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What is USB4?

USB4 connector, close up

One-sentence summary; What is USB4

USB4 is the USB-C form factor for connecting; fully supports Thunderbolt 3 specification, all wrapped up using the USB 3.2 specification.

USB4 has four benefits over prior versions of USB.

Maximum Speed of 40Gbps. Using two-lane cables or a set of cables, devices may operate at up to 40 Gbps, the same speed as Thunderbolt 3. Keep in mind there is a big difference between Mb and MB. Mb is megabits, not Megabytes (MB). So for example 8Mb is about 1MB of data. As a reference, a typical MP3 audio file is about 3MB (megabytes). 5,000 MB/second is the theoretical maximum speed of USB4.

USB 4 supports DisplayPort 2.0. DisplayPort 2.0 cables feature 80Gbps bandwidth, making it possible to display ultra-high resolutions at previously impossible refresh rates. DisplayPort 2.0 can handle up to two 4K screens at 144Hz simultaneously, or an 8K display at up to 85Hz natively, with no form of image compression. This is true because USB4 uses all eight data lanes at once time.

Compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices. USB4 is a protocol which supports all the specifications of Thunderbolt 3; however, Thunderbolt 3 is capable of 100Watts of bi-directional power delivery and not all manufacturers who support USB4 will not include the [full] power implementation of Thunderbolt 3.

Most efficient resource allocation scheme. USB4 devices use a process called “protocol tunneling” which optimizes the use of DisplayPort, PCIe and USB packets at the same time while allocating bandwidth to optimize efficiency. This scheme will create better performance across multiple devices with a collection of protocols.

USB4 will only operate through a USB-C type physical connector. USB4 peripherals will most likely not see older standard USB type A ports because the connection speeds and power delivery mechanisms will not be available. Although USB4 is 100% backward compatible with all other USB protocols, it doesn’t mean the older standard will get the improved benefits. If connecting, for example, a Type-A, 5 Gbps USB 3 port by using an adapter, the speed and power will drop to the lowest common denominator.

Some notable comments:

Device and host manufacturers will not [be required] to pay Intel royalties when implementing USB4 technology. This implies a better chance of mass adoption of USB4; however, there is a catch between manufacturing USB4 devices and making said products [fully] USB4 compliant. Specifically, the Thunderbolt compatibility specification may become a part of the product when developing and manufacturing a USB4 product which can use the USB4 logo. This issue means a consumer could buy a laptop with USB4 and find that it doesn’t work with a Thunderbolt 3 peripheral.

It is important to know Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 are logo certified programs from Intel which cost manufacturers time and money. So, while a USB4 powered computer could work with 40 Gbps devices or even those labeled as Thunderbolt, it may not be obvious because the product didn’t go through a certification process. Or the opposite of this would be a USB4 device does not support Thunderbolt because of the expense required to get the certificate.

USB4 has two speeds. As with Thunderbolt the paradox a USB4 product may not support the full 40Gbps specification. 40Gbps is the theoretical maximum speed, but many devices will use the lower 20Gbps standard because the manufacturing cost will be lower, thus creating a lower target price for consumers. If speed is the number one priority be sure and check the specifications of the USB4 product before purchase. At the time of this writing most USB4 products which support 40Gbps are cables and PCIe adapter cards.

Why the USB4 name?

An online article that summarized an interview with Brad Saunders the CEO of the USB Implementers Forum [USB.org or USB-IF] indicated the lack of space between “USB” and “4” is to focus away from USB version numbers and focus more on brand. This branding concept for USB is a good change, but afraid the history of all the USB versions of the past will continue to haunt them.

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Mini Portrait Display Monitor – Mini in Size, Large on Coolness

 mini portrait display monitor

Mini Portrait Display Monitor – Mini in Size, Large on Coolness

With the everlasting newsfeeds from Twitter and never-ending social media feeds a portrait style display is the ideal monitor keeping you connected while not eating up real-estate on your main monitor. We understand not one display size will fit all needs, but this mini portrait display stands tall amongst other sizes we’ve seen. The cool factor for this product is off the charts and wouldn’t you love to be the first in your office to have this setup?

