Monday, November 20, 2006

How to Extend USB

Extending USB Signals Beyond 5 Meters (

The "U" in USB might stand for "ubiquitous serial bus", because USB seems to be everywhere. If you don't have at least six USB ports on your computer, its time for an upgrade, because cameras, printers, scanners, webcams, even snowman robots are using USB cables to get power and communicate with computers.

The big frustration with USB, though, is the infamous length limitation. If you want to put a printer or webcam more than 5 meters away from the computer that controls them, you run up against this technological block. Fortunately, the industry has evolved methods of overcoming this problem, so now all you need to ask yourself is "How far do I want USB to go?".

USB Extension Over Short Lengths

If you just need to go a little above 5 meters, up to 25 meters (about 50 feet) or so, then a very economic solution is a simple USB extender cable, like L-com's TL-U026-016. It couldn't be more simple: just plug up to five of these cables together, plug the male connector into the computer, and plug the peripheral device into the female side, and everything connects!

USB Over Category 5e Cable

Another trick is to convert USB to Category 5e copper cable format and use UTP cable to connect the two. These sorts of devices are usually a little more expensive, but can get the USB signal up to 50 to 100 meters away. When you are looking for this kind of a solution, make sure the converter you buy works at the USB speed you need (1.0, 1.1, or 2.0), and also make sure you have power available at both the computer and peripheral device locations.

USB Over Fiber Optic Cable

If you want a lot of distance between computer and peripheral, a final choice is to convert the USB signal to fiber optic light signals. This is the most expensive option, but some converters can let you connect up to 500 meters away from a computer! Like the Category 5e converters, your fiber converter may require power and may not work at USB 2.0 speed. Check before you buy!

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