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Difference Between USB and Ethernet

USB vs Ethernet

USB and Ethernet are two components that are essential to modern day computers. Most computers have at least one port for each while it is not uncommon to have more than one. The main difference between USB and Ethernet is their purpose. USB is used for connecting peripherals like keyboards, mice, printers, and more while Ethernet was developed for networking or the interconnection of multiple computers for the intent of transferring information.

USB, or the Universal Serial Bus, was developed with the intent of reducing the number of wires used in computers. It didn’t really achieve this goal but what it did was create a single interface that replaced the multitude of ports used by peripherals. On the other hand, Ethernet has been around for more than 30 years, predating even the internet, and was developed for interconnecting computers.

One advantage that USB has is speed. USB 2.0, the most used nowadays, can achieve speeds of up to 480mbps while typical Ethernet installation can only reach 100mbps. This speed is essential for USB as some devices, like flash drives, benefit tremendously from added speed. Aside from file transfers, most uses of Ethernet are well below the 100mbps limit.

As always with interfaces that are very fast, its range is quite limited. A USB cable has a maximum length of 5 meters to still be reliable. That is miniscule when you consider that a CAT5e cable used for Ethernet can be up to 100 meters long. Of course it is possible to extend the length of either cable with the use of repeaters and other active devices.

USB is capable of providing a small amount of power for devices that are not power hungry; keyboards and mice belong in this category. There are even novelty devices like notebook coolers, USB mini vacuum cleaners and such that do not really interface with the processor but just draw power from the USB port. Ethernet only transmits data and not power. The devices at both ends need to have their own power source. Although there are ways to transmit power through Ethernet (PoE) this is not the norm and it requires additional specialized equipment.


1.USB is an interface for connecting peripheral devices while Ethernet is an interface for networking
2.USB is much faster than Ethernet
3.USB has a much shorter range than Ethernet
4.USB provides power while Ethernet does not

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