Belkin USB 2.0 Upgrade Kit
By Joel Shore
goodness for the Universal Serial Bus. When it came on the scene a few
years ago, USB freed us from limiting our computers to one parallel
and two serial ports. With USB, you can connect up to 127 devices,
including printers, mice, keyboards, CD burners, disk drives, media
readers, and lots more.
As good as USB is, it just got better, 40 times better, in fact.
That’s because a new version of USB, called USB 2.0 or Hi-Speed USB,
is finally here. Devices designed for USB 2.0 run a whole lot faster.
You won’t notice any difference with a USB keyboard (can you type 40
times faster? Doubtful.), but you can
expect a USB 2.0 CD-RW drive to burn discs about six times faster than
Of course, you’ll need to upgrade your computer to USB 2.0. Alas, it’s
not merely a case of installing some new software. You need to install
a USB upgrade card, complete with new USB ports.
unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the USB ports built into your
PC. That’s a shame, since my desktop system has four built-in-ports,
two on the back and two under a flip-up panel on the front. Several companies are
now making desktop USB upgrade kits. And if you have a notebook
computer, you’re not out of luck. You can get a USB upgrade kits that slides into the PC Card slot.
Belkin is one of those companies that offers loads of useful computing
gizmos. In addition to wireless networking gear, they’ve jumped into
USB in a big way.
The USB 2.0 Upgrade Kit we checked out is a value combination of two
products. There’s the actual upgrade card, which installs inside your
PC, giving you two rear-panel USB 2.0 ports. Since two ports just
aren’t enough, Belkin includes its four-port USB 2.0 hub. An included
gold-tipped cable connects the hub to either port on the upgrade card.
Simple Set-Up. Installation under Windows XP could not be
easier. First, open your computer. If that thought scares you, then
ask your kid to do it. Once open, locate an empty expansion slot.
Remove the metal plate covering the opening on the rear panel. Ease
the circuit board into the slot and push it all the way in. Secure the
metal bracket (some computers use a screw, others have a retaining bar
of some sort). Then close up the computer and turn it on.
Windows XP does the rest. It discovers the card and
load all the appropriate software to make it work—all
automatically. You may see the
progress messages twice; that’s because the card contains two
controllers, one for each port. Software drivers must be installed for each.
You’re ready to go. Plug in your USB devices and they should work
perfectly. Need more ports? Plug the Belkin USB hub into either port
with the cable and you’ll have more ports. Need a whole bunch of
ports? Just keep adding hubs.
What? It’s Not Faster? Here’s the kicker. If the devices you
plug into you brand new Belkin USB 2.0 controller are not themselves
built to the USB 2.0 standard, they won’t run any faster. They’ll still
work perfectly, but only at the speed at which they were designed. If you
want full-blown USB 2.0 speed, you need to get USB 2.0 devices.
The Belkin USB 2.0 Upgrade Kit is a great value that lays a foundation
for the fast devices you’ll probably be buying—next