This one is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. To the casual computer user, utilizing a USB hub would probably consist of plugging in a thumb drive or two into it. Considering a thumb drive or two will not require all that much power, not more is needed. What about larger devices like printers, USB HDDs or optical drives, and even other cool gadgets like a fan or LEDs? That is when you will need to know which USB hub you should buy.
What Is A USB Hub?
I’m assuming most everyone already knows what a USB hub (pictured above) actually is and how it functions. For those new to the computer world or just generally picking up knowledge, a USB hub is nothing more than a USB extender essentially, in that it will take up one USB port on your tower, and allow you to plug multiple devices into it while the Operating system treats them all as individual ports. Some are powered strictly off of the USB port, putting extra stress on your Power Supply and if it is a stock PSU from a corporate manufacturer, that could be an issue as they are designed with smaller PSUs.
Most people that own a computer will never have to worry about buying a USB hub because the 4 or so Onboard USB ports will suffice. But what happens when you need more USB ports than your computer has? You have to purchase either PCI USB expansion cards or invest in a USB hub. If you are planning on just running every day normal things like a USB thumb drive or any USB device that has its own external AC adapter, then it really doesn’t matter all that much which USB adapter you choose. But for those devices that require all of the power to come from the USB hub, there can be an issue if the USB hub you bought is just basically a USB expander, turning one USB port on your PC to 4 or 6 without supplying any additional external power.
In cases where power could be an issue, I recommend you buy a USB hub that has its own external power source therefore not relying on the PSU to take care of all of it’s needs. I’m not saying you have to buy this crazy contraption as your new USB hub, unless you want an expensive but really sweet one. You should be able to get by with something like these two pictures below from DLink (Dub-H7) or Tripp-Lite (U222-007-R). They have the AC adapters that come with them to supply the much needed extra power or can optionally be powered via the USB port on the PC for quick jobs.
A lot of people might say that having an external power source for a USB hub or a USB device is just extra wire and a waste of extra power, but they are wrong. I have personally seen numerous times where a USB hard drive was misdiagnosed and thought it was failing when there just wasn’t ample power for it to run correctly. With that said, whenever I buy a USB HDD or something that does require a lot of constant power, I even make sure it has an AC adapter as well so that way if anything goes wrong, I can usually rule out power as one of the possibilities.
We know know what to look for when buying a reliable USB hub for all our externally plug-in-able goodies. Our power supplies wont have to bear the burden of the leeching devices as our external USB hub will have the ability to share or handle the load. Now go out there and purchase with pride, knowing what to look for and having a couple examples in your back pocket!
What is your favorite brand of USB hub? Let our readers know in the comment section!