What Is USB 3.0?

What you need to know about the standard's details, meaning, and connector types

In This Article

Jump to a Section

USB 3.0 is a Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard, released in November 2008. Most new computers and devices being manufactured today support this standard, which is often referred to as SuperSpeed USB.

Devices that adhere to this USB standard can theoretically transmit data at a maximum rate of 5 Gbps (5,120 Mbps), but the specification considers 3,200 Mbps more reasonable in everyday use. This is in stark contrast to previous USB standards like USB 2.0 that, at best, can transfer at 480 Mbps, or USB 1.1 that tops out at 12 Mbps.

Older USB devices, cables, and adapters might be physically compatible with USB 3.0 hardware, but if you need the fastest possible data transmission rate, all devices must support it.

USB 3.2 is an updated version of USB 3.1 (SuperSpeed+), though USB4 is the latest standard. USB 3.2 increases this theoretical maximum speed to 20 Gbps (20,480 Mbps), while USB 3.1 comes in at a maximum speed of 10 Gbps (10,240 Mbps).

USB 3.0, USB 3.1, and USB 3.2 are the "old" names for these standards. Their official names are USB 3.2 Gen 1, USB 3.2 Gen 2, and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, respectively.


What is USB 3.0?

USB 3.0 Connectors

The male connector on a USB 3.0 cable or flash drive is called the plug. The female connector on the computer port, extension cable, or device is called the receptacle.

Photo of a USB 3.0 Type A to Micro-B Cable
USB 3.0 Cable (Type A to Micro-B). Cable Matters
  • USB Type-A: These connectors, officially referred to as USB 3.0 Standard-A, are the simple rectangular type of USB connectors, like the plug at the end of a flash drive. USB 3.0 Type-A plugs and receptacles are physically compatible with those from USB 2.0 and USB 1.1.
  • USB Type-B: These connectors, officially referred to as USB 3.0 Standard-B and USB 3.0 Powered-B, are square with a large notch on top and are usually found on printers and other large devices. USB 3.0 Type-B plugs are not compatible with Type-B receptacles from older USB standards, but plugs from those older standards are compatible with USB 3.0 Type-B receptacles.
  • USB Micro-A: USB 3.0 Micro-A connectors are rectangular, "two-part" plugs and are found on many smartphones and similar portable devices. USB 3.0 Micro-A plugs are only compatible with USB 3.0 Micro-AB receptacles, but older USB 2.0 Micro-A plugs will work in USB 3.0 Micro-AB receptacles.
  • USB Micro-B: USB 3.0 Micro-B connectors look very similar to their Micro-A counterparts and are found on similar devices. USB 3.0 Micro-B plugs are compatible with USB 3.0 Micro-B receptacles and USB 3.0 Micro-AB receptacles only. Older USB 2.0 Micro B plugs are also physically compatible with both USB 3.0 Micro-B and USB 3.0 Micro-AB receptacles.

The USB 2.0 specification includes USB Mini-A and USB Mini-B plugs, as well as USB Mini-B and USB Mini-AB receptacles, but USB 3.0 doesn't support these connectors. If you encounter these connectors, they must be USB 2.0 connectors.

Not sure if a device, cable, or port is USB 3.0? A good indication of compliance is when the plastic surrounding the plug or receptacle is the color blue. While it's not required, the USB 3.0 specification recommends the color blue to distinguish cables from those designed for USB 2.0.

You can view a USB physical compatibility chart for a one-page reference for what-fits-with-what.

Extra! A Few More Facts About USB 3.0

The first Microsoft operating system to include built-in support for this USB standard was Windows 8. The Linux kernel has had supported since 2009, starting with version 2.6.31. See Does My Computer Support USB 3.0? if you're on a Mac.

Japanese computer peripheral company Buffalo Technology was the first to ship USB 3.0 products to consumers in 2009.

There isn't a maximum cable length defined by the USB 3.0 specification, but 10 feet is the upper limit usually implemented.

You can install USB 3.0 drivers in Windows if they've become corrupted and your devices are no longer working properly.

  • What is a USB-C port?

    USB-C ports are for USB-C connectors. They are small and thin and have an oval appearance. USB-C supports USB4, 3.2, and 3.1. It is also backward compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.

  • How do I clean a USB port?

    If you see something stuck inside the USB port, shut down your computer and gently remove the obstruction with a thin plastic or wooden tool like a toothpick. You can also use canned air to clean out a USB port. Just be careful not to shove the obstruction further in.

Was this page helpful?