USB 3.0 is the latest type of Universal Serial Bus connection (USB) used for connecting computers to electronics devices.
Using a USB connector, the de facto transfer method in recent years, it could take hours to back up a huge bundle of photos. But if your PC and devices support USB 3.0, the painfully slow wait could be a thing of the past.
See below to find out everything you need to know about USB 3.0.
What is USB 3.0?
USB 3.0 launched in 2008, eight years after the arrival of USB 2.0 (which most computers and electronic devices are still using), which followed USB 1.0 in 1996.
USB 1.0 could reach a maximum of 12Mbps (megabits per second) although hardware limitations such as the amount of flash memory being used bring the actual speed of transfer down, as will plugging in and using multiple devices.
USB 2.0 added high speed connection at a maximum of 480Mbps – although again, the true speed is much lower – while USB 3.0 can handle up to 5GBps (gigabits per second).
What are the advantages of USB 3.0?
As technology changes, faster connection speeds are needed and so each version of USB has improved over the years to meet this change.
USB 3.0 can go up to 10 times faster than its predecessor, as long as you have the right hardware to support it.
For example, if you transfer 300 photos that are each 4MB in size, you can expect it to take about 25 seconds to transfer with USB 3.0, compared to around 3 minutes with USB 2.0.
Transferring a 12GB Full HD Movie using USB 2.0 takes 47 minutes, while USB 3.0 takes around 6 minutes, according to Kingston Technology.
Rather than waiting for it to finish, this allows you to save precious time and means you can transfer a lot more information.
What devices use USB 3.0?
USB 3.0 is more widely adopted on PCs – although your devices might only have one USB 3.0 connector.
External hard drives and pocket sized flash drives are most likely to have USB 3.0.
Devices running USB 3.0 are becoming more affordable, such as SanDisk’s 128B Ultra flash drive at £39.99 in Argos.
Devices that meet the USB 3.0 SuperSpeed standard come with a Logo (below) confirming that they are certified.
What do I need to get the highest speed out of USB 3.0?
To get the maximum speed from USB 3.0, you need to ensure all the devices support it – so if you’re transferring photos from your computer to an external hard drive, the USB port on your PC, the cable to transfer and the external hard drive will all have to support USB 3.0.
Your computer and device’s spec sheet should state the type of USB it uses. Or you can always ask a retailer.
You should be able to spot USB 3.0 by looking at the connectors for a blue part (below).
Does USB 3.0 work with my existing devices?
You can still use devices with an older type of USB as normal, but you won’t get the speed benefits.
Is there a USB 4.0?
There is no USB 4.0 at the moment although USB 3.0 was upgraded in 2013 to USB 3.1, bringing speeds of 10Gbps.
That has since been upgraded to USB 3.2 in July 2017. USB 3.2 promises transer speeds that are twice as fast as USB 3.1 - up to 20Gbps, which is blazingly fast.
There is also the USB Type-C standard, which you can read about in full here.