Resolution is 1280 x 400 with a physical size of 70mm (x) 208mm (x) 16mm so for you Americans on the Imperial measuring system that is 8″ inches tall by 3″ inches wide. The monitor size is just under 8″ inches.

The mini portrait display uses an HDMI cable for video and micro-USB for power.

The display isn’t fully supported on the Mac so user experience will vary when paired with that OS, but the mini portrait display monitor will run as expected on a Windows machine. The unit is (about) $95 USD after the conversion from Yen. The company marketing this display is Sanko and product is not yet available.

Are you interested in this product? GetUSB.info is planning to bring in 50 units… get on the list to buy. Send an email to gmo (at) getusb.info to make a request.

small portrait display

mini portrait display, with hdmi

Source: Impress Watch, Japan

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USB Flash Drive With Activity Light

A USB flash drive with activity light gives the user visual feedback the device is working.

Click here to buy a USB flash drive with activity light. While on this site, consider some other advanced functions you might need, but didn’t think of. Advanced functions such as:

  • Maybe you want the USB flash drive to be read-only (write protected)
  • Maybe you want the USB to act like a CD-ROM drive
  • Maybe you need to copy protect files on the drive – meaning people can view the files but they cannot print them, save them, screen capture, share, etc. The files can only be viewed.

These USB flash drives use an activity light and also provide the other cool functions mentioned above. The landing website offers six different body styles and an unlimited number of body colors along with free printing / branding if required.

Many small and portable flash drives do not have an activity light and we don’t like those types of drives. They don’t give the visual feedback we want to see.

USB flash drive no activity light

The people who write for this blog prefer a USB flash drive with an activity light. The USB manufacturers have different settings for the LED activity light. Here is a screen shot of the mass production software tool used when making a flash drive.

There are two main settings for a USB activity light:

  • On or Off setting for the LED on when device is ready
  • Blink or not when flash memory is being accessed (this is for either read or write)

USB flash drive with activity light, settings

In our experience any USB flash drive with an activity light will have both of the above settings to On. Meaning the LED will be a solid color when connected and ready, and will blink as the device is being accessed for either a read or write request.

USB flash drive with activity light, on

The most common LED color of a flash drive is red. However, we have seen green and blue LED lights on occasion. Most flash drives can be customized with specific LED colors if required. Lead times and pricing might fluctuate depending on what is required.

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Encrypt USB Flash Drive For Both Mac and Windows

Encrypt USB Flash Drive For Both Mac and Windows

This article explains how to encrypt data which can be decrypted on both a Mac and Windows computer.

Microsoft Windows accounts for almost 80% of the desktop computers with Apple OS coming in second place at about 18% market share (as of Q3, 2021) and with that in mind, it is very common for users to want encrypted data to be shared on both Mac and Windows computers. For example, the work place uses Microsoft Windows and the employee uses a Mac computer at home. To share encrypted data between these two operating systems is not straight forward. There is no installed solution from either Microsoft or Apple which provides a cross-platform encryption and decryption solution.

Two solutions are available for those who want to decrypt files for both a Microsoft Windows computer and an Apple Mac computer.

One solution is the individual user purchasing software which encrypts and decrypts software for both Mac and Windows computers.

The other solution is buying a physical drive which supports decryption on either operating system.

The second solution is more well suited for a business. This is true because the burden of purchasing software is not put on the employee or individual.

This article explains how to encrypt data which can be decrypted on both a Mac and Windows computer by using a specific USB flash drive.

The only known solution that has the following three characteristics in a product by Nexcopy. This is a company which provides feature rich USB duplicator solutions, but also provides advanced functions to flash drive, such as cross-platform encryption.

This is how the Nexcopy USB flash drive encryption solution works:

  • PC based software is used to encrypt the data
  • Included with the encrypted data are two software utilities loaded onto the flash drive
  • The utilities run from the flash drive and decrypt the data when the correct password is entered
  • The applications do not require installation, they run directly from the flash drive
  • The PCViewer.exe is the Windows based utility – no admin rights required
  • The MacViewer.app is the mac based utility – no admin rights required
  • By launching the correct utility and entering correct password the files will be decrypted and displayed on the associated operating system

Please keep in mind there is a difference between the term “encryption” and the term “copy protection.” There is a difference.

