Differences Between Powered And Unpowered USB Hubs

Differences Between Powered And Unpowered USB Hubs

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Daunted by the question ‘differences of the powered hub and unpowered USB hub?’ If yes, then you should take a chill pill, and go through this guide. You’ll find the answers to the question you are bothered by.

What Is a USB Hub?

A USB (universal serial bus) hub is a device that you attach to your computer or your laptop that works in a similar manner to an extension lead. It allows you to extend one USB port into two, four, or even ten USB ports. There are two types of USB hubs.

The first one can be unpowered where it is connected by a cable to the laptop or the computer hard drive and this relies on the battery to charge any devices that are attached to the USB hub.

The other option is to use a powered USB hub that has its own adaptor that is plugged into a power source and this is what charges any phones, tablets, or devices attached to the hub.

Both of these versions will also allow you to transfer data over to your computer.

Why Would You Use an External USB Hub

Most devices that you use need to be connected to your laptop or your desktop computer by a USB cable. If you use a notebook or a laptop then they will have a limited number of USB ports installed in them and for that reason, you might need an external USB hub to attach more peripherals to your computer.

If you need to charge a number of devices but don’t have access to a power supply then the regular USB hub that you attach to your laptop with a cable can be a useful device to have in your laptop bag. But the only downside is that it will use the power from your laptop to charge the devices.

If you invest in a powered USB hub that you plug into a power source then this doesn’t rely on your laptop to power the devices. The devices are charged from the power source.

What does a USB Hub Do?

A USB hub is a device that you plug into your laptop or your computer hard drive that allows you to extend the number of ports that you have on your laptop or computer.

Internal versus External

You can obviously pay a computer shop to install these ports internally but many of us will just get an external USB hub that allows us to add two, four, six, or even ten extra USB ports to our computer.

Who Will Use a USB Hub?

An external USB hub will not be for everyone. If you are the type of person who invests in all the latest types of technology then you will most likely have a Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, scanner, and printer.

  • Office

However, some companies won’t be completely switching over to Bluetooth technology so if you have your own office cubicle then the likelihood is that you have a select number of USB ports on your laptop or computer. If this is the case then you will probably use an external USB hub especially if you have to access data from other devices.

  • Home

Also, most of us won’t be buying a new laptop or computer till our old one breaks down so we might still be relying on plugs and cable to connect our devices. So if we want to access data from older devices or we want to connect all our devices to our desktop computer at one time then an external USB hub will be very useful.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an External USB Hub


  • An external USB hub is a great way to add additional ports to your laptop or hard drive to help you transfer data from lots of devices at one time.
  • There are so many companies that manufacture external USB hubs and they will vary in prices between different brands. Some versions are really affordable.
  • If you need to transfer data then you will need to look at external USB hubs that have a high transmission speed.
  • If you are transferring files for college or photos from one laptop to another then you probably won’t be too worried about the transfer speed but if it’s for work then you will be.
  • This version is more affordable to buy than the version with the adaptor.
  • You can find these in any store that sells computer equipment.


  • It does not have a transformer so you have to use your laptop battery to charge the device.
  • It takes a lot longer to charge multiple devices
  • There are lots of different versions on the market and you really need to shop around to find one that will fit your needs. If you want one specifically for data transfer then you better invest in a good quality one and not a cheap one.
  • Some cheaper versions might not last long and they might not be compatible with your equipment.
  • If you need it exclusively for work and to charge multiple devices then this will drain the power from your laptop and put extra pressure on your hard drive.

Types of USB port hubs

There are two main types of USB port hubs: powered hubs and unpowered hubs.

  1. Powered USB hubs

Powered USB hubs provide their own power supply for devices. Typically, when you connect a device to your computer via USB, the device draws upon your computer’s power to function.

Powered USB hubs come with their own power source and provide power for your connected devices so your computer doesn’t have to.

Powered hubs are great if you’re connecting USB devices that operate on higher voltages. These devices may include:

  • Large external hard drives
  • Printers
  • Scanners

Both powered and unpowered port hubs plug into your computer via a single USB port. There’s only so much power that can be transferred through a single port, though. If you have several high-voltage devices connected to an unpowered hub, the hub will not be able to transfer enough power from your computer to power all those devices at once. It just can’t draw enough power through the single USB. There’s a good chance that one or more of the connected devices might not function properly.

Powered hubs alleviate this problem. Each device that’s connected to a powered port hub draws power from its own USB connection. As a result, one USB port doesn’t have to dispense power to multiple devices simultaneously. This is why powered hubs are crucial if you’re going to be connecting larger and more intensive hardware.

Unpowered USB hubs

Does that mean you should avoid unpowered USB hubs? Absolutely not. Unpowered hubs are perfect if you’re going to be connecting smaller devices, like:

  • Keyboards
  • Mice
  • Smartphone chargers
  • Flash drives
  • Gamepads

Furthermore, unpowered hubs are more portable than powered hubs. Unpowered hubs are more compact and they don’t need to be plugged into a power outlet (which also means they don’t have the additional power cables that you have to lug around). They’re also a little more budget-friendly.

Comparing powered and unpowered USB hubs

Let’s compare the pros and cons of powered and unpowered USB port hubs.

Powered USB hubs:


  • A powered USB hub comes with its own adapter and plug.
  • It also doesn’t use any of the batteries from your laptop or require the hard drive to charge any of the devices that you attach to it.
  • If you have gaming devices then these won’t put extra pressure on your desktop computer.
  • Depending on how many ports your hub has you can charge a lot of devices at the same time.
  • You can purchase these in computer stores or from online sellers.


  • These will be a lot more expensive to purchase compared to the regular external USB hub as they come with an adapter. They can be nearly double the price of a regular external USB hub.
  • There are a lot of varieties of these on the market. So depending on what you need it for you will need to shop around to find one that suits your needs.
  • Some hubs are good at charging additional devices but can be very slow at transferring data from one device to your computer or your laptop. So make sure to check the transfer rate before buying one.
  • You will need to make sure that you have an extra power source available for the plug.
  • If you are a gamer and use different systems then some of these devices might not be compatible with your system.
  • Some of these hubs might have an issue with opening external hard drives.

Unpowered USB hub:


  • Compact and portable
  • Don’t need to be plugged in
  • Less expensive


  • Can’t power high-voltage devices
  • Typically have fewer ports than powered hubs

Hot swapping

Before we get into the uses of a USB hub, let’s take a quick look at one aspect that you want to keep in mind and you shop for a USB hub.

Hot swapping is when you’re able to unplug a device from the USB hub without having to power off your computer first. Nearly all laptops these days support hot swapping, but there are still many kinds of hubs and docking stations that don’t.

Rest assured you’ll be able to hot-swap on all the USB hubs sold on the HP Store so you’ll be able to quickly and freely connect and disconnect devices.


We have been able to show you the differences between the two types of USB hubs, as you decide which one to get for yourself, make sure to go for the one that suits your need best.