How to determine whether a USB 3.0 device is operating at SuperSpeed?


USB 3.0 introduces a new operating speed called SuperSpeed. Compared to USB 2.0 bandwidth of 480 Mbps, SuperSpeed supports 5.0 Gbps making it 10 times faster than USB 2.0. USB 3.0 also supports lower operating speeds: high speed, full speed, and low speed. Along with increased bandwidth, USB 3.0 host controllers and devices come with the promise of compatibility. USB 3.0 controllers are required to work with all existing USB devices. The fact that current PCs ship with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports presents an interesting challenge: how should you determine whether a USB 3.0 device is indeed operating at SuperSpeed?

Here are some ways to determine the operating speed of the USB device:

  • Make sure that you have USB 3.0-capable hardware
  • View device information in Device Manager

  • Use USBView to view the bus speed

  • Troubleshooting


Make sure that you have USB 3.0-capable hardware


Typically, newer PCs with USB 3.0 support have both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 controllers, and both those ports are exposed. The receptacles on USB 3.0 ports are usually blue to distinguish from the receptacles on USB 2.0 ports, which are black. So, if the PC has a blue port, that is a good indication of USB 3.0 support. Note this is not a requirement of the official USB specification, rather a convention adopted by some PC makers.


Figure 1 shows a typical USB 2.0 port on the right hand side with a black receptacle, and a typical USB 3.0 port on the left side, with a blue receptacle.


Figure 1. USB 3.0 port with a blue receptacle, USB 2.0 port with a black receptacle. 

Attributed to Bubba73 at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons


Figure 2 shows the USB 2.0 logo.

Figure 2. USB 2.0 logo 


Figure 3 shows the USB 3.0 logo.

Figure 3. USB 3.0 logo 


You should also look for the logo on USB 3.0 devices and cables. 

Figure 4 shows the USB 3.0 logo on the connector of a USB 3.0 cable.

Figure 4 USB 3.0 logo on USB 3.0 cable. 

By smial (Own work), GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons


View device information in Device Manager

Next, confirm that Windows enumerated the host controller as a USB 3.0 controller. To confirm that, open Device Manager and locate the controller under the Universal Serial Bus controllers node. If Windows recognized it as a USB 3.0 controller, USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller is appended to the device description as shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5. USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller in Device Manager


Use USBTreeView to view device information about the bus speed

It is available for download from the following link. USBTreeView in this release has been updated to display SuperSpeed information.


Figure 6 shows a USB 3.0 device operating at SuperSpeed in USBView.

Figure 6. USBView – Message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at SuperSpeed


Check Capture OEM


When a USB 3.0 camera is connected to a USB 2.0 port, Capture OEM will display a "WARNING: REDUCED LINK SPEED" error, as seen in the following screenshot.



If you see this error, please confirm that your computer is connected to a USB 3.0 port. Next, review the troubleshooting steps below. 


Troubleshooting

Here are a few things to try if you find that your USB 3.0 device is capable of operating at SuperSpeed but is operating a lower bus speed:

  • Make sure that you do not have a USB 2.0 hub between the device and the PC. That is because USB 3.0 devices that are attached to a USB 2.0 hub can only operate at high speed. In this case, either switch to a USB 3.0 hub or attach the device directly to the USB 3.0 port on the PC.
  • Ensure that the USB 3.0 hub that your device is attached to appears correctly in Device Manager.  For certain unsupported USB 3.0 hubs, Windows may disable the SuperSpeed portion of the hub and report it as “Non Functional” in Device Manager.

Figure 7 shows a non-functional hub in Device Manager.

Figure 7. SuperSpeed USB Hub is not functional

  • Make sure that the cable that is used to connect the device is a USB 3.0 cable. It is also possible that the USB 3.0 cable has signal integrity issues. In that case, the device might switch to high speed. If that happens, you must change the USB 3.0 cable.
  • Update the firmware for the USB 3.0 device by obtaining the latest version from the manufacturer site. Some USB 3.0 device manufacturers release fixes, for bugs found in the device, as firmware updates.
  • Update the firmware for the USB 3.0 controller by obtaining the latest version from the manufacturer site. Some USB 3.0 controller manufacturers release fixes, for bugs found in the controller, as firmware updates.
  • Update the BIOS for your system by obtaining the latest version from the manufacturer.  On some motherboards, the BIOS can incorrectly route a device that is connected to a USB 3.0 controller to a USB 2.0 controller. That incorrect routing allows the USB 3.0 device to operate at high speed but not at SuperSpeed. A BIOS update might fix such a problem.