Can my desktop computer be upgraded to USB 3.0?

If you have a desktop computer it will contain what are known as expansion slots, these are used to upgrade your computer with new components.

PCI slots inside a computer
PCI slots inside a computer

The expansion slots vary in size and are called Peripheral Component Interfaces. PCI slots provide smaller transfer speeds and are more common in older computers.

Newer computers come equipped with PCI Express (PCIe) slots which allow very fast data transfers.

Depending on the size of your computers you may have 2 available slots or as much as over 4 slots on bigger desktop machines.

There are 2 ways to find out which slots you may have in your computer:

  • The computers manual (either the paper one that came with the pc or the online version)
  • By opening your computer’s case and checking the slots (see below)

 

Open your computer case and check your motherboard to see which slots are available:

 

Different PCI Slots
Different sizes of PCIe slots compared to a PCI slot

Inserting a USB 3.0 card into one of these slots will upgrade your computer to USB 3.0.

There are variations in these slots, but all cards will fit into one of these slots. Older computers only support PCI cards but newer ones support PCIe cards.

Most cards are PCIe 1x cards and use one channel on the computers bus. This means that all ports on the card share one highway on the computers bus and share bandwith. So speeds reduce when more than one USB device is plugged in simultaneously.

If you are looking for dedicated bandwith, the startech 2 port PCIe card uses x2 lanes on the computers bus and is able to provide up to 5Gbps per USB 3.0 port. Excellent for transferring data between 2 devices simultaneously.

There is also a x4 lane version that offers 5Gbps at the same time for 4 ports – amazing performance, especially for servers.