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How Do I Choose the Best PCI-to-USB Host Controller?

A USB cable.
USB cables are used to connect devices -- such as printers, keyboards and music players -- to computers.
Many controllers are backward compatible, so a USB 3.0 device can be used in a USB 2.0 port.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) to Universal Serial Bus (USB) host controller is a piece of hardware that is used to connect devices to a computer. To choose the best PCI-to-USB host controller, consider the type of PCI slot you have, since there are several versions that require different types of connections. There are also different versions of USB technology that can be used by devices you need to connect to your computer, so ensure you choose compatible hardware. Various types of PCI-to-USB host controller can also provide different levels of transfer speeds, so choose a model that gives you a high level of performance.

The function of a PCI-to-USB host controller is to allow devices to be connected to a computer by providing additional USB ports on a machine. A Peripheral Component Interconnect or PCI is a type of connection that can be used on a computer motherboard. This is a slot into which different types of internal hardware can be connected. A Universal Serial Bus or USB port can be used to connect various external pieces of hardware. The use of a PCI-to-USB host controller allows you to insert a card into a PCI slot, which then provides USB ports on the back of a computer.

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As you choose a PCI-to-USB host controller, however, consider the version of PCI slot that you have available in your computer. Many computer motherboards have numerous slots, including both older PCI slots and newer ones such as PCI Express (PCI-E). You need to choose a PCI-to-USB host controller that can work with the slots that you have available. A PCI-E slot is often used by a video or graphics card, but older PCI slots can still work well.

Consider also the type of USB connection that you want to use. USB technology has changed over the years, with new versions often identical in appearance to older ones. Most of these have been backward compatible, meaning that a USB 3.0 device can still be connected to a USB 2.0 port. However, if you have an older device with a USB 1.0 connection, then it might not work with a PCI-to-USB host controller that has a USB 3.0 port.

There are also different transfer rates that can be allowed through a PCI-to-USB host controller. Data is typically sent from a device connected to the USB port, through the card, into the PCI slot, and then into the motherboard itself. This means that data transfer rates are important, as the controller can end up bottlenecking, or slowing down, access speeds for the device you are using. Determine the data transfer rates for the devices you are connecting to this card, and then choose a controller that matches them.

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