For anyone who owns a laptop, there has been at least one occasion where you have to connect more USB devices to your laptop than you have ports. Usually, we’d just shuffle around and disconnect devices we don’t really need. But what if you absolutely need all of those devices? In such situations, USB hubs come into the picture.
Not only this, a lot of people have to deal with the dongle life as their laptops or tablets only have USB Type C ports. Such dongles are also hubs only. Although they function differently, you get the idea.
But while USB Type C dongles work just fine regardless of the number of devices you’ve got connected to them, the same can’t be said about the more conventional USB hubs. They are usually unreliable and tend to corrupt devices connected to them.
So is it a good idea to use USB hubs? Read on to find out
Also read: USB Connectors: Type C vs Type B vs Type A
Is it safe to use them?
One of the most common issues with using a USB hub is the malfunctions they cause. These malfunctions are usually caused by power surges as multiple devices compete for both voltage and amperage.
The way USB devices work is mostly based on amperage. The voltage is always 5 volt. However, on cheap hubs, the power line is the same, meaning every device connected to the hub will have to share from one master stream of 5 volts.
The problem is, if a device with a higher amperage is connected, the hub will give it preference, and there will be a voltage drop across other connected devices. If this voltage drop is out of the operable range of the device, this can cause the peripheral to malfunction.
Said malfunctions can cause Windows (or any other OS) to report that the device has malfunctioned. If its a flash drive, it might even get corrupted. Any other peripherals such as keyboards or gamepads can stop functioning as the under-voltage can cause shorts in the circuitry.
How to avoid this?
First thing, don’t but those cheap hubs. They may work fine with one or two flash drives connected to them, but the minute you connect anything heavy duty, everything goes haywire. When choosing a hub or a dongle, pay special attention to the build quality and the brand as well.
Some hubs are also externally powered. These will provide you with the most stable performance as there is no fear of voltage fluctuations.
So should you use them?
Well, if you have a good quality one, sure. They are lifesavers in the event you need to plug in more USB devices than you have ports.
Other than that, you’re going to have to be careful. Cheap hubs can often corrupt pen drives and even external devices in most cases. And if by any chance you plug an external HDD into them, I hope God comes to your rescue.