Encryption is the process of encoding information. This process converts the original representation of the information, for example plaintext, into an alternative form known as ciphertext. The ciphertext can only be reorganized and pieced back together from the authorized party who knows how the decipher the ciphertext back into plaintext. The important point to understand is that once the decipher has taken place, the user can do anything they want with the plaintext. The user can copy, duplicate, share, stream and screen capture that content.

Copy protection includes the process of encoding; however, has an additional layer of security whereby the user cannot do anything in addition to the content, such as copy, duplicate, share, stream and screen capture. Said another way, the files can only be viewed, but nothing else.

Encryption is a valuable technology where the content owner trusts the person with the password; however, needs security in case the USB flash drive was dropped, stolen or misplaced. Using encryption to protect the content means unauthorized users cannot access the information.

Copy protection is a valuable technology to protect the content, yet at the same time, allow many users to see the content. For example, a teacher might have valuable lessons they want all the students to see; however, they don’t want lessons to be saved or shared with other classes. This would be a good application for copy protection.

The manufacturer provides USB duplicator solutions for mass production of USB encrypted flash drives. Nexcopy also provides large scale USB duplicator solutions for copy protected flash drives. So depending on the specific needs of the individual or company, there is a solution for those who need encryption for both Windows and Mac computers.

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How To Check USB Flash Drive Power Output

How to check a USB flash drive power output is fairly simple: the drive doesn’t output any power. That is the short answer.

What is really happening is the flash drive gives the host (the computer) instructions on the maximum power which should be sent to the flash drive.

So now that we understand a USB flash drive doesn’t put out power, but rather receives it, the next question becomes… how much power does the flash drive instruct it can receive?

When a USB flash drive is connected to a host computer there is something call a “device descriptor” which gives the host a long list of configuration settings. One of those device descriptors is the maximum power setting the device should receive. Now… it is 100% up to the host computer to respect that request, or not.

If you are having USB power disconnection issues it can be one of two things:

  1. The USB flash drive has too low of a power configuration setting
  2. The host is not respecting the device descriptor of the flash drive setting

99.9% of the time the host is respecting the device descriptor because the USB stock (code) to run the USB flash drives is typically well developed i.e. the USB driver is from Microsoft.

The more likely problem is the power setting of the device is set to low. If the power setting is set to low this means the host computer will monitor the power and since the USB is asking for more power than what is set in the descriptor the host computer disconnects the drive.

Below is a screen shot for the mass production tool used to make USB flash drives. As you can see the power settings available to configure the drive range from 100mA (milliaps) to 500mA. The maximum power limit for USB 2.0 is 500mA and thus should be the setting to make a USB flash drive. However, if the USB manufacturer messed up with an incorrect selection then a very good chance a 200mA flash drive is being disconnected all the time… and by no fault of the host computer!

usb flash drive power output, configure

So how do you find the power output of a flash drive? Or more accurately, what is the power consumption definition of the flash drive?

In short, there is no easy way to find this information in Windows. The easiest solution is download a 3rd party application and run the tool to see. The tool (USBDeview) is very small and runs directly as an exe file, no installation required.

Below are two screen shots.

The first screen shot is a USB flash drive set at 200mA. Clearly this device will run into disconnection issues

usb flash drive power output, to low

The second screen shot is a USB flash drive set at 500mA. This is the correct configuration of a USB flash drive for power output.

usb flash drive power output, correct

The above information is the easiest way to for USB flash drive power output for a thumb drive.

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Solved: Can’t Mount IMG File in Windows 10

The first thing to understand is that image files are a messy business. There is plenty of cross-over information and functionality between image file extension types – it is easy to get confused!

Don’t be surprised if you can’t mount an .img file in Windows 10 with their default utility – it’s a common problem and this article will help.

