What are the options to add one or more USB 3.0 port to a laptop? The only way I seen so far are USB 3 expresscard adapters but all of these adapters stick out quite a lot from the laptop and have power/bandwidth limitations.

Update: after some more research I found there are smaller 1 port (PhotoFast GM3000EX ExpressCard) that do not stick out of the laptop at all after plugging in. Looks like these are not available in US yet but I'm sure it's coming soon.

  • The reason for that is that USB3 sort of needs a lot of power and bandwidth...certainly make sure your next laptop has USB3 built-in. :) – Shinrai Feb 4 '11 at 16:14
  • There is no way to add one and make it look nice and neat like the factory ports without heavy duty hardware hacking. – Moab Feb 4 '11 at 16:21
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    For a microsecond, my brain asked itself 'I wonder if you can get a USB adaptor for this', before sanity kicked back in. – Linker3000 Feb 4 '11 at 22:17
  • I recently added two USB3 ports to an old T400. It works well enough for flash drives. The card also came with a power cable to supplement power from one of the builtin USB2 ports in case you want to use a rotational external hard drive, but I haven't tried that yet. – Sinan Ünür Jan 12 '17 at 20:26

There are only so many slots available on a laptop and the only one which can to some degree take on the task of providing USB 3 functionality is the ExpressCard slot.

When new technologies surface and we attempt to retrofit that functionality within older form factors there will always be trade offs.


Well for those of you interested, I play around with the odd laptop and have managed to install a Mini PCI Express USB 3.0 card where my WLAN card used to be, in a Compaq CQ60 Laptop. I removed the DVD burner and replaced with a slimline SATA HDD caddy and hacked the side of the slimline case to mount the two USB 3.0 ports.

It works fine for fast USB 3.0 sticks and 2.5" cases provided you use an SSD. Mech drives don't work. I think the problem is supplying 5 volts to the USB 3.0 connectors. At first I thought I'd get the power from the mini SATA port because it supplies 3 V, 5 V and 12 V. But when I checked the voltages with a meter, they are all 0 volts. I think the BIOS only supplies power if it finds a connected device. If I could route 5 V from the motherboard then I'm certain it would work for all USB 3.0 devices.

Here is the card I shoehorned in: http://intrl.startech.com/Cards-Adapters/USB-3.0/Cards/2-Port-Mini-PCI-Express-SuperSpeed-USB-3-Card-Adapter~MPEXUSB3S2

  • Doesn't the 20-pin connector stick up and foul the inside of the laptop case? If so, did you have to use a 90-degree adapter or something to avoid that problem? – sampablokuper Apr 12 '16 at 6:36
  • Right... These are supposed to use with desktops. Socket for connecting cable is standard pin array. Should be possible to create custom cable. But the problem might be to put USB outlet somewhere in laptop case. – PeterM Aug 28 '17 at 14:18

If you have an empty Mini-PCI-E slot, you could try this: http://www.globalamericaninc.com/1507880.html

It's a Mini-PCI-E card with two USB 3.0 ports.

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    And then you route the internal connector...where? You're gonna drill a hole and mount a USB3 port in the chassis of your machine? (Not being sarcastic, I'm really curious what on earth you'd do with this thing) – Shinrai Feb 4 '11 at 16:17
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    Looking at the wiring kit, i appears it is not for a laptop application....globalamericaninc.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/… – Moab Feb 4 '11 at 16:18
  • It's not pretty, I know. I know a few that used kits like those and replaced their USB 2.0 with the 3.0 plug. Hacking is required but it gets the job done if Express Card Slot is not available. – ngen Feb 4 '11 at 16:38
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    @Shinrai yes, you clip an older port or hack a USB extension cable and mount it to a hole you cut in the plastic case of your laptop. Surprisingly, there's usually quite a bit of room either near the speakers or the palm rests. – OCDtech Feb 25 '13 at 21:07

As @aaron says, the Express Card slot is the best bet This card works well. StarTech USB3

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