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What ports does your PC have?
by John Anthony

Ports are pathways that connect your PC to external devices, or peripherals as they are called. Up until recently they were always located at the back of the PC. They are now often found on the front of it as well.


USB (Universal Serial Bus) has become one of the most popular ports found on a PC. All new PCs have at least 2 USB ports. Printers, scanners, and many other peripheral products have USB ports which makes it very easy to connect them to your PC.

USB is very user friendly and supports what is called Plug'n'Play. This means that when you connect a device to your PC with USB, it is automatically detected and set up without your intervention. In some cases, you may have to install a device driver provided by the manufacturer on a CD or on their web site.

USB is available in a couple of standards. USB 2.0 is the fastest at 480Mbps (million bits per second). The earlier USB 1.1 runs at 12Mbps.


Firewire is another type of port found on newer PCs. It is also known as i.LINK or IEEE 1394 and is rated at 400Mbps which puts it in the same speed class as USB 2.0.

When Firewire first came out, only USB 1.1 was available and many observers thought it would push USB out of the picture. With the advent of USB 2.0 and it's proliferation into so many peripheral devices, USB is here to stay.

Flash Card

Many new PCs provide ports for reading and writing flash cards. This allows you to access data directly from the flash card without having to connect your digital camera or PDA.

Recently I saw a new PC from HP that had a port with multiple slots for connection to many flash card types: Compact Flash I/II, SmartMedia, Memory Stick/Pro, MultiMediaCard and Secure Digital.
If you use a PDA or digital camera this type of port comes in very handy.

Legacy ports

Most PCs still have parallel, serial or game ports. These ports are always put on the back of the newer PCs and will eventually be phased out.

Buy peripheral products that use a USB port. Why? Every PC produced in the last few years has at least 2 USB ports on it. This makes it a given that most devices can connect to a PC and run right away. Most camcorders, however, connect to the PC through a Firewire port.

Make sure you know what USB standard your PC supports. It may only support the older USB 1.1 type.

If you want to connect more than two USB devices to your PC, where would the third one plug in? The solution is provided by a device called a USB Hub. It plugs into one of the PC's USB ports and allows from 4 to 8 USB devices to plug into it. The ability to quickly scale up and connect to multiple devices combined with the fact that almost every peripheral has one makes USB the port of choice.

If you have devices that use flash cards, then a PC equipped with ports that can read and write them is quite useful. If the PC doesn't have this type of port built in don't worry, you can connect an external flash card adapter to your PC later on using - what else - a USB port!


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