USB Ports on a Laptop

A USB port allows a variety of devices to be attached to a laptop without needing a specific port or bulky connector. USB ports can connect printers, scanners, MP3 players, and a host of other peripherals.

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. The key word is universal, which means that this standard supports a vast array of devices. Common devices are listed in the first table that follows. The second table describes some atypical uses of the USB port.

Typical Uses for the USB Port
Device Typical Usage
External storage Includes external hard drives, CD/R, DVD, and flash memory storage options.
Printer Prints stuff on paper.
Scanner Sucks images from flat surfaces and reproduces them as graphics inside the computer.
Network adapter Simply provides, through the USB port, another way to add networking to your laptop.
MP3 player Beams music between the laptop and the player. Note, though, that a laptop by itself with a set of headphones works like an MP3 player.
Digital camera Lets you grab photos from the camera’s memory card and store them on the laptop. This can also be done directly, by removing the camera’s digital storage media.
More Unusual Ways to Use the USB Port
Device Unusual Thing It Does
Legacy adapter Allows you to connect ancient (legacy) serial, parallel, joystick, and other devices to your laptop. This adapter saves you from buying a port replicator and allows you to continue to use older hardware with your newer laptop.
Numeric keypad Lets you (when numbers are your game) quickly enter values without having to toggle the main keyboard between numeric and alpha modes.
Sound hardware Adds high-quality sound hardware to your laptop. For example, the Sound Blaster Audigy can be added by using the USB port to give your laptop full 5.1 Dolby surround sound. (No word on how best to lug around the five speakers and a subwoofer.)
Speakers Let's your hear sound. To go along with the USB sound expansion, you can get some mini-USB-powered speakers for your laptop. Get the type with the handy tote-strap.
Video camera or Webcam Handles all your on-the-road videoconferencing and self-voyeuristic needs.
Scanner Lets lawyers and other people do their document scanning in a portable manner.
Little light Imagine! Plugs in and is powered by the USB port. Furthermore, imagine it with a stiff-yet-twistable neck so that you can see the keyboard when you use your laptop in the dark.
Game controller Controls your little man, pilot your space ship, or wield that sword of magic.
Laptop cooler Acts like a fancy pad on which to sit your laptop. It contains a tiny, quiet fan that helps keep your laptop cool, and it runs from the power supplied by the USB port.
Mobile phone recharger Lets you transfer some of the laptop’s power to your mobile phone.
Security device Uses the USB port to power an alarm on a cable lock or plugs in to the USB port and unlocks (or unscrambles) the laptop’s data.
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