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Looking for the right USB cable - Backup to external disk


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#1 Clairvaux

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 07:45 PM

I want to connect my tower PC to an external 2.5" hard disk for daily imaging. The PC has USB 3.0 ports, speed 5 Gbps (now officially "USB 3.1 Generation 1"), with type A connectors. I will alternate everyday between 2 Seagate Barracuda 1 TB disks in their separate enclosure. I don't plan to use the high-current, charging features of the USB standard's C connector (although it would be nice to have them).

I plan to look for a cable with the following specs :

  • Length : 1,8 m to 2 m (6 ft.)
  • Connectors : type A on one end, type C on the other.
  • Speed : 5 Gbps, USB 3.1 Generation 1.

Does such a cable even exist ? Does the standard allow for it ? Is it readily available ? Despite much research, I'm not sure about the answer.

This choice is based on the following assumptions. Can you validate them ?

  • Last generation USB speed of 10 Gbps (USB 3.1 Generation 2) does not offer significant improvement over 5 Gbps (USB 3.1 Generation 1) for mechanical disks.
  • Type C connector is more robust than the ubiquitous Micro B which is found on most external enclosures for 2.5" disks. E-tailers review sections are swamped with buyers of such enclosures complaining that their Micro B connector has failed them after a few months use.​​
  • 2 meters is probably around the maximum if one wants to reach the speed of 5 Gbps on USB 3.1, given the customary wire gauge on such cables (30 to 28 AWG).

And some other related questions :

  • Are type C + type A cables symetric ? In other words, is it indifferent that the C connector on one end is plugged in the host (computer) or peripheral (disk) ? Or are there cables where the C connector is only meant for the computer, and others where it is only meant for the peripheral ?
  • ​Can I use for my purpose cables primarily marketed for charging phones, such as this one or this one ?
  • ​Is it important that the cable is certified ? It seems to me that most USB 3.0/3.1 cables are not, and that the few that are charge a big premium.
  • ​Should I look for a minimum wire gauge with the above specs ?


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#2 mightywiz

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 12:53 PM

you can just purchase a usb to SATA adapter kit on amazon that will come with a powersupply.  like for less then $20 also the work with ide/eide/sata  so all format drives.

 

you can also get usb a to c or usb c to a adapters for less then $10 also on amazon.

 

myself I have the usb 3.0 to SATA/ide/eide for all types of drives.



#3 Clairvaux

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:16 PM

 

you can just purchase a usb to SATA adapter kit on amazon that will come with a powersupply.

I think I know what you're talking about : would it be those naked interfaces with an attached cable like this ? They are practical if you tinker with disks all the time. However, I want a self-contained solution where the disk is protected. Also, I don't need a power supply, since this will be for 2.5" disks : USB 3.1 provides for power.

you can also get usb a to c adapters for less then $10 also on amazon.

 

Indeed. Hence my questions, since this, alas, is far from being the end of the story.



#4 mightywiz

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 04:48 PM

so you want an external case to mount it in right?  try this link, coule different options.

 

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_11/135-8956137-2731367?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=usb+c+2.5+hard+drive+enclosure&sprefix=usb+c+2.5+h%2Caps%2C190&crid=1JILUL6KW22KQ



#5 Clairvaux

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 11:47 PM

Yes, that's the sort of enclosure I've settled upon. I can see in your link some interesting brands I had not checked. I don't have any problems with that, however. My problem is with the cable.



#6 mightywiz

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 09:23 AM

what's the problem with the cable, you can get any configuration usb cable or adapter you could ever need.  the link i posted also had multiple choices for cable connections.



#7 Clairvaux

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 04:50 PM

what's the problem with the cable.

I'm grateful for your willingness to help, but in order to do so, it would be useful if you read my original post in its entirety.

​Please realise that before asking this question, I've done extended research, including reading part of the original, genuine USB 3.1 specification. I'm already aware of the type of pages you linked to, and they don't solve the doubts I've exposed here. USB 3.1 is quite complex, it's a far less straightforward set of standards than USB 2.0, and there are many, many limits and conditions that are not made obvious at all by the vendors (or even the USB consortium).



