Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

USB (Universal Serial Bus) and IEEE 1394 or "Firewire" interfaces allow for quick and easy connection of a wide variety of external devices to your computer. Here you'll find questions and answers relating to the USB and 1394 interfaces as well as the devices that implement and use them.

Can I connect a pcmcia device to my USB port?

Connecting a PCMCIA device to a USB port certainly might be possible given what's available on the market today.

Can I copy one USB drive to another without using a computer?

Copying a USB drive without a computer is unlikely. Even a USB duplication device will need to be some sort of computer.

Can I trust a failed flash drive if I reformat it?

Failing flash drives can be compensated for with regular backups. But you can avoid the issue entirely if it's inexpensive and easy to replace.

Can I use a USB 1.1 cable with a USB 2.0 device?

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

Can I use a USB 3 drive on a computer that supports only USB 2?

Using USB 3 on a USB 2 computer is absolutely an option! There is a lot of compatibility built into the way USB is designed.

Can USB ports go bad?

USB connection problems can be due to many things, including bad ports, bad software, or bad devices. I'll discuss the difficulty in telling which is which.

Can a flash drive transmit a virus?

If there is malware on the flash drive, it could very well be in the files from that drive that you are copying to your computer.

How do I fix my USB port crashing my machine?

I'll run through options to fix your USB port if your computer crashes on inserting any USB device. It can be software, but it's probably hardware.

How do I install my new USB device?

Some USB devices simply require you simply plug it in to use them, but reviewing documentation that came with the device before you do is important.

How do I un-write-protect this USB thumb drive?

The fact that you're trying to format the device tells me that it's not a file system permissions issue. Formatting should just work.

How do I upgrade to USB 2.0?

Older computers may have only the slower USB 1.1 interface. Adding USB 2.0 isn't difficult, but it does require a hardware addition.

I found a USB thumbdrive, plugged it in and now my system won't work. What happened?

USB Thumbdrives or flash drives are a non-obvious but easy way to spread malware. You should be quite careful when dealing with an unknown device.

Is it safe to just turn off an external USB drive without "safely removing" first?

"Device cannot be stopped" can be a frustrating error if there's no obvious cause. Turning off device power or unplugging anyway isn't really safe.

Is there a way to "Safely Remove Hardware" from a batch file?

Automating the steps required to "safely remove hardware" isn't at all obvious, but it is possible.

What does "the USB device can perform faster" mean?

USB comes in two versions that run at two different speeds. A faster device plugged into a slower interface works, but works more slowly than it could.

What's this 1394 network adapter on my machine?

If your computer has Firewire, you'll see a 1394 network adapter in your configuration. It can be used for networking, but I don't recommend it.

Why do I get "device ... cannot be stopped right now" trying to safely remove my USB drive?

Windows tries to prevent corruption by disallowing removal of USB devices that are "in use". Unfortunately it's not always obvious what "in use" means.

Will my Windows XP computer work with a USB keyboard?

Windows XP supports USB keyboards, but before it boots there's a period where your USB keyboard may, or may not, work.

Will write-protecting my USB device keep me safe at public computers?

Write protected USB and other devices will prevent certain types of malicious behaviour, but they will not keep you safe at a public computer.