How to add USB 2.0 to your PC

Question: I have an old Pentium II computer, and it has USB ports. I would like to use an external hard drive that uses USB, but when I plug it in, I get a message that says I’m trying to use a high-speed device on a low-speed connection. What gives? – Martin

Answer: When USB connectors were introduced on computers around 1997 or so, they were rated at 12 Mbps, meaning that 12 megabits of data could flow to or from the device each second. That’s a 1.6 megabyte file every second. It was called USB version 1.1 or just USB 1.1.

That technology was fine for USB keyboards or mice, and even printers but, when multimedia devices like digital cameras and MP3 players arrived on the scene, they needed a faster connection because pictures, audio, and video files can be huge. So the industry created version 2 of USB called USB 2.0. This is a connector that looks the same as USB 1.1 and works with USB 1.1 devices. But, when paired with a USB 2.0 rated device, its speed is boosted from 12 Mbps to 480 Mpbs which is 40 times faster. That’s a 60 megabyte file every second. Computers starting in 2003 were equipped with USB 2.0.

No need to worry if your computer is older. You can upgrade to USB 2.0 by adding a USB 2.0 PCI card that slots in the back of your computer.

Once it arrives, follow these steps:

  1. Power down your computer, unplug it, and take the cover off.
  2. Inside, there are white slots that back onto the rear of the computer’s back plate. You may have to take a slot protector off – which looks like a silver piece of metal – to expose a hole in the back.
  3. Unpack the card and push it into the PCI slot with the USB ports exposed through the slit in the backplate, and screw it in place.
  4. Put the cover back on, power up, and install any software that came with the card.

If you have a laptop, you can get a USB 2.0 expansion card.

for the PC Card slot in the side of your laptop.