#8 mightywiz

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 06:01 PM

I think your overthinking this......

 

If it's a 3.1 usb a to usb c  cable then your good to go.

 

you just have to make sure your pc or what ever device has the usb 3.1 a connector on it.   my pc at work has 2 usb 3.1 type A ports built in.

 

is closer to what your asking?



#9 jonuk76

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 08:46 PM

I'm learning about this new standard too.  It looks confusing.

 

You may have already found this, but Belkin has a fair amount of material on USB-C - http://www.belkin.com/uk/Resource-Center/USB-C/  Obviously some of it is geared to selling their own products but you might find some of it useful.

 

A few things that spring to mind.  Obviously USB-C to USB-C cables are the same on both ends.  This contrasts with the older standard where it was required that the client device used a B type plug, while the host device used an A type plug.  This was to prevent you connecting two ports providing power together and causing damage.  They do (rarely) sell Type A to Type A cables for data transfer, but without some electronics in between the two plugs, an A to A cable could destroy PC's USB circuitry if you directly connect two powered up PC's to each other.  I'm presuming then that USB-C cables should contain the necessary circuitry to stop this from happening.  The illustrations on the Belkin site show their cables have PCB's in the USB-C connectors, which I guess ultra cheap cable implementations may not have.

 

Belkin do a Superspeed USB-C to USB-A (up to 10 Gbps) cable.  I'm sure it will do what you want, however, they only sell this type at a 1m length. Also the price on Belkin's site is over the top, rivalling Apple for over charging IMO...  Perhaps better deals are available through third party sellers.  Note, they also sell USB-C to USB A "charging cables" in 1.8 mtr lengths, but note they are only rated to 480 Mbps (i.e. USB 2) transfer rates.

 

For the time being, for high speed use I'd probably look for a certified one, and I'd personally be wary about buying unbranded, Amazon Marketplace or eBay cables.  As I've found with DisplayPort cables (interestingly I understand DisplayPort can be sent over a suitable high speed USB-C cable), sometimes it's better to bite the bullet and spend the extra on a certified one, rather than spend time troubleshooting constant "link failures" due to a dodgy unbranded cable you saved a few dollars on  :thumbsup2:


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#10 Clairvaux

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 06:39 PM

Belkin has a fair amount of material on USB-C - http://www.belkin.com/uk/Resource-Center/USB-C/

 

 

​Thanks, I hadn't read Belkin's white paper on USB-C. It's interesting, however it's slanted towards their own products and incomplete.

One place where Belkin is downright lying is the part where they deliberately confuse counterfeit cables with non-certified ones. Counterfeit cables are products which pretend to be Belkin but are not (and at 30 $ a 1-meter cable, you'd understand why there might be some). Counterfeiting is illegal.

Non-certified cables are just sold by vendors which have chosen not to submit their products to testing and certification by the USB consortium. Therefore, they don't have the right to use the various USB 3.1 logos which tell you a cable is certified.

This is completely legal. Nothing prevents you from selling a USB 3.1 cable which is not certified. This does not mean such cables don't meet the USB standard, just that they have not been tested by the USB consortium... and the vendor has not paid the certification fee. As far as I can see, most USB 3.1 cables are not certified.

I will certainly not buy my cable from a well-know brand. Cables for electronics have always been a rip-off, and USB 3.1 is no exception. It's just that the standard being so confusing, it's even more tempting to fall for the big brand/certification racket, and pay 30 $ for a 3 $ worth product.

Since you're British, you might be aware of Kenable (they also sell through Amazon). I've already bought from them to my full satisfaction. Their prices are ridiculously low, as well as their shipping fees, even to Europe. They have their cables made for them, just the way Monoprice does for the US. As a result, you can see what the real, honest price is. Unfortunately, they are are a bit weak on the USB 3.1 side.

