is Compaq Presario SG3053IL. The product website says my computer has USB 2.0, but I keep getting “your device can work faster…” message and in the device driver page, I do not see “enhanced….” mentioned under USB. I bought a PCI USB card and tried it and I get a yellow “?” icon on the device driver page. The plug and play does not seem to work here. Please help me. Thanks Leo.

    Reply
  14. I bought a Logitech C160 webcam. I get an error message saying that cam would run faster if plugged into a 2.0 port. The cam should run on a 1.1 but does not. Do I need to upgrade to a 2.0 or not? The cam does not show video while using Skype, is this problem a lower USB 1.1 or is it something else. I get an error message saying DirectX is not installed, but it is. Could problem be caused by a 1.1 port?

    DirectX and USB are pretty much unrelated. Not sure why you’re getting a directx not installed message, or what program you’re getting it from. Does your computer have USB 2.0 ports? If not, you may need to upgrade.

    Leo
    15-May-2011

    Reply
  15. Hi Leo, I read your article on upgrading to a usb 2. Great info. I have an older thinkpad R40e and running xp on it. The usb’s are 1.1 and I wanted to put in a pcmcia card 2.0 and use it for tethering with easy tether. Some people have told me it will run much faster for tethering and others have told me it will run the same because of the speed it is coming thru from the carrier on the cell. I am getting a 1.52 mbps and was wondering if the USB 2.0 would increase the speed majorly. Great Site!!! Thanks in advance for your help. Rob

    Reply
  16. I have a hp pavilion dv 4 series laptop. The problem is that it has only 2 usb port. So i bought a multiple usb port device.When i am using it, i keep getting a message that ur device can work faster if it is put into a usb 2.0 port. From the device manager i figured out that my laptop has a usb 2.0 port( coz i saw enhanced on that). But i don’t know how to activate that 2.0 port for my device. Please help.

    Reply
  17. Hello Sir Good morning, i had a issue is like, 3 days before i purchased Lenovo Slim USB DVD Burner. but its not working. so i search in ur article checked in my system. its sure its USB 1.1 only later i upgraded to 2.0 with the card. Now its working Fine …… Thank U very very very much. I love U.

    Reply
  18. I have an old EPoX EP-8K9A7I motherboard. The manufacturer says it supports USB2.0 but when I plug a USB2.0 device it tells me the “this device can perform faster…” thing, and gives me a list of USB2.0 ports that i can connect to. All great, but those ports don’t exists physically. All the USB ports that I have are on-board. Is it anything I can do about or I need a hardware upgrade (it will be a little difficult, as I have all my PCI slots taken-one is broken).

    Reply
  19. How about upgrading from usb 2.0 to usb 3.0. are the principles still the same? The cable for an external usb 3.0 harddisc is so much thicker than for usb 1 and usb 2.0. is it possible to put hardware for usb 3.0 into a PC or in this case a satellite receiver with an usb 2.0 plug?

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.