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Olga Weis Olga Weis Last updated Jul 29, 2022

How to Extend USB over Ethernet

When it comes to extending a USB peripheral over Ethernet, the first thing that will probably come to your mind is some hardware gadget, like an adapter, a hub, and a cat5e/cat6 Ethernet cable extender compatible with USB. It’s just one of the ways to extend USB through Ethernet (and not even the best one), it’s still quite popular, so it’s most certainly worth a weighted analysis.

In this article, we’re going to have a proper look at the USB extension gadgets, tools, and methods today’s market has to offer. You’ll find out a lot more about different adapters, wires, cables, and habs, as well as some typical bottlenecks to watch out for. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll know exactly how to extend USB over Ethernet to all popular operating systems in the most convenient and trouble-free way possible.

USB to Ethernet cable overview

USB to Ethernet Adaptor by Ugreen

A USB over Ethernet cable offers a viable method of establishing an Ethernet connection when you have no open Ethernet ports available. With the assistance of a USB to Ethernet adapter, any open USB port can provide you USB over cat5/cat 5e/cat6 Ethernet connectivity. Just connect an Ethernet cable to the adapter plugged into your computer and then attach it to a modem, router, or network hub.

The standard USB/Ethernet extender cables commonly used for secure and fast data transfers are rather short. The reason for keeping USB extenders short is that the connection becomes less effective as the distance between devices increases. The range for effective communication can be increased with additional hardware. You can extend USB through Ethernet using cat5e or cat6 cables, network converters, and extension cables to allow more distant connectivity to USB devices.

Note: Almost all USB devices (especially printers) come with cables so short you'll need to buy longer USB cables, a.k.a. USB extenders. Choosing the best USB extender over cat5e for your scenario isn’t easy and depends mainly on the type of USB device you’re going to connect and physical distance.

It’s a very common mistake to think that if you connect several cables, you get a very long extender and will be able to connect a USB device in the next room. But that won’t ever work.

The longer the 5e cable is — the weaker the signal and power level it transmits. For some bandwidth-sensitive peripherals like scanners or cameras, the maximum recommended distance to any of your computers can’t be more than 3 meters (that’s less than 10 feet) for USB 3.0 or 3.1 and 5 meters (roughly 16.4 feet) for USB 2.0. Not that much, isn’t it?

Sure, you can get an active (repeater) cable and extend the said distance for as much as 30 meters (a little short to 100 feet). Then again, those cables cost about three times more than regular 5e ones. So if you’ve got more than one machine that needs remote access to some dongles or USB-C devices, gets a USB over Ethernet software instead.

How to use a USB to Ethernet cable?

  • 1.
    Disconnect the standard USB cable from your computer. We will refer to this as the "A" connector and the other end RJ45 as the "B" connector since its shape resembles the letter "B". blank
  • 2.
    Connect the male connector in the USB/cat5e cable to the female receptor on your computer or USB hub. blank
  • 3.
    Connect the USB extender over cat5e cable's receiver to the device compatible with USB, that is the furthest from your computer and complete the connection by attaching the other end of the cable to a free USB port on your machine. blank

USB Hub overview

IOGEAR USB 4-Port Extender

USB hub is a piece of equipment that has a receiver with a certain number of USB outlets along with one (or several) RJ45 ports. So, if you’ve been looking for a hardware-based Ethernet extender compatible with USB, USB hubs are definitely worth your attention.

On top of that, using a hub will instantly increase the number of external USB devices your computer can support in parallel. You will no longer be limited by some laptop’s design and finally will be able to stop wasting time on dives under your table to swap cables to get your work done.

Types of USB over Ethernet hubs

Self-Powered vs Bus-Powered USB Hubs

USB hubs come in a wide variety of types designed to meet the needs of any user. The first option we’re going to mention here is the extension card. It’s very popular among vintage laptop lovers and those unfortunate ones who accidentally purchased a laptop with no USB interface on it. Unfortunately, to use the card as a device extender over cat5e, you’ll have to buy some 5e cable too.

The vast majority of USB hubs are self-contained units one can use with any computer or laptop that has at least one USB port. They can be split into two broad categories: the self-poweredand bus-powered ones.

Bus-powered hubs draw their power from the connection to the host that can be a computer or another hub. These devices are often less expensive than self-powered hubs. Bus-powered hubs also are the most portable option, as you do not need to worry about finding an open outlet to plug in its power supply.

There is a potential price to pay when you go with the simplicity of the bus powered USB hubs. Your computer now must power not only the hub but also all the USB devices plugged into it unless they are self-powered. This power consumption can cause performance degradation in your host computer system. You will also drain your battery much quicker if working remotely with a laptop.

The self-powered USB hubs don’t have this problem for a pretty obvious reason. On the other hand, they are never cheap. Plus, you’ll have to deal with one more cord on your desk and go for a mission of finding a vacant power outlet every time you will be using it in a new location. So much for the portability, huh? But once you resolve these issues, you can use your hub to power and charge your devices with no concern over their impact on your computer.

You can obtain USB 2 hubs and USB 3 hubs that support the associated USB protocol. They can be used interchangeably as the connectors and ports are physically identical. You will, however, not be able to take full advantage of your USB 3 devices if you are using a USB 2 hub. To achieve the full 5000 Mbps speed and performance offered by USB 3 you need all ports, connections, and cables to be fully USB 3 compliant. Also, for maximum speed, make sure all your network cable is cat5e or better and keep all the drivers up to date.

Micro USB 5e hubs are also available for use with smaller devices like cell phones and tablets. These can be very handy for charging multiple devices from one that is plugged in and fitted with a micro hub. You can also use these hubs to attach external devices such as drives to transfer data to your mobile device.

How to choose the best USB hub for your scenario

When buying a hub, consider where you will use it and what devices you plan on connecting through it. If you aim for the maximum mobility of being able to plug a bunch of devices into your laptop wherever you are, then you should opt for a bus-powered hub.

If you work in a more stationary manner with a hub constantly attached to a 5e Ethernet network, it’s wise to opt for a self-powered one. Once in place, you can use it to connect and charge as many devices as it can take without any negative impact on your system. And desktop computer users can seriously consider an expansion card to get more USB ports on their machines, as long as they have plenty of cabling already.

There is no negative side to buying a USB 3 compatible hub. It may cost a little more, but it will be able to handle all USB 2 and USB 3 devices that you have. If your computer only has a USB 2 port, you may want to save a little and go with the USB 2 hub, as you will not be able to take advantage of the advanced features of USB 3.

Extend USB over Ethernet in the right way

To successfully implement the hardware method of extending USB to Ethernet, you need to know how to choose the right hardware tool and use it in your setup. You can turn your PC into a USB server or just make a single USB device remotely accessible from other machines in your network — it’s totally up to you to decide.

Once you’ve made up your mind what wires and/or gadgets will work best for you and purchased everything you’re going to need, it’s time for a set-up process. Note that while USB cables and extenders don’t need any drivers, all hubs do, so make sure to download the latest versions from the official brands’ webpages.

If you plan to chain your habs to even more stretch the distance, it’s critical not to have more than 5 in a row. If you do, the whole set-up just won’t be working at all.

And there is one more reason why connecting hubs into a cascade is in no way the best option: the infamous static electricity problem. Any USB port tends to accumulate static electricity and randomly stop working because of it. Thus the whole hub chain will stop working too. You’ll have to unplug every single USB connector you have, then plug them back again after half an hour of waiting. Not to mention that any data that was transmitted through the chain at the moment of hub failure might end up permanently damaged.

Extend USB over Ethernet
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