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Can I add USB ports to my older system?

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on October 18, 1999

Question

I have a Micron Millennia Pentium II computer that I purchased last January. Since then USB ports have come out. Can my system be upgraded to the new ports?

-Jim

Answer

This question was answered on October 18, 1999. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.


USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports are a new way to connect peripherals, such as printers and scanners, to your computer USB was born out of the need to connect more than a couple of items to your computer In the past (Pentium, 486, 386, etc.) systems could only have 1 parallel and 2 serial devices attached as a standard This meant you could have a mouse, a modem and a parallel printer and that was it Along came scanners, digital cameras and the need for more than one printer just a name a few options that caused “port cram” Your options in the past were to add another port (if it was even possible) or decide not to use one of the peripherals The USB standard is capable of supporting over 100 external devices that can be daisy chained together and is “hot swappable” This means you can connect and disconnect devices without having to turn off your computer first

In order to be able to use this new standard your computer must have the USB ports and Windows 98 or a special version of Windows 95 (OSR 2.1 or 2.5) Most every Pentium II based system used the ATX form factor motherboard, which included the USB ports According to Micron’s specifications for the Millennia motherboard you should have the USB ports on the back of your computer Look next to the keyboard and mouse ports for the little square ports (see image – insert usb.jpg) If you find that you do not have the ports or if you have an older Pentium or 486 that is running Windows 98 you can install a USB Bus Card that has two USB ports on a PCI card You can find them for $35-$45 from your favorite on-line or “brick and mortar” computer retailer The software or “drivers” necessary to activate these cards is included in Windows 98 It generally takes less than 15 minutes from start to finish on any “plug and play” compliant system to install and configure these cards Most systems and cards come with 2 ports that can be expanded by connecting an external hub These hubs will generally turn one port into 4 or 8 ports and can be connected to one another to expand even further

If you have Windows 95 that was installed by Micron, you may have the necessary drivers to activate the ports You should contact them to determine if you have the right version and what the steps are to activate them Based on my own experience, however, and from the multiple postings addressing USB problems in Windows 95 on the Microsoft Support web site, I would recommend upgrading to Windows 98 if you plan to use USB In addition, some manufacturers may not support their USB devices unless you are running Windows 98 Be sure to check the system requirements on the box before buying any new USB devices if you plan to stay with Windows 95.

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on October 18, 1999

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