Some phones (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Note 3) comes with USB 3.0 Micro-B cable. Certain hard disk enclosure comes with USB 3.0 Micro-B cable.

So, is both the Micro-B cable interchangeable (meaning one can use the Micro-B cable from the phone and use on the hard disk enclosure OR using the Micro-B cable from the hard disk enclosure on the phone?

  • 3
    They are interchangeable. I would only add that there does exist a type of USB cable that is made for charge-only, which is missing the D+ and D- data lines so that no data may be transferred. It's not something that typically comes with a phone when you purchase it, but there are companies that sell them separately. But in the context of your post, the cables that come with a Note 3 and an external hard drive are interchangeable. – n8te Oct 19 '17 at 3:44
  • Just the quality of cables can be different. USB standard is 5V/500mA (2.5W), so that's minimum the cable must be able to deliver. However if your mobile charger is capable to provide only 5V/1A (5W), the cable can be only dimensioned to this power. It may be sufficient for the mobile charging, but not for the disk, if it requires more, you may need some better cable then. – Jaroslav Kucera Oct 19 '17 at 7:33

Micro-B cables are not unique in terms of how interchangeable they are. So I'll leave this answer generic because it also applies to other USB 3 cables, as well.

As a practical matter, you will probably be able to interchange your USB cables and make a USB connection. Any USB data cable that has the right connectors should make a standard USB connection with any device. But, there are some exceptions and limitations.

  • Some cables are charge-only cables. These can't be used for data purposes. They may work to charge a device other than what it was bundled with, but they aren't reliably interchangeable for rapid charging at higher currents. They don't comply with USB specs but some manufacturers supply them.

  • Some devices are designed for rapid charging with a USB data cable at currents higher than what is available with a standard USB connection. These require handshaking with a high-output charging port via a special cable to negotiate the higher current. The supplied cable may have heavier conductors and more going on inside the connector than just standard wire connections.

    The rapid charge data cable can be used like a standard USB cable, so the cable that came with a rapid-chargeable tablet can be used with an external hard drive. However, a standard USB cable, like the one that came with a hard drive, won't support rapid charging, even if connecting a rapid charge device to a high-output port. A standard USB cable will make the USB data connection and charge a rapid-chargeable device, but at a much lower current and over a much longer time.

  • Just FYI, a high-output charging port on a computer or power adapter won't fry a standard USB device if you use a standard USB cable to connect the device. The high port output is only available through handshaking, which doesn't take place with a standard cable. Also, while the port may be capable of delivering higher current, the device will draw only what it needs and has negotiated for.

  • Presence of a USB logo isn't a reliable way to know if the cable is totally compliant with the specs, or which specs it complies with.

So I would employ a modified version Ronald Reagan's strategy of "trust but verify." Just verify.

A more in-depth discussion of the "why" and "how" is pretty well covered by a couple of articles:

  • I am sorry, but this is not an answer that addresses the issue. This question is specifically about USB 3 Micro-B cables. And the answer is very simple: Yes, they are all the same… Unless it is a charging only cable which has the data lines removed. – Giacomo1968 Nov 26 '17 at 20:30
  • @JakeGould, I disagree and believe that you are incorrect. USB 3 Micro-B cables are not unique relative to the question. Also, the data lines are not the only possibility. I believe this answer does answer the question, as well as addressing the same issue for other connectors. – fixer1234 Nov 26 '17 at 20:54

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