Q&A – Can I use new USB3.0 gear on a USB2.0 computer and vice versa?

usb30A. Yep, USB3.0 is designed to be backward compatible, which means you’ll be able to plug USB3.0 gear into USB2.0 ports but you’ll only get USB2.0 speeds, depending on the host device you’re plugging it into.

The same goes the other way around – you’ll be able to plug USB2.0 gear into USB3.0 ports and get USB2.0 speeds, depending on the device.

USB2.0 comes in a number of different flavours:

* USB2.0 Full Speed has a top data transfer speed of 12Mbps (megabits per second)

* USB 2.0 High-Speed tops out at 480Mbps.

In comparison, USB3.0 also known as “SuperSpeed” will transfer data at up to 4800Mbps or 4.8Gbps.

At this stage, some new motherboards and notebook computers support USB3.0 but the important thing is you’ll need driver software to make them work as no Windows operating system – including Windows 7 – has support for USB3.0 drivers out of the box. However, most USB3.0 gear you buy at the moment should come with device driver software to make it work for you.

Older PCs can be made USB3.0 using a PCI-Express expansion card (pictured).

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