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USB over IP: Access USB Devices over the Internet

USB over IP is a technological solution that facilitates the sharing of USB devices over public or private IP-based networks. Companies implementing USB over IP technology make more productive and efficient use of peripheral USB devices.

Olga Weis Olga Weis Last updated Apr 1, 2022

USB sharing over IP networks eliminates the need to move equipment or swap cables to allow access by multiple and physically dispersed users. The technology behind USB over Internet functionality even makes it possible for computers without USB interfaces to use network-connected devices.

In this article, we will investigate sharing USB over IP on various operating systems. As you will see, the technology can be implemented on virtually any type of computer system. We will also provide a comparison of a free open-source USB over IP software solution and a paid alternative that provides advanced features and functionality.

Comparing the most popular USB over IP software

Organizations need to deploy a software solution if they want to share USB over IP. Multiple USB over IP software tools are available on the market, providing varying levels of functionality and support. Choosing the correct one for your company can have a substantial impact on your ability to extract the maximum value from your USB peripherals.

Let’s take a look at two of the most popular USB over Internet software solutions:
  • FlexiHub is a commercial solution suitable for use by individuals with general computer skills.

    It lets an organization share USB equipment over IP networks without needing to install device drivers on the remote machines. The tool creates secure communication channels through which USB data can be transmitted over the Internet or a private internal network.

  • The USB/IP Project is a free USB over IP solution that offers a basic tool for sharing USB devices across a network.

    It is more complex to implement and use, requiring a higher level of computer knowledge to navigate than FlexiHub. The USB over IP freeware project lacks many of the features available in the alternative paid solution.
The table below summarizes the characteristics of the two solutions:
USB/IP Project
License type Paid subscription Open-source
Subscription options
• Personal: 3 connections*/5 nodes**
• Team: min. 5 members
• Business: custom
Free demo limitations 5 shared devices
30 days
Price from USD 13.25/month/1 device N/A
Multiple device log-in up to 5 nodes/account*** Unlimited
Proxi-server Redirection Server
• no need for external IP
• multi-network communication
• works through the Firewall
Supported platforms
✓ Windows
✓ Linux
✓ macOS
✓ Android
✓ Raspberry Pi
✓ Linux
✓ Windows
✓ Windows
✓ Linux
✓ macOS
✓ Raspberry Pi
✓ Linux
✓ Windows
Login tokens for safe account sharing
Lock for device access control
Encryption 2048-bit SSL N/A
RDP support Yes N/A
COM-port devices support Windows only N/A
Software updates Yes No (community dependent)

How does the USB over IP solution work?

USB over IP software works by encapsulating the data sent from a device and transferring it to remote computers over a TCP/IP network. Transmitted data is received and de-encapsulated by a virtual USB port created by the software tool.

When using a USB over TCP/IP tool, the software needs to be installed on the computer with a physical connection to the USB device as well as on the remote client machines that require access to the peripherals.

The virtualization of USB ports performed by USB over IP software enables computers without physical interfaces to access and control USB devices.

The list of the types of equipment that can be shared and accessed remotely with this kind of software solution is extensive and includes:
  • Printers, scanners, and smart card readers;
  • Cameras and other audio/video devices;
  • Personal healthcare and diagnostic equipment;
  • HID devices, USB hubs, and game controllers;
  • Mass storage devices and USB security dongles.

Unique FlexiHub features

FlexiHub has many features that make it an attractive USB over IP solution. In many usage scenarios, these features make it a more effective tool than a USB over IP freeware application.

Secure Connections

FlexiHub implements secure USB data transmission with 2048-bit SSL encryption. This feature keeps your data safe by making it unreadable by unauthorized third parties.

Automatic Device Detection

FlexiHub detects and displays information regarding connected devices automatically for easier identification of shared resources.

Proxy Server

FlexiHub has a set of proxy servers that enable connected computers to detect and access remote devices without a public IP address.

Data Compressing

Higher data transfer rates and reduced bandwidth consumption are possible by having FlexiHub compress data before transmission.

Creating Login Tokens

This USB over IP software lets you create a secure login token that can be shared with other users. The token enables users to connect to shared USB devices without providing them with login credentials.

Lock Devices

Devices can be locked with FlexiHub which makes them unavailable to remote network-connected client computers. Locked devices will not appear on FlexiHub’s list of available devices.

How to access remote USB devices over IP

FlexiHub is an easy-to-use USB over IP software solution. It is compatible with the Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android operating systems. A prerequisite for using the application on any OS is to create a free FlexiHub account.

Let’s take a look at how to use FlexiHub using the Windows operating system for our demonstration.
  • 1.
    Download and install FlexiHub on the computer that is directly connected to the USB device you want to share. We’ll call this host machine the server. The tool also needs to be installed on all computers that will be accessing the shared device remotely. These computers are called clients. blank
  • 2.
    Launch FlexiHub on the server and log into your account. Use the same credentials to log into FlexiHub on the client computers.
    share USB over IP
  • 3.
    On a client machine, find the USB device connected to the server that you wish to access. Click the Connect button next to its name.
    connect USB over IP
  • 4.
    The device will immediately be recognized in the same way as a directly connected peripheral once connectivity is established. The client computer can now use and control the machine as if they were physically connected. blank

How to use USB over IP across different platforms

FlexiHub is a versatile USB over IP protocol tool that supports use with multiple operating systems.

USB over IP on Mac

Here’s how to set up and use FlexiHub on a Mac.
  • 1.
    Download and install FlexiHub on the server and client machines.
  • 2.
    Start the app on the server and client and log into both with the same FlexiHub account credentials.
  • 3.
    Identify the device with which you want to connect and click the Connect button to establish connectivity.
    USB over IP for macOS

USB over IP Linux

FlexiHub is also available for Linux. Installation and usage are essentially the same for the other major operating systems.
  • 1.
    Download and install FlexiHub on the server and client machines.
  • 2.
    Start the app on all machines and log in with the same FlexiHub account.
  • 3.
    Click the Concept button next to the device you want to access remotely.
    USB over IP for Linux

USB over IP Android

The Android operating system requires a slightly different approach to using FlexiHub since the Android version can only function in the server mode (i.e. only share connected USB devices).
  • 1.
    Install FlexiHub on the Android device connected to the USB peripheral and clients that need remote access.
  • 2.
    Start FlexiHub and log in on the Android device and client machine with the same credentials.
  • 3.
    Connect the Android device to the USB equipment (via OTG adapter) and make sure it is recognized by FlexiHub.
    USB over IP for Android
  • 4.
    Click Connect on the remote machine to access the shared USB device.

USB/IP Project - Open-source alternative

The USB/IP Project is a freeware solution available for Windows and Linux. A repository can be grabbed from Github or the project’s web page.

freeware USB/IP

As a freeware tool, USB/IP has several strengths and disadvantages which may influence your decision when searching for a USB over IP solution.

icon pros USB/IP strengths:

  • It’s free;
  • It’s part of the Linux kernel;
  • Updates are performed by the Linux community;
  • It implements USB over IP connectivity.

icon cons USB/IP weaknesses:

  • Only basic USB over IP functionality is provided;
  • Installation is complex and requires additional knowledge;
  • Currently no support for Windows 11;
  • Bugs are not fixed promptly.
Connect to USB over network with one click
  • 4.8 overall rank based on 386+ Reviews
  • Requirements: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and Raspberry Pi.
  • 10.4MB Size.
  • Version 6.0.14865. (31 May, 2023).
  • Pricing starts $14 per month billed annually
Connect to USB over network with one click