I have several older PCMCIA cards I use on my desktop for data acquisition (Vector Informatik, in the automotive industry). For some tests in a climate chamber we normally use laptops, but the more modern laptops do not come with PCMCIA slots, not even as an option.
Is it at all possible to have an external "drive" offering a PCMCIA slot, connected to my laptop by USB? I'm not talking about memory cards, I found those solutions on several websites, but a connection of a PCMCIA slot using a USB cable is apparently a rare request. Any pointers are appreciated, as is a description why this isn't possible or feasible.

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3 Answers 3


Is it at all possible to have an external "drive" offering a PCMCIA slot, connected to my laptop by USB?

No. It is flatly not possible.

A PCMCIA slot - rather a CardBus slot in more recent laptops, although CardBus slots will take PCMCIA cards - is basically a PCI slot in compact, hot-pluggable form. You can have a USB controller that's a PCMCIA device (i.e. plugs into a PCMCIA slot), but you can't implement a PCMCIA slot with a USB device. (PCMCIA is older, and it's actually ISA-like rather than PCI, but the same principles apply.)

A device plugged into a CardBus slot has direct access (via DMA) to the host's RAM. And CardBus devices can be directly addressed as "memory" in the address space of the host CPU. (This is not at all the same thing as a "USB memory" stick; or an SD card, or the like; the "memory" in such devices does not appear in the host CPU's physical address space.)

These capabilities cannot be implemented in a USB device (i.e. a device plugged into a USB port). USB doesn't have any way for devices to do those things. Those concepts just don't exist on USB. There's not even any way in the USB protocol to ask for them. It would be like trying to use a can opener to wash the dog.

As you've noted, these slots are now obsolete, along with PCI. With PCI Express (PCIe) we have a new external slot called ExpressCard. What you need to do is find an ExpressCard equivalent for the PCMCIA (or maybe CardBus) card you used to use, and buy a laptop with an ExpressCard slot.

Either that, or buy old laptops on eBay or similar and keep using your existing cards.

  • 1
    having explained all that, one can buy a PCMCIA/PCExpress: google.com/…
    – Daniel
    Feb 27, 2015 at 23:20
  • Good find. Strongly tempted to buy one myself, just to test a few old cards in it! So the OP could plug one of these into an ExpressCard slot (assuming their laptops have those) and plug the existing PCMCIA (or CardBus?) card into that. Adapters can often be "iffy", but there's a decent chance of it working. Feb 28, 2015 at 2:48
  • Decent chance. I found data storage cards worked fine, but 802.11 device cards worked not at all while Ethernet cards worked a bit better - some brands did, others didn't.
    – Daniel
    Mar 3, 2015 at 16:54

Another solution is a little klunky.

Use a USB to PCI-Express adapter and then use this to hook up a PCI-Express to PCMCIA adatper.



How can I connect a PC Card (PCMCIA) to a newer laptop?

It wouldn't surprise me at all if there isn't a company out there creating an adapter of the type you want straight up if you do enough research and even though others state that:

It is not possible to make a generic PCMCIA drive (slot) with a USB interface to a host computer that would fully comply with the PCMCIA standard. This is because the PCMCIA standard gives much greater access between the CPU and the peripheral device than what USB can give.



try this Express card (26pin) to cardbus(68pin) adapter, some modern laptops o bussines laptops do carry the PCMCIA 26 pin Express Card bus https://www.amazon.com/StarTech-com-ExpressCard-CardBus-Adapter-CB2EC/dp/B000ZLPR1G

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