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Expansion Upgrades: eSATA, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, and FireWire

Consider adding ports to an older PC — also called expansion upgrades. Although adding or upgrading ports doesn’t speed up your computer, you can connect a wider range of external devices.

Like a RAM upgrade, adding Universal Serial Bus (USB 3.0), eSATA, Thunderbolt, or FireWire ports to your PC is a relatively easy upgrade. All you do is remove the cover from your PC and add an adapter card to one of the open slots on your motherboard.

Remember, this is how the original cadre of IBM engineers — the ones who designed the architecture of the first PCs and sat in those squeaky nerd chairs — intended for you to add functionality to your computer, so it’s practically a walk in the park.

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If you've decided to swap your PC's old motherboard with a new model, always shop for the fastest and widest range of built-in ports you can afford. Look for a motherboard with a minimum of built-in eSATA and USB 3.0 ports (and add Thunderbolt and FireWire ports to that list if you think you might need to connect those types of peripherals to your PC in the future).

This saves you the hassle of adding an expansion card later to a nearly-new motherboard, just to add a specific type of port!

If you already have USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire ports on your PC and you simply run out of connections (for example, you have two USB ports and you’re using one for your printer and one for your webcam), you don’t need to add another set of ports.

Instead, you just need a USB or FireWire hub, a nifty little device that plugs into one of those ports and turns it into four or eight additional ports! (Think of the familiar AC extension cord, which plugs into one of your wall power sockets and allows you to plug in three or four cords.)

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