Making a USB cable even longer

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All regular USB cables have a maximum recommended length. If manufacturers go beyond that length, they risk affecting the overall performance of the cable. So what can you do if you need to extend the length of a USB cable?

Maintain USB cable performance

The USB interface was originally created to provide unified cables and connectors for computer peripherals. The peripherals were usually placed a short distance from the computer, so the USB cables didn’t have to be very long. But the USB standard has grown far beyond its original capabilities, and USB cables are now being used to connect more than just computer peripherals.

This has led to the need for longer USB cables. However, depending on the USB generation supported by a cable, it may have only a certain maximum length, or there is a risk of performance degradation. For example, a USB 2.0 cable can be five meters long, while a USB 4 cable is limited to 0.8 meters.

Fortunately, there are several ways you can extend the length of a USB cable without losing signal strength.

USB cable extenders

Tripp Lite Active USB Extender
Tripp Lite

USB cable extenders are one of the most common ways to increase the length of a USB cable. They have a male and a female port so you can easily connect your existing cable. There are four types of USB extenders on the market: passive, active and optical.

Passive USB extenders have plain copper wires and no electronic circuitry to amplify the signal. Therefore, it is not very convenient to extend the cable length beyond the recommended maximum limit. You can only use them to extend a short USB cable; make sure that the total length of the cable and extension does not exceed the maximum USB generation limit.

On the other hand, active USB extenders have electronic circuitry to amplify the data signal. As a result, they can significantly increase the overall length of a USB cable. But the length of an active extender depends on the USB generation. In addition, some active USB extenders can also be daisy-chained to further extend their length. Still, the daisy-chain limit depends on certain extenders and the USB generation it supports.

Tripp Lite Active Optical Cable
Tripp Lite

Unlike passive and active USB extenders, optical extenders have fiber optic cables that use light to carry the data signal from one device to another. Light is significantly faster than electricity in moving data and less prone to signal degradation, so the optical extenders are very useful when you need to extend the length of a USB cable by several meters. But unfortunately optical extenders are relatively expensive.

USB over Ethernet Extender

USB over Ethernet Extender
mono price

Ethernet cables are great for fast data transfers over long distances, so you can use them to extend your USB cable. You will need a USB over Ethernet extender, but this will allow you to extend the cable up to 100 meters. There are single-port and multi-port USB-over-Ethernet extenders. While the single-port extenders typically don’t require external power, you’ll need a power adapter to use a multi-port USB over Ethernet extender.

Each USB over Ethernet extender consists of two parts: one with a male USB port and the other with a female port. One part converts the USB signal to Ethernet and the other part converts it back to the USB signal. You just need to connect an Ethernet cable between the two parts and you’re done. The data transfer speed depends on the extender and the Ethernet cable category.

Powered USB Hubs

You can also use powered USB hubs to extend the length of your USB connection. Like active USB extenders, powered hubs amplify the data signal, allowing the signal to travel longer distances. Plus, you can daisy-chain USB hubs for an even longer connection. That said, the cables connecting the hub to a computer or two hubs should not exceed the maximum practical length for that cable. In addition, the USB specification only supports daisy-chaining five USB hubs.

RELATED: The Best USB Hubs for PCs and Macs

USB Active and Optical Cables

Cable Matters Active USB C Cable
Cable matters

You have two options if you don’t want to extend your existing USB cable and would rather buy a new one, but longer than the standard length. You can choose an active or optical USB cable.

Active USB cables, similar to active USB extenders, contain one or more electronic circuits to enhance their performance. As a result, they can be significantly longer than passive cables.

While active USB 2.0 cables can go up to 20 meters, USB 3.2 Gen 1 cables are typically limited to 7.5 meters. USB 3.2 Gen 2 active cables are even shorter, coming in at three meters. In addition, some active cables may be powered by the USB port, others may require an external power supply.

Cable Matters Active USB C Cable

The Cable Matters Active USB C Cable is available in two sizes of three and five meters. In addition, it supports USB 3.2 Gen 1 speeds and is ideal for connecting a 4K monitor.

But if you need to go beyond the lengths of active USB 3.2 Gen 1 or USB 3.2 Gen 2 cables, it’s best to use an optical cable. Unfortunately, optical cables are relatively expensive.

Optical USB cables use light to transfer data, such as optical USB extenders. As a result, they can be significantly longer than copper cables. At the time of writing in June 2022, you will mainly find USB 3.2 Gen 1 and Gen 2 optical cables on the market. However, optical USB 4 cables are starting to appear. A Taiwanese company BKSTEC claimed to launch the first fiber USB 4 cables in March 2022.

RELATED: USB Type-C Explained: What Is USB-C and Why Do You Want It?

Long story short, you have options

All in all, although standard copper USB cables may be limited in length depending on their generation, you still have several ways to increase the length of your USB cable. You can choose USB extenders or a powered USB hub. But if you want the simplicity of a single long cable, both active and optical USB cables are good options. Make sure to buy cables or extenders from reputable brands.

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