Back to my problem, Belkin only sells 1-meter long USB 3.1 cables, even for the reduced speed of 5 Gbps. While I'm pretty sure you can't do 10 Gbps USB 3.1 over a cable more than 3 ft. or 1 m long (well, you could theoretically, because there's no length limit imposed by the standard ; but the resulting cable would be so thick as to be completely impractical), I'm also pretty sure you can do 5 Gbps USB 3.1 on a cable longer than 1 m, but not longer than 2 m. That's one of the points I'm seeking confirmation for.

Here are some cables that purport to do just this :

Kenable - 2 m - A to Micro B connector

 

Note that Kenable states the AWG wire gauge of its cables. This is a fundamental feature relative to the USB standard. Almost no one among the big names quotes that figure.

Cable Matters - 2 m - A to Micro B connector

Amazon Basics - 1,80 m - C to C connector

This last one is certified (and priced out of reach), which is the closest I have found to a proof that you can reach 5 Gbps USB 3.1 on a (roughly) 2 m cable. However, none is A to C, which is what I need for the reasons I've stated (feel free to challenge them).

Then we have a few cables meant for charging phones, which match my specs on paper, such as this one :

Anker - 1,8 m - A to C connector

However, nobody will confirm you that this sort of cable will work for doing backups from a computer.


Edited by Clairvaux, 23 August 2017 - 06:53 PM.


#11 Mike_Walsh

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 07:54 PM

Hi, Clairvaux.

 

I'm interested in your observations about the 3.1 cables not offering a marked improvement over the 3.0 versions. I'm no expert in this, but if a 3.1 cable is indeed capable of 10 GBps transfer rates, then I'm guessing that you have in fact (at this point) exceeded the transfer rate capabilities of all but the very newest (and most sophisticated) drive controller units...

 

I'm not certain that even enterprise units are capable of such sustained throughputs.

 

Harking back to your observations about the perceived robustness (or otherwise!) of the Micro-B connectors (I assume here we're talking about those with the extra set of contacts within a smaller 'half-housing' on the side?)

 

Like this?

 

 

YL7Z0F8.jpg

 

 

I use a 1TB Seagate portable 'Expansion' drive.....which I have attached permanently to the top of my tower with BluTak! Because I, too, was concerned by the fact that these Micro-B connectors didn't seem a particularly snug fit within the drive housing's socket, from the very moment I first plugged it in, I carefully molded a large lump of the afore-mentioned BluTak around & under the plug end of the cable in such a way as to render it totally immobile.

 

Since this drive was intended to be permanent external storage, it's never going to go anywhere. Hence the extreme measures..!

 

I have in fact heard of many cases where these same cables got accidentally pulled out of a drive's socket in such a way as to damage the contacts within that socket. Not a very good advertisement of the specifications, is it? Or of supposed longevity?

 

I run this drive from a PCI-e USB 3.0 adapter card. The MSI mobo only has a single PCI-ex16 slot, and I don't use a graphics card; for my usage, the onboard graphics are more than sufficient.....so I put the slot to better use, as I do a lot of file transfers to this drive. The slot is the ancient 1.0a standard; even so, this is still capable (supposedly) of 2.5 Gt/s. All I know is it's one hell of a lot faster than when it's plugged into a USB 2.0 socket.....  :P  File transfers take around 1/4 of the time, compared to the older, slower port.

 

(*shrug*)

 

 

Mike.  :wink:


Edited by Mike_Walsh, 24 August 2017 - 07:14 AM.

Distros:- Multiple 'Puppies'..... and Anti-X 16.1

My Puppy BLOG ~~~  My Puppy PACKAGES

Compaq Presario SR1916UK; Athlon64 X2 3800+, 3 GB RAM, WD 500GB Caviar 'Blue', 32GB Kingspec PATA SSD, 3 TB Seagate 'Expansion' external HDD, ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics, Dell 15.1" pNp monitor (1024 x 768), TP-Link PCI-e USB 3.0 card, Logitech c920 HD Pro webcam, self-powered 7-port USB 2.0 hub

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