Windows image mount utility

Windows, disc image file is corrupt

It is important to understand not all image files are the same. Heck, not all .img files are the same. Some basics: For the term “image files” you typically see .img files and .iso file extensions and they have similar functionality and conceptually accomplish the same goal. The goal is for an image file to hold digital content, in a single file, of a file system and a its set of data. If that sentence is confusing, then maybe think of an image file this way: a zip file (but without compression).

A very quick summary explaining the difference of .img and .iso image files. An optical disc holding data is configured differently than hard drive storage space. The optical disc has data written in a linear configuration and is a digital binary copy of the ISO 9660 standard or derivative UDF standard. The ISO file extension is a single file which contains all the digital information just described.

An .img file is a digital copy of the contents of a hard drive or flash drive. Technically you can have an .img of a CD or DVD as well, but most should associate the image of a disc as ISO. An .img file is a disk image which begins with a FAT sector which is used to identify the file system and files contained inside the image file. The image file of a disc (ISO) begins with a descriptor file which describes the layout of the disc.

That last sentence is important:

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Port Hub for MacBook Connects via USB from Satechi

Port Hub, MacBook

Port Hub Provides Six Connection Options via USB

The Satechi Port Hub adapter extends the functionality of your M1 MacBook Pro laptop. It has all of the necessary ports, including a USB4 port, Gigabit Ethernet, a USB-C data port, two USB-A data ports, and an audio jack port. The Pro Hub Mini is the only adapter you need, with a plethora of options for fast data transfer and a modern aluminum design.

Designed to complement your MacBook ports, it includes two USB-A 3.0 data ports, one USB-C data port capable of up to 5 Gbps, Gigabit Ethernet, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The port hub features Next-Gen USB4 technology and can charge your devices at a whopping 100W. You can also benefit from data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps and video output resolutions of up to 5K/60Hz.

By connecting the hub to the Thunderbolt ports of your MacBook Pro 14 & 16 inch, 2021, you will have access to all ports. The MagSafe 3 port is still usable and recommended for fast charging. We’ve also included an audio jack port clip that will fit perfectly into your MacBook Pro 14 & 16-inch, 2021 to keep it in place.

Having designed multiple technology products this product does ask the question about the relationship between the physical connection between the port hub and the Mac computer. From the image, as I have not tested this product, it appears the physical connection of the audio jack and two USB-C connectors will make for a durable mating.

However, people do stupid things and if the collective unit gets dropped on the floor (say slips of table’s edge) and falling on the port hub, I wonder what kind of damage that fall would have on the audio jack and USB ports.

My logic is thinking it being expensive to fix the internal USB ports of the laptop, given that would be required since it’s the only digital external connection this computer has. Food for thought.

Port Hub, USB-C

Consider buying this MacBook port hub from Amazon if this article provided any bit of useful information in the buying process

Important

  • To achieve 5K video output, you’ll need a computer, a thunderbolt cable, and a 5K monitor
  • The MacBook Pro (16 inch, M1 Pro/Max, 2021)’s MagSafe 3 port can charge up to 140W
  • The USB4 port can only charge up to 100W
  • Use the MagSafe 3 port directly on the computer for faster charging
  • Charging and CD drives are not supported by USB-A ports
  • The Audio Jack Port clip is only compatible with the new MacBook Pro 14 and 16 inch models released in 2021
  • The Hub can be used with older MacBooks with USB-C, but the Audio Jack Clip will not work

Original equipment manufacturer’s product webpage can be found here which is directly from the Satechi website.

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Free USB Flash Drives For Students

USB Flash Drives are indispensable for the students.

They are a fantastic tool to store and use documents and other important data. Moreover, talk to any student and they will let you know how they carry a USB flash drive—attached to key rings, customized with colors, shapes, objects, and much more!

With a USB flash drive, you can use your computers or laptops efficiently whether you’re at home or university, or school. There may be times when you want to continue work even after school hours; therefore, carrying a USB flash drive is very handy.

With all that being said, USB flash drives can cost students a lot; especially if you’ve lost one and have to buy another. Therefore, here are a few ways you can get USB flash drives for free.

