USB Communication: Basics and Best Practices

USB Communication

One word that has been ruling the world of electronics for many years now is “USB.” Be it mobile phones, computers, and even televisions, our lives are incomplete without USB these days. This is because this electronic component performs one of the key tasks in this tech-driven world: communication between electronic devices. 

So, how does USB communication work? What are its different protocols? What practices are best when it comes to designing reliable USB-based systems? More importantly, where can I get good-quality USB C connectors? This article will answer these questions in detail. 

Let’s begin!

What is a USB?

USB, which stands for “Universal Serial Bus,” is a tool used mainly to connect devices. It is most commonly used to link peripheral devices like mice or keyboards with computers. Before the advent of USB, computers usually had serial connections, mouse and keyboard connectors, and a parallel port. Some PCs also had a joystick port.

As peripheral devices increased over the years, the number of connection ports in computers also increased because, initially, each device had a port of its own construction. To avoid different connection ports and introduce a universal system of connectivity between peripheral devices and computers, the USB standard was created in the mid-1990s. 

This made two things simple for the companies: a standard connectivity method for devices and higher speed. The data transfer speed got higher and higher with the introduction of upgrades to the USB standard, like USB C connectors being the latest and fastest these days.

Fundamentals of USB Communication

Every computer has a network of cables that transfers data between internal components as well as between external devices and the computer. The need for a standardized method of connecting devices with computers led to the invention of USB. 

As soon as a peripheral device is attached, a computer or a host machine automatically detects the external device and installs the relevant driver to enable the functioning of the peripheral device. 

All important information is exchanged through data transfer between the two connected devices. This data transfer by USB is done in small quantities called “packets.” The fundamentals of communication through USB can be broken down as follows. 

Bulk Data Transfer 

USB is typically used to transfer large amounts of data when devices like printers and scanners are connected to computers. This connection is usually low-priority and not time-sensitive, either. A delay may occur if multiple USB devices are attached to the host machine. 

Small Data Transfer 

Small packets of data are transferred in the case of critical device connections like mice or keyboards. The peripheral devices generate a request for the host to let them know about the data it will require from them. The USB also informs you if the status of the connected device changes.

Controlled Data Transfer 

Controlled data transfers happen when USB devices are to be set up or managed. Data transmission occurs after the peripheral device receives a request from the host. Controlled data transfers are usually done for status checks. Knowing that only one control request can be processed at a time is important. 

Real-time Data Transfer 

This type of data transfer is mostly used for audio and video devices. The main advantage of real-time data transfer is uninterrupted transmission. Even if errors occur, the transmission does not stop for packet resubmission. However, controlled data transfer includes instances in which data accuracy is unimportant. 

Protocol of USB Communication

Understanding the USB communications protocol is crucial when designing a USB-based system. A USB protocol is a common interface that allows communication between different peripheral devices and the host device, such as laptops or smartphones.

The architecture of a USB Protocol 

As far as the architecture of the USB is concerned, the input/output (I/O) USB devices connected to a computer are structured like a tree. This means that each peripheral device marks a point-to-point connection for data transfer. 

Working of a USB Protocol 

The polling principle is used in the workings of a USB protocol. In polling, the processor continuously verifies whether the I/O device is prepared to transmit data or not. Hence, there is no need for the I/O devices to update the processor about their status because the processor has to perform on a continuous basis. 

Power Considerations for USB-based Systems

Power considerations are a must when you buy electronic components online. It is also important when designing a USB-based system. This is because the dynamics of power output and data rates have significantly changed with changes in USB standards. For example, the power output and data rates of USB 2.0 are different from those of USB 3.0 or USB 3.2.

Similarly, USB 1.1 was compatible with devices like mice and keyboards, whereas USB 2.0 made using flash drives possible. Power output and data rates are correlated. The power output increased as newer standards for USBs were introduced with faster data rates. For example, in the case of USB 3.0, the data rate has increased tenfold, and the power output has doubled. 


The world we live in today is fast, and one electronic component that should be credited for this technological advancement is USB. The manufacturer of electronic parts introduced a standardized connection mechanism in the mid-1990s to prevent differences in ports and connection methods for electronic devices. 

USB quickly transfers data between the peripheral devices and the host machine, mostly a computer or mobile phone, to ensure fast connectivity. USB C connectors are the latest addition to USB technology and have the fastest data transfer rate. However, people often get confused about where to buy electronic components online. 

Choose Partstack!

Partstack is the most reliable marketplace for selling and purchasing electronic parts. Therefore, whether you are looking for capacitors or resistors, diodes or semiconductors, or USB C connectors, partstack is your go-to place.

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