- Check your laptop
1.1 What is the difference between USB-C and USB-A
- Confirm the comparability from the description of a hub or docking station
2.1 How to check your laptop model
- What is a full-function USB-C port
3.1 How to check whether your laptop USB-C port is a full-function USB-C port
- How to choose a hub according to your need
4.1 What is the difference between a hub and a docking station
4.2 What is USB standard
4.2.1 How to distinguish USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port on your hub or dock
- Problems you may encounter while you are using a hub or dock
5.1 Do you need a driver to use a hub or a docking station?
5.2 USB hub is overheat
5.3 Charge through a USB-C hub or docking station
5.4 USB hub conflict with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signal
5.5 Power surge on the USB port
5.6 After the macOS upgrade, the hub does not function normally.
Check your laptop
The first thing you should do is to check the ports on your laptop so that you could purchase the right USB hub you could use on your laptop. Their names and shapes are shown as below:
USB-A (also called USB Type-A) ports are commonly called USB, USB 2.0, or USB 3.0 ports, depending on the USB specification they support. The appearance is rectangular, and they aren't reversible, so USB-A connector plugs into the port only when oriented correctly.
USB-C (Thunderbolt3/4) Port
USB-C (also called USB Type-C) ports are available on the latest laptops and MacBooks, commonly called USB-C ports, Thunderbolt 3/4 ports, USB4 ports. The appearance is similar to an oval, and the connector plugs into the port in either orientation.
On January 7, 2013, the USB3.0 promotion organization announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in the United States that the first batch of devices with a transmission rate of 10GB/s will be available in 2014. The USB interface of such products adopts the USB3.1 standard--namely USB Type-c interface.
Apple first introduced the USB-C MacBook in 2015. The entire MacBook has only one USB port, and it is USB-C. After Apple's MacBook no longer supports USB-A ports, the ports you see on MacBooks after 2016 will only have USB-C ports. Then, other manufacturers keeping pace with Apple have introduced many laptops that come with USB-C. Today, the USB-C port is the most popular port on laptops.
Mini DisplayPort (Thunderbolt/Thunderbolt2 Port)
Mini DisplayPort, also called Mini DP is a miniature version of DisplayPort. Published by Apple on October 14, 2008 (which is dying out now). It is used in MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro notebook computers. It is also applied to a 24-inch LED Cinema Display. Which now is outmoded.
USB-A and USB-C ports are the most common ports. You could find them basically on every laptop. And both the USB-A hub and USB-C hub can be found easily in the market. But the USB-C hub is much more common. (Mini DisplayPort are rare, but you could still find some Mini DP hubs)
What is the difference between USB-C and USB-A?
Why USB-C hub is much common, and USB-C hub supports more functions and expansion than USB-A hub? What is their difference?
To know the reason, you need to understand the difference between USB-C and USB-A.
USB-C port is commonly considered an upgrade of USB-A port, and people often only notice that its appearance is changed, but the truth is its internal structure has also been redesigned.
With the redesign of the internal structure, the USB-C port can do much more than a USB-A port. For example, a full-function USB-C port (will be explained later) supports:
- Higher Expand-ability(One USB-C port can be extended to multiple ports)
- Support Power Delivery(You could charge your device through a USB-C port)
- Higher Power(Support up to 100W power Delivery)
- High-resolution video output(resolution depends on the specification of the port)
That’s why there is no USB-A docking station, and the USB-A hub rarely supports video output. With these abilities and laptop manufacturers’ favor, the USB-C port will definitely replace all USB-A ports in the future.
Confirm the comparability from the description of a hub or docking station
The description usually contains the model of compatible laptops. If your laptop model has been mention as a compatible, you could purchase the product without any doubt.
How to check your computer model?
Suppose you are using MacBook, congratulations! You can easily find whether a USB hub or docking station is compatible with your device because most of the description of the product page will show the exact type of apple’s MacBook.And commonly, all USB-C hub or docking station will support MacBook with a USB-C port. See their list here:
If you are not sure about your MacBook model, you could check it easily following the steps here:
Check the nameplate on the back of your laptop, and then you should find the model type.
If you do not find your computer type on the hub or dock’s, you may need to check it yourself or ask the customer service for help. Generally, a hub or docking station will support your laptop if the USB-C port on your laptop is a full-function USB-C port.
What is a full-function USB-C port?
A full-function USB-C port means a USB-C port that supports both videos, and data transmission and can be used to charge your laptop through it.
For example, a full-function USB-C port supports:
- Power Delivery(You could charge your device through a USB-C port)
- Higher Power(Support up to 100W power Delivery)
- High-resolution video output(Resolution depends on the specification of the port)
- Higher transmission speed(At least 5Gbps)
Although USB-C is powerful in the early time when it was first being introduced, only some manufacturers like Apple put a full-function USB-C port on their products. Many manufacturers like HP and Dell castrated some of the USB-C port functions in the early years(2015-2019). For example, many laptop HP introduced in 2016-2018 do not support video output because the laptop has an HDMI port itself, making those laptops not output video signal through USB-C hub. And some laptops’ USB-C port does not support charging.