Free USBs With A Purchase

There are many computer stores, and stores for cameras, cell phones, and other tech-related things that give flash drives for free with purchases.

Itpstyli

Itpstyli is a company that makes over 1000 styli for CMM, gear measurement equipment, and machine centers. To get a flash drive for free, you have to add it to the cart and save the cart as a shopping list.

If you require help with homework or need assistance in technical disciplines, feel free to get in touch with cwassignments.com to get assignment help online from experts.

MyBioSource.com

The company sells biological reagents. If you’re in the field of biology, and need products in bulk, you can get a free USB flash drive, or even more, based on the items of your purchase. Your free flash drive will get you 8GB of storage.

You must also keep an eye on Best Buy, Tiger Direct, and NewEgg, as these tech retailers often give away tech items, including USB flash drives. They may also give away products when you refer people, share their promotional posts, subscribe to their newsletters, be a loyal online presence, or buy products from them.

Flash Drive Retailers

As you must have realized by now, there are very few stores that sell just USB flash drives. However, they do exist; and the chances of you getting a free USB flash drive from them becomes quite high. You can accomplish this through online contests, giveaways, store promos, affiliate programs, and more.

USBholic

USBholic is a Texas-based retailer that sells flash drives. You can pick a cute design from their store and choose the 4GB one. When you do so, you’ll see the price to be $0.01 per flash drive. Even though it’s not completely free, it’s close. USBholic ships flash drives to Europe, the US, Asia, and Oceania. However, please check the shipping costs to your place to see if it’s worth getting it shipped.

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Greyed Out USB Flash Drive (help)

If you have a greyed out USB flash drive this article should be able to help you resolve the issue.

The most common reason is the USB flash drive has a different file system and you simply need to format the drive. For example, Ext3, Ext4 or HFS are file systems for Linux and Mac. By formatting the USB drive it could restore the drive and it’s no longer greyed out.

please insert disk into USB drive

If this didn’t do the trick, then try the next suggestion ↓

It is possible the greyed out USB flash drive has a bad device driver. We can uninstall the drive and try re-installing the USB stick (reconnecting).

Do the following:

In the Search area type “Device Manager” and good chance Windows will auto-suggest before you are even done typing. Select Device Manager.

device manager, windows to find greyed out USB flash drive

Alternatively you can click the Windows key along with “X” and from the list select Device Manager

Win Key + X, windows to find greyed out USB flash drive

Device Manager lists things alphabetically so scroll towards the button and expand the carrot > for Universal Serial Bus controllers.

In the sub-listing you will see the Mass Storage Device and then right click that device and select Uninstall device

uninstall USB driver, greyed out USB stick

Now the device drive has been removed, please reconnect the device and see if the greyed out USB flash drive is still greyed out.

If this didn’t do the trick we have one last suggestion for you before declaring the USB stick most likely dead ↓

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Eject USB Flash Drive From Windows Command Prompt Any Version

Eject USB Flash Drive safely, Free Download

Microsoft does not provide ways to eject USB flash drives with a single click, or automatically. Universal Serial Bus (USB) is the #1 method for expanding storage in Windows, yet Microsoft makes ejecting a storage device such a manual process! Frustrating to many, like you, because you are here. {wink}

Today we cover how to eject a USB flash drive in Windows using the command prompt. In addition, this article also provides a software way to eject a USB flash drive with the single click of a button. Yes, that is right, a single click!

Let us start by covering how to eject a USB drive using the command prompt.

Like mentioned above, Microsoft does not make this easy. The user must get into DiskPart, List the volumes (drives) connected, select the specific volume (drive) then eject by typing “release.”

The above commands may be performed via the command prompt, but honestly it’s a pain in the a$$ because all the typing involved and manually selecting the device. This process needs to be automated. {hint}

If you are reading this article you want to make things quick to remove USB, easy and simple.

Nexcopy solved this problem with a free utility that doesn’t require installation, doesn’t require Admin rights, and doesn’t require you to select the drive. The tool is ultra-quick and ultra-easy. In addition, anyone can bundle the free exe file into their own software to automate the process.

