Wednesday, October 14, 2015

USB Splitter Cables

USB Splitter Cables

There is a lot of misinformation out there about USB hubs and USB splitters in general.  I am going to try to help clear up the confusion.

Here are the two main questions I get
1.) How to hook up 2 computers to 1 printer with USB (as stated as the original question here).
As the previous poster said - you need a switchbox, not a hub (or also commonly referred to as a splitter).  There are 2 types of switches that you can use
   a.) Manual switch - with this, you have to manually switch the box in order to print from each computer.  It's cumbersome, but available.  Your computer will have to re-recognize the printer each time.  It's cheap, but available.  Just search for "USB manual switchbox" and you'll find tons of them for sale - they start at about $15/ea - shipped
   b.) Auto switch - a switch like this is highly recommended.  These switches will auto-sense a print job, switch it over to the computer that is printing.  I've used these several times and they generally work well.  The cheaper ones can be a little flaky - not sensing correctly and having to reset it, but the really expensive ones are really only necessary if you're doing this in a commercial/industrial setting; where it needs to work flawlessly.  There are differences between them, for sure.  For this item, simply search for "USB autoswitch" and you'll pull up a lot of results.  These start at around $18/shipped.

2.) The second question that I get is "do you have a USB splitter"... they don't want a hub, just a splitter.
First of all, in order to split USB, you have to use a hub.  It's a digital signal, which means that there is electronic data that is routed.. It's not like an analog system, like audio, or VGA, where a signal can flow to multiple devices.  For that, you need to use some type of hub.  The confusion is the references that are made.  A true USB splitter will split a single USB connection on a computer into multiple connections so that you can plug in multiple devices, like a keyboard and mouse, into a single port on your computer.  There are many out there, from Wal-mart to Best Buy, to Joe's Computer Shop down the street.
Here's a link to one that is offered at USBFireWire - it's a little higher end product (commercial quality).  It's only for this use - this won't work as a usb switchbox, and it won't work in the reverse (ie, in the above application).  It's solely meant for 2 devices, like a keyboard and mouse, into one port.

I hope this post is detailed and helpful.

**UPDATE and WARNING** I have also found a second type of USB splitter on the market.  It appears to be the same the original one designed by, but is instead wired direct.. however, only partially.  They claim that it can charge two devices, but only transfer data to one.  I thought, what the heck are they trying to do?  I found out that they have no 'hub' chip in the splitter, it's a simple straight wiring.  This can cause huge problems!  If your device negotiates a certain amount of power flow from one device, then output that to two devices, you could either be in for a slow charge (not a problem, just slow charging), but in a worst case scenario, your device could negotiate a higher charge rate (think fast-charge) and could overload your other device and blow your device if it were to receive more power than it can accept, or the cable you have plugged into the extension could burn the wiring if it's not made to carry that much power.  So, know what you're purchasing!


Stephane Brisson said...

Hi Rick,

interesting comment thanks.
I have a question about USB hub or switch or splitter for an application in industrial environnment.
I have a barcode reader connected in USB to a PC Station to read packages codes in a Logistic warehouse. I need to capture the codes read in parallel from PC station to send them in another server for a 6 months tracking + link to another application.
It means that everytime the barcode reader will read a code, it sould be sent at the same time to 2 others devices connected in USB : PC Station + USB/IP converter.
Do you think this is possible to realize ? what do you suggest please ? using a hub or a switch ? we are in USB 2.0 with Symbol LS3578 reader
many thanks
Stef from Geneva

Rick Wessley said...

Hi Stef,
you have a great question. Let me re-state it. You want to connect 1 device (a barcode reader) and have it output information to 2 hosts (2 computers).

I have seen a patent that has been made for this, I do not find any actual product that was made from this patent, though.

Unfortunately, I have not seen anything on the market from this patent (or anything else) that will allow this, though. There are things that allow multiple devices to multiple hosts, but do not appear to do this in a concurrent manner, as you've suggested, such as the USB Anywhere product from Digi.

When we need to get things into multiple locations, similar to what you've said - such as for shipment tracking numbers, we use products that auto-transfer data. Such as an FTP program that will 'watch' folder for new files or updated files and transfer every so often (I think the program we used was called "Folder FTP", or data synchronization products (We've used Opensync from synergration).

I hope that helps.

MOSES said...