If you want to purchase a hub with multiple functions like charging and video output, make sure your laptop USB-C port is a full-function USB-C port.
How to check whether your laptop USB-C port is a full-function USB-C port
- A laptop USB-C port that marks as Thunderbolt 3/4 means it is a full-function USB-C port. (For example, apple’s mac and MacBook, Dell XPS series, etc.) Thunderbolt 3/4 shows that the port is a high-quality USB-C port. Learn more at thunderbolt website: Thunderbolt official website.
- Laptop USB-C port marks as USB4 port means it is full-function USB-C port(Apple’s M1 MacBook) Learn more at USB-IF website: USB4 official website.
- USB-C that marks it supports power delivery, video output, and data transmit.
For example, the following computer USB-C port does not support either video output or charging, so it is not a full-function USB-C port. When you connect a hub with HDMI, PD port, they will not have any use.
You could check this description from your laptop manual or on the manufacturers’ website.
If your laptop USB-C port is a full-function USB-C port, theoretically, you could use all USB-C hub in the market, except the USB-C hubs notes it does not support your laptop model. (If you are not sure, contact customer support)
How to choose a hub according to your need
Think about your need first and choose the ports you need on the hub.
Ports and their functions:
Port: HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA (VGA is for older display or projector; HDMI is the universal port; DisplayPort is the highest standard port but lesser devices support)
Resolution: 8K, 5K, 4K, 2K,1080p (Output resolution is also limited by your laptop)
Refreshing rate: 30Hz/60Hz (Output refreshing rate is also limited by your laptop and the screens you choose to display simultaneously)
Port: Power Delivery(USB-C)
Data transmission: Some are Charge only; others may also support data transmit
USB3.0/ USB2.0/ USB-C Data port
SD card reader:
SD card/ Micro SD card(also called TF card)/ CF card
AUX: 3.5mm port (Mic/ Audio)
Ethernet: RJ45 port
Normally a hub with lesser functions and ports will have lesser compatible problems. Also, its price is much lower.
What is the difference between a Hub and a docking station?
Cheaper, portable, and easy to carry, but functions are not as strong as a docking station. Its compact design led to worse heat dissipation and higher working temperature. Suitable for business trips and light use, not suitable for professional users.
High in price, big in size, and not easy to carry, but with more powerful functions and better heat dissipation. Suitable for professional users. (Some docking stations not as big as you think)
What is USB standard?
Simply speaking, USB Standard represents the speed and functions of a USB port.
USB-IF is a non-profit corporation founded by the group of companies that developed the Universal Serial Bus specification. The USB-IF was formed to provide a support organization and forum for the advancement and adoption of Universal Serial Bus technology. Simply speaking, USB-IF set USB port standard, and the common USB standard is shown as below:
All in all, USB-C is better than USB-A because it has much more functions, but USB-A has better compatibility. The higher the USB standard number, the faster the USB port transmission speed.
How to distinguish USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports on your hub or dock?
Usually, a blue USB-A port is a USB 3.0 port that supports 5Gbps data transport speed. And a white or black USB-A port is a USB 2.0 port, which only provides up to 480Mbps data transport speed.
Problems you may encounter while you are using a hub or dock.
Do you need a driver to use a hub or a docking station?
You should confirm whether your hub or docking station needs a driver or not before purchasing it, you could check it on the product description.
With the USB hubs industry’s development, today’s plug & use USB hub is becoming more and more common.
If a docking station contains a DisplayLink chip inside, it usually needs a driver to use.
If the description of a hub marks, it does not need a driver or does not mention it needs a driver, that usually means you do not need a driver to use it.
USB hub overheat
A USB hub’s normal functioning temperature is between 38 and 48 degrees Celsius or 100 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Under normal circumstances, the converter’s temperature will remain in this range after a period of use. If the temperature continues to rise after a period of time, the USB hub may have some problems.
When you start to use it to transport massive data, a hub’s temperature will rise rapidly, but it will cool after you finish the transmission. If a USB hub’s temperature is too high, please connect lesser devices to it at the same time or let it cool down for a second. Also, remember to put it away from your laptop vent.
A bigger hub or a docking station usually will have better heat dissipation.
Charge through a USB-C hub or docking station
If your hub or docking station has a PD(Power Delivery) port, especially a 100w PD, and also contains many other ports, that means you’d better connect the charging wire through the PD port on the hub or dock, not directly to the laptop. This because your hub or dock needs a lot of power to function, and it needs the power directly for your charger. Today, all laptops have a strict power consumption control. If you do not power your laptop through the hub or dock, they could not get sufficient power to function normally, and situations like disconnection may occur. The hub or dock will also draw a lot of power from your laptop, and you may receive a warning from your laptop that your USB port is consuming too much power.