The free software tool is called USB Eject Button

Here is the free download link to eject USB flash drives from Windows command prompt

Below is the command prompt using a single word to eject a USB flash drive. The command is “release”

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DIY USB Power Hub Station

Using very simple and inexpensive items, create a USB power hub station for all gadgets like headphones, chargers, GPS units, GoPro camera’s and more.

In addition to a very organized solution, the DIY USB power hub station is out of the way, yet easily accessible. No more taking up valuable kitchen counter space with cluttered gadgets and a birds nest of cables.

The solution is ultra-easy. For the DIY USB power hub station all you need is a shoe rack for the closet, a USB hub and your cables.

In less than 10 minutes you can be organized, powered and out of sight. This DIY project was less than $35 dollars.

First, grab a hanging shoe rack from Amazon. I found this 10 slot shoe rack for $13.

Next, grab a USB hub that only runs power (less expensive) and I found a matching 10 socket version for my 10 slot shoe rack for $20.

The only thing left to possibly buy are cables. However, you probably already have the powering USB cables required for your devices. I do think getting cables that have a combo Apple Lightening cable and microUSB cable allow things to be a bit more flexible when connecting various devices.

Here is a set of two cables with three different connectors (Lightening, USB-C and microUSB) for $6.00 (each) $13 total.

Once your items arrive the assembly is literally two minutes. There is a good chance it will take longer to clean out your closet than assemble the DIY USB power hub station.

The best location would be in the closet under your stairs. This is true because the space most likely has a power outlet.

  • Step 1 – Cut a small piece of fabric in the back of each shoe rack slot
  • Step 2 – Place USB powered hub in the bottom shoe rack slot
  • Step 3 – Lay out the shoe rack and thread each power cable from the USB hub to each shoe rack slot
  • Step 4 – Place devices in shoe rack slots and connect
  • Step 5 – Hang USB power hub charging station in your closet
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How To: Check for Bad Sectors on USB Flash Drive

This how to tutorial describes a simple way to check for bad sectors on a USB flash drive. The instructions below will also fix any bad sectors, if possible, during the scanning process.

A bad sector on a flash drive is a portion of memory on the flash drive which cannot be accessed, written to, or read from and therefore cannot be used. A bad sector on a flash drive sounds easy enough to diagnose, but it’s important to know there are two types of bad sectors: hard and soft.

Physical damage to a USB flash drive will create a hard bad sector. A hard bad sector cannot be repaired or fixed and is typically induced from physical abuse. A good example: leaving a flash drive in your pocket and it went through the wash, or the device was dropped and hit the ground is such a way, physical damage happened to the memory.

A soft bad sector on a flash drive are memory logic problems. A soft bad sector can occur from a software or data error during the write process. In lower quality flash drives, it is possible the incorrect firmware was written into the USB controller ROM and thus creates instability via soft bad sectors.

Bad sectors cannot be repaired; however soft bad sectors can be repaired.

The soft bad sectors can be fixed by using the CHKDSK utility in the Windows operating system. This same utility will also flag any hard bad sectors not to be used again, and of course not repaired.

Some signs of a bad sector on a flash drive include:

  • Cannot read a file on the flash drive
  • A file location is no longer available
  • Unable to format the USB flash drive
  • A disk read error occurs during operation

In our opinion, run the check disk one time to see if your issue is resolved, but if subsequent scans are required, we recommend discarding the flash drive to avoid further issues.

Running the chkdsk scan is really easy:

Insert flash drive to computer

Using Windows Explorer navigate to the drive letter

In the Explorer window type cmd and press enter

access usb flash drive cmd command

Once inside the command line utility type chkdsk d: /f /r /x and click Enter. NOTE: *The letter d represents the drive letter of the flash drive.

chkdsk commands for usb flash drive

  • The /f parameter tells CHKDSK to fix any errors it finds.
  • The /r parameter tells Windows to repair/restore bad sectors (if possible).
  • The /x parameter unmounts any “handles” to the drive or said another way, this step will not allow any other resource to access the flash drive during the scan.
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