It’s amazing the widgets and gadgets you can plug into a USB port these days – some of them are even useful too!

But often, the problem these days is a lack of USB ports – this might not sound possible on most new desktop PCs where it seems USB ports are being bred on a daily basis but it’s quite common for many of us to use external USB hubs to provide those extra ports we need.

However, if you’re using a self-powered hub – that means a hub that plugs into one of your PC/notebook’s USB ports and has no external power – be careful.

In my view, self-powered hubs are dangerous because they can electrically overload a USB port and damage it.

All USB devices are meant to report to the operating system their power consumption requirements. Windows even attempts to list them in its Device Manager panel.

The problem with self-powered hubs is that they spread the power capabilities of one USB port across three or more.

So when you go to charge up your iPod, plug in a USB powered scanner or something else, the originating port back at the PC falls over under the weight of it all.

In this example, this Logitech USB mouse requires 500mA, which is about as much as a typical USB port can supply. If this was plugged in via a self-powered hub, you’d have a few ports left available but no power to run them.

My advice is if you’re using a USB device that charges its internal battery from the USB port itself, don’t plug it in via a self-powered USB hub. If you have a hub that supplies its own external power through a power brick/wall wart, no worries. But keep all USB-charge devices on direct PC-access ports only.

That way, your portable devices and your PC’s USB ports should last as long as the PC itself.

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