When you charge your laptop through the PD port on the hub or dock, they will withhold 8w-15w from your charger. For example, you have a 100W charger and a wire that support 100W. If you connect it directly to your laptop, your laptop will get 100W power support, but if you connect it to your hub and dock PD port and then connect it to your laptop, your laptop will only get 85w-90w power support. Usually, it won’t have any effect, but you will sometimes get a warning from your laptop that your laptop is not charged with enough power.
Power delivery only supports up to 100W. Some laptops support higher than the standard, like Dell XPS type-c charger(modified by Dell itself) supports 130w, the power support will limit to 100w.
USB hub interfere with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signal
If you find your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is interfered with by your hub or dock. The main reason maybe is the USB 3.0 port on your hub or dock.
Theoretically, the interface frequency of USB 3.0 is 5GHz serial. Still, USB 3.0 uses 4 data lines to form 2 groups, each group is responsible for one transmission direction to achieve full-duplex two-way 5GHz, but the reference frequency of each USB 3.0 data line is 2.5 GHz.
2.4G is the most common frequency band of the WI-FI network and Bluetooth network, so it is easy to cause interference between USB3.0 and WI-FI or Bluetooth. Moreover, high-frequency equipment mostly uses spread spectrum technology, making the signal not completely distributed on a fixed frequency band, making it easier to interfere.
However, the current Type-C interface basically adopts the protocol above USB 3.0. When using the USB3.0 interface on some computers, WI-FI will inevitably be affected, and there are more USB 3.0 interfaces on the docking station, the signal interference is greater.
So how to solve the problem?
The best way to solve this problem is to upgrade your Wi-Fi to 5GHz frequency instead of 2.4GHz (not all routers and devices support). But this solution has no help to Bluetooth, which uses 2.4GHz only.
The second choice is you could buy products with USB 2.0 interfaces.
The third way is to keep the distance between the wireless mouse and the wireless receiver within 1 meter when the USB 3.0 interface is used. Also, move your router (or yourself) to a better spot to get a better signal.
Another option is to use a wired connection instead of a wireless connection, and then your signal will not have any interference.
The following suggestions are from Apple:
- Use a high-quality, shielded USB or Thunderbolt 3 cable with each device.
- Use a high-quality, shielded USB or Thunderbolt 3 Hub.
- Move your USB 3 or Thunderbolt 3 devices—including any USB hubs—farther away from your wireless devices.
- Avoid placing USB 3 or Thunderbolt 3 devices on top of your Mac Pro, Mac notebook, or Mac mini.
- Turn off any USB 3 devices that aren't in use.
Find more suggestion on these sites:
(From Apple) https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201542
Power surge on the USB port
A power surge is a short-term strong current and voltage fluctuation phenomenon. This fault prompt indicates that a high-power USB device is connected to the computer, such as a mobile hard disk, MP4, or mobile phone with a USB interface charging function, and they are connected to the USB interface. There was a large instantaneous power consumption in the process, which exceeded the power supply limit of the USB interface.
The power limit of the Universal USB port is 500 mA. Although the USB port is commonly used for transmitting data, if any USB device attempts to consume more power than the 500 mA limit, the port will generate a power surge. If you do not deal with the USB power surge, it may disable the USB port for further use and cause permanent damage to the motherboard.
How to solve the problem?
1.Disconnect all USB connections, then click the Reset button on the screen using the touchpad.
2.Once reset, reboot the laptop, then reconnect the USB device and see if the error will re-occur.
If the issue persists:
Run the Hardware Troubleshooter, see more at Dell support
After macOS upgrade, hub not functions normally.
After upgrade the macOS, the USB hub not being recognized or not functioning normally.
So far, we are not sure the cause of the problem, but you could try the following steps:
What do these steps mean?
SMC means system management controller, and it is responsible for managing behaviors of the following functions:
- Power, including the power button and power to the USB ports
- Battery and charging
- Fans and other thermal-management features
- Indicators or sensors such as status indicator lights (sleep status, battery charging status, and others), the sudden motion sensor, the ambient light sensor, and keyboard backlighting
- Behavior when opening and closing the lid of a MacBook
Resetting SMC may help with the problems relate to the above functions.
NVRAM means nonvolatile random-access memory, which is a small amount of memory that your Mac uses to store certain settings and access them quickly. PRAM means Parameter RAM, which stores similar information.
Resetting NVRAM might help of settings that can be stored in NVRAM:
- Sound volume
- Display resolution
- Startup-disk selection
- Time zone
- Recent kernel panic information.
Resetting NVRAM or PRAM may help with the problems relate to the above functions.
If the problem persists, you may try to reset your computer.
But before you reinstall your macOS, contact the customer services for help. Confirm that the hub or dock supports the macOS you have installed. Some hubs and docks do not support the latest macOS due to all kinds of reasons; some hubs only not design for latest macOS, like below:
Some other hubs need to wait for the driver to be published, then it may work on your latest macOS.
In all cases, returning to the former version of your macOS would probably solve the problem. If you are using a hub or dock, we suggest you not upgrade your macOS system in the first time when it is published.