Learn USB Protocol

7.USB Connectors

All devices have an upstream connection to the host and all hosts have a downstream connection to the device. Upstream and downstream connectors are not mechanically interchangeable, thus eliminating illegal loopback connections at hubs such as a downstream port connected to a downstream port. There are commonly two types of connectors, called type A and type B which are shown below.

Type A plugs always face upstream. Type A sockets will typically find themselves on hosts and hubs. For example type A sockets are common on computer main boards and hubs. Type B plugs are always connected downstream and consequently type B sockets are found on devices.

It is interesting to find type A to type A cables wired straight through and an array of USB gender changers in some computer stores. This is in contradiction of the USB specification. The only type A plug to type A plug devices are bridges which are used to connect two computers together. Other prohibited cables are USB extensions which has a plug on one end (either type A or type B) and a socket on the other. These cables violate the cable length requirements of USB.

USB 2.0 included errata which introduces mini-usb B connectors. The details on these connectors can be found in Mini-B Connector Engineering Change Notice The reasoning behind the mini connectors came from the range of miniature electronic devices such as mobile phones and organisers. The current type B connector is too large to be easily integrated into these devices.

Just recently released has been the On-The-Go specification which adds peer-to-peer functionality to USB. This introduces USB hosts into mobile phone and electronic organisers, and thus has included a specification for mini-A plugs, mini-A receptacles, and mini-AB receptacles. I guess we should be inundated with mini USB cables soon and a range of mini to standard converter cables.

Pin Number

Cable Colour




VBUS (5 volts)










Standard internal wire colours are used in USB cables, making it easier to identify wires from manufacturer to manufacturer. The standard specifies various electrical parameters for the cables. It is interesting to read the detail the original USB 1.0 spec included. You would understand it specifying electrical attributes, but paragraph suggested the recommended colour for overmolds on USB cables should be frost white – how boring! USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 was relaxed to recommend Black, Grey or Natural.

PCB designers will want to reference chapter 6 for standard foot prints and pinouts.



USB Connectors 2

USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 Ports



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