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USB port types and names

USB (Universal Serial Bus) is an industry standard for connecting computers and other devices. It's available with many types of ports, and each type has a unique shape. On Mac computers, USB is available with these ports, depending on your Mac model:

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USB-A

Hub

Type USB-A ports are commonly called USB, USB 2, or USB 3 ports, depending on the USB specification they support. They aren't reversible, so a USB-A connector plugs into the port only when oriented correctly.

USB-C

Type USB-C ports are available as either standard USB-C ports or Thunderbolt 3 ports that also support USB-C connections. They both look the same, and the connector plugs into the port in either orientation.

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Learn more about identifying the ports on your Mac, as well as the adapters and cables you can use to connect older devices to type USB-C ports.

USB specifications

USB specifications are important primarily when you want the most speed and power for your USB device, or your device needs more power or is using too much power. Every USB port supports a particular USB specification, which determines the port's maximum>USB specifications on MacData transferPowerUSB 3.1 Gen 2
Also known as USB 3.2 Gen 2
Up to 10 GbpsUp to 15W at 5VUSB 3.1 Gen 1
Also known as USB 3.2 Gen 1 or USB 3
Up to 5 GbpsUp to 900 mA at 5VUSB 2.0
Up to 480 MbpsUp to 500 mA at 5VUSB 1.1
Up to 12 MbpsUp to 500 mA at 5V

To learn which specification is supported by a type USB-A or type USB-C port on your Mac model:

  • Choose Apple menu  > About This Mac, click Support, then click Specifications.
  • Check the System Information app for more details, including about USB devices connected to USB ports on your Mac. Select USB in the sidebar, then select a USB bus on the right.

Get the best performance from your USB devices

USB specifications all work with each other, but speed and power are limited by the cable or device that uses the earliest specification. For example, if you connect a USB 3 device to USB 2 port, your device is limited to USB 2 speeds, and it can't draw more power from the port than can be delivered over USB 2. In other words, to get the best performance, make sure that the USB port on your Mac and the USB cable to your device meet or exceed the USB specification of the device itself.

If your Mac doesn't recognize a USB device after you plug it into your Mac:

  • Check all connections: Unplug the device from your Mac, then plug it back in, and make sure that all cables and adapters are securely connected at both ends. Test with another cable or adapter, if available.
  • Plug the device directly into your Mac instead of a USB hub or other device, and if necessary test with a different USB port on your Mac or device.
  • Some devices need their own software, such as drivers or firmware. Others work without additional software. Check with the maker of your device, and install all available Apple software updates as well.
  • If your device came with an AC power adapter, use it. Some devices can be powered by the USB port on your Mac. Others need more power than your Mac can provide.
  • Restart your Mac.

Learn more

  • USB 3 devices can create wireless interference that affects Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. Learn how to resolve Wi-Fi and Bluetooth issues caused by wireless interference.
  • Mac notebook computers with USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 can charge over that port using a compatible USB-C power adapter and cable.

Symptoms

Symptoms such as these could mean that a device connected to the USB-A , USB-C , or Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port on your Mac isn't getting enough power:

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  • A message says that the device needs more power, the operation can't be completed, or USB devices are disabled until you unplug the device using too much power.
  • An operation that requires more power doesn't work. For example, writing to disk requires more power than reading from it.
  • The device doesn't turn on or isn't recognized by your Mac.

Solutions

  • Use your device as a self-powered device or connect it to a powered USB or Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) hub if possible.
    Self-powered devices get power from an electrical outlet or their own battery. Bus-powered devices get power from the device they're plugged into, such as your Mac.
  • Reduce the total amount of power needed from your Mac by reducing the number of bus-powered devices connected to your Mac, or using more of them as self-powered devices.
  • If your device is plugged into another device (such as a display or multiport adapter) as part of a chain of devices, the other device might not be providing enough power or passing through enough power from your Mac. Plug your device directly into your Mac instead.
  • Make sure that the port on your Mac and the cable you're using to connect it to your device both support the same or later USB specification as your device. For example, a device designed to support the USB 3 specification might not get enough power when plugged into a USB 2 port or cable.
  • Try a different cable, in case the cable that you're using is damaged or defective. If you're using an adapter with your cable, the adapter could also be damaged or defective.
  • If your Mac has multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports, connect your device to a Thunderbolt 3 port farthest away from the current port. For example, if your device is connected to the ports on the left side of MacBook Pro, connect to the Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right side.
  • If your device has software (such as drivers or firmware) that can be updated, make sure that it's using the latest software from the manufacturer. To get firmware updates for Apple accessories, update your Apple software.
  • Make sure that your Mac is awake and started up from the Mac operating system. Some Apple devices can request extra power only when your Mac is awake or started up from macOS.

Learn more about USB power on your Mac

System Information provides additional detail about USB power on your Mac. Connect the USB device directly to your Mac, then select USB from the sidebar in System Information. For each USB device, System Information shows:

  • Current Available: The default power provided by the port to which your device is connected.
  • Current Required: The power needed by your device.
  • Extra Operating Current: Mac computers and Apple displays introduced after 2006, when directly connected to certain Apple devices such as iPhone or iPad, can provide extra power over one or more ports. The Mac or display must be powered on and awake to provide this extra power. A Mac started from the Windows operating system doesn't provide extra power.

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Learn more about the power available under each USB specification, such as USB 2 and USB 3.