Help! I’ve Run Out of USB Ports

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

My computer has only three built-in USB ports, and all are in use. But now I want to plug in several other USB devices, such as a remote hard drive and a memory stick. What are my options?

You can buy a component called a hub that contains one male plug, which you insert into your computer, and several female slots to accommodate other USB devices.

There are two types of hubs: powered (which you plug in to a 110-volt wall socket) and unpowered. Unpowered hubs obtain their electricity via the USB plug directly from the computer— but this often puts a significant drain on the computer, and in some cases doesn’t provide enough power to run the plugged-in devices. A powered hub avoids this problem. Another advantage of a powered hub is that it can be used to recharge the battery of a USB-powered device, like an iPod, even when the computer is off.

Be aware, too, that you should only buy hubs that are labeled with the 2.0 spec. Some dealers are still selling old hubs with the slower 1.0 specs.

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