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USB 1.1 and 2.0 cables aren't all that different, and can often be interchangeable. Here's what to look for.

In an earlier article, you mentioned that you can use a USB 1.1 cable on a USB 2.0 device. But will the device run at the higher USB 2.0 speeds? I recently bought a digital camera that is a USB 2.0 device and my computer has all the USB 2.0 ports (hardware and software). However, when I look at the cable, it looks exactly the same as the cable from my older camera (from 5 years ago and the older camera is definitely USB1.1).

The cables will most definitely look the same. That's because the connectors didn't change between USB 1.1 and 2.0.

But not all cables that look the same are the same.

I'll cut to the chase and say that most USB 1.1 cables will work just fine with USB 2.0 devices in typical usage, and yes, they'll work at USB 2.0 speeds.

I say "most" cables because it boils down to a quality issue. A higher quality 1.1 cable stands a better chance of working at 2.0 speeds. What do I mean by quality? Well, it's nothing that's visible, I'm afraid. It has to do with the quality of the wires used and especially the shielding against electrical interference. Higher speeds are more susceptible to interference and noise - either from the outside, or from the USB signals themselves.

I also say in "typical" usage, because not all scenarios are the same either. For example a short cable is more likely to work than a long one. If you have an electrically noisy environment that might cause problems.

And of course the devices themselves play a big role. Some devices are more tolerant of weak or noisy signals than others.

So there are two ways you can go:

  1. Give it a try. Chances are things will work just fine.

  2. Get a higher quality 2.0 cable. They're really not that expensive.

Article C3260 - January 8, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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5 Comments
George Arauz
January 10, 2008 5:33 AM

You can depending on what is being connected. But keep in mind this is not for all items. You might want to upgrade

A. Orcan
January 13, 2008 11:40 PM

You can usually use USB 1.1 cables, but longer than 5m cables will probably cause problems especially if your data rates are high.
Keep in mind that a USB controller is limited to USB 1.1 speeds even if a single USB 1.1 device is on the same hub. Another reason to invest in better (and more expensive) Motherboards with multiple independent USB controllers !

Clint Johnson
September 24, 2008 8:13 AM

I've got all sorts of USB cables lying around, new and old. Is there a way to differentiate between USB 1.1 and 2.0 cables?

Not that I know of. Try 'em and see if they work.
- Leo
25-Sep-2008

Paco
March 20, 2009 3:27 PM

Leo your pages come up a lot in google. Good work.

Now the bad news. The real answer to my question came when I read your comments:

I've got all sorts of USB cables lying around, new and old. Is there a way to differentiate between USB 1.1 and 2.0 cables?
Not that I know of. Try 'em and see if they work.

So since the spec for the cables didn't change there is no difference in cable A bought in 2004 and cable B bought yesterday. AND, given that nobody wants to fill up landfills, you should not buy cable B if you have cable A.

Thanks, keep it up.

Andrew Hynes
January 22, 2011 1:58 PM

Hi Leo, I has just found your site for the frist time and was reading about the none difference between USB 1.1 and 2.0 when your popup appeared inviting me to join your emailing list. Seemed a useful site so I entered my name and email address and all of a sudden I'm in a new web page. Point one, my name had become HiAndewHynes, think we need a space there don't you. Point two, I have to run a video to and, this may come as some thing of a shock but, some of us bought expensive kit 10 years ago which just fails to fail, some of us can't watch you video if we wanted to. Point three, out of interest logged onto my wifes laptop entered another email address and found I was being asked to reply to an email which will have a link in it. Sounds well dodgy to me, especially as you insist it is necessary to recieve your newsletter but you don't actaully tell us why. I'm get loads of news letters and none of them requested this sort of thing. I have come across similar stuff when setting up an account to buy something over the net but to get a news letter, sorry but your going to have to come up with a better reason than, you want me to, before I start clicking links in emails.
Yours Andrew Hynes

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