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Is there a way to upgrade laptop's USB 2.0 ports to USB 3.0? If so, will the changes be a driver update alone or will it require changes in the internal hardware?

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up vote 23 down vote accepted

USB 3 is a different technology that uses slightly different connectors and – most importantly – is not upwards compatible in the sense of "just install a new driver and it works".

To accommodate the additional pins for SuperSpeed mode, the physical form factors for USB 3.0 plugs and receptacles have been modified.

That means you can run USB 3 devices on a USB 2 port, but they will only work in a legacy mode that does not support the USB 3 transfer rates.

Your options are:

  • Buy an expansion card that offers USB 3.0 ports, for example if your laptop has a ExpressCard slot
  • Get a new motherboard, which of course is not a straightforward procedure for a laptop
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No. This requires a hardware upgrade. You will need and Expresscard adapter.Startech has several and there are a number of other vendors as well.

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