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I had to move my motherboard to a tower case. The case does not have USB ports on the front with wiring, as the desktop case did. The motherboard has numerous 3.0 and 2.0 ports. All I have to do is connect wires. I found many USB mounting brackets to go in a drive bay, but they were all hubs. I don't want a hub. I want to wire out the USB ports from the motherboard directly.

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Most tower cases are provisioned for a bunch of expansion slots. If you aren't using them all, you can get slot covers with USB ports and cabling with USB header connectors. There are also drive bay covers with similar USB connections. Here's an Amazon link to a range of examples that involve direct connection to the motherboard.

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  • Using the word "header" in my search did the trick. With many bays available I got two, one with mic and headphone jacks, Nice! – subjectivist Apr 8 '18 at 22:01
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Wiring USB ports "directly" carries certain risks, especially for USB 3.x connections. The thing is that USB 3.x channels are fairly sensitive to signal attenuation and deterioration along the longer cables. The no-hub headers are essentially passive extenders, and usually degrade signal quality quite significantly, up to the point that certain percentage of devices that were run successfully from backside ports might behave flaky or fail to connect in the front-panel extender.

Please keep in mind than when a reputable OEM manufacturer uses passive cables to front panel in their computers, it may use two different controller drivers, one for back-ports, and another for front ports. Signal parameters in USB 3.0 PHYs usually can be tweaked at hardware level to provide different amplitude and pre-emphasis levels, so the extra cable loss can be well compensated, providing nearly perfect signal in accord with USB requirements. And receiver parameters (continuous time linear equalizer, CTLE) can be tweaked as well. So the differently-placed ports can have different PHY setups using two different drivers, and OEM has resources tweak drivers and BUIS/UEFI frimware to meet USB signal quality standards. When you make your own cables, you don't have a luxury of this adjustment.

Therefore, it is much safer to get an active front-panel with embedded hub than use a questionable quality extender.

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  • This is excellent info. However, if a hub is installed in the drive bay as you propose, it must still be connected somewhere: either a USB plug, or a motherboard connector. Each of these uses a cable, inducing the same problem you cite. A direct connection bypasses hub circuitry and slowness from that. What a hub does provide is more power since power is taken from the power supply through an an auxiliary power plug, and less risk to the motherboard from overload. – subjectivist Apr 10 '18 at 13:04
  • @subjectivist, no, the problem is not the same. With passive front panel you should expect short USB flash drives kind-of work okay, but anything with extra cable (HDD enclosures, HD webcams, whatever) will likely have problems. The embedded front-panel hub will use a single short internal cable, with likely no issues. Internal hub repeaters/buffers will restore all signals right at the front receptacles to USB standard. And there is no "slowness" from USB hubs, only benefits from re-timing/signal re-conditioning. – Ale..chenski Apr 10 '18 at 16:59

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