By Grant Jacobs 10/01/2019 7


If you’re anything like me, flipping USB plugs over is irritating. It’s not as if it takes much time, just that you have to do it at all.

Here’s a tip I stumbled onto a few years ago: (advertising) logos face up.

When you put the cable or device in, keep the advertising logo face up.

I can’t guarantee that will always work—there’s bound to be a few companies that are just ‘different’—but try it with the cables and devices you’ve got, it might be all you need.

It may also be one of those cases with crass marketing concerns are actually useful.

USB cables are meant to be labelled with an embossed forked-wire icon on the ‘up’ side, like the cable shown on the right.

The connecting pins are exposed on the side with the USB logo. This way the logo tells you which way ‘up’ the plug is.

Often there is no USB logo, but instead there is a manufacturer’s logo.

The specification says the USB logo is required, and manufacturer’s logos are optional. Clearly many companies have their own priorities, swopping out the USB logo for their own…

A more cynical way to remember it is that marketing people like the company name to be visible.

You just know the marketing logo is going to face upwards, right?

Vertical USB ports and micro-USB plugs

This isn’t going to help you with USB ports mounted vertically. I don’t have any to test on, but I if I had a guess, the logos will face the user. Let me know how you get on.

Micro-USB plugs only work in one orientation too. In my experience they’re rarely marked at all. You’ll just have to look at the end of the cable and figure it out. Fortunately, the sloped sides of the plugs help identify the orientation fairly easily.

Why did they do it this way?

Cost! With only connectors on one side, and less wiring, they’re cheaper to make.

USB type-C connectors work in either orientation and can allow for much faster data transmission.

Suggestions for my blog

If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions for my blog, you’re welcome to add them to my previous post. (You can also send a message using the ‘Get in touch with the authors’ link in the top-right corner of each blog post.)

Other articles on Code for life

The inheritance of face recognition (should you blame your parents if you can’t recognise faces?)

Book sales, frumpy readers, and mental rotation of book titles

Loops to tie a knot in proteins?

C’s founder is no more

Footnotes

Just a short one to today, as I’ve been ill most of the last week and am still recovering.

About the featured image

All the images in this post are the author’s work.


7 Responses to “Tired of flipping USB plugs over?”

  • My rather small sample of three USB memory sticks and one vertical port demonstrates you are 100% correