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Ports Ahoy: Upgrading System Inputs

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This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • What ports can you add?

  • Buying a port expansion card

  • Adding a new port card

  • Adding an external USB hub

  • Adding ports to a portable PC

Here is an indisputable reason to upgrade your computer system: you buy a new peripheral, and have no free ports to connect it to. It happens, and it happens a lot. Let's say you want to add a second printer to your system (like a color photo printer; they're quite popular these days). Most printers only come with a single parallel port, to which you probably have your existing printer connected. So when you go to plug in your new printer, you're out of luck.

The answer, of course, is to add a second parallel port to your system. (Another solution is to buy a USB printer and connect to a free USB port; let's not ignore easy fixes!)

Or maybe you've become enamored of USB devices, and completely filled all of your system's USB connections. Buy one more USB-compatible peripheral, and then what do you do? Here you have a choice; you can increase the number of connections available by adding an external USB hub, or you can add an extra USB card to your system.

Here's another one. You want to connect your new digital video camcorder to your PC to edit your home movies. But your camcorder connects via FireWire, and your PC doesn't have a FireWire connector. The solution? Add a FireWire port to your system unit.

This chapter shows you how to add extra ports to your computer system. Some of these upgrades are external (like the USB hub) and some require opening up your PC's case. Fortunately, they're all relatively easy procedures.

What Ports Can You Add?

Let's do a quick rundown on the types of ports you can add to your computer system:

  • Parallel ports are used primarily for connecting printers to your system

  • Serial ports are used to connect some types of mice, keyboards, and printers, as well as PDAs, PC cameras, and other assorted peripherals

  • USB ports are used to connect just about any type of peripheral; peripherals conforming to the new USB 2.0 standard run much faster than the existing 1.1 devices

  • FireWire (IEEE 1394) ports are used to connect fast digital devices, such as digital video recorders and digital still cameras

  • SCSI ports are used to connect fast external hard drives


To install a USB 1.1 port on your system, your computer must be running Windows 98 or later. To install a USB 2.0 port, your computer must be running Windows XP with Service Pack 1 installed. To install a FireWire port, your computer must be running Windows 98 or later.

Most computers today come with a single parallel port, one or two serial ports, a FireWire port, and anywhere from a couple to a half-dozen USB ports. As you can see, if you add enough new devices to your system, you easily run out of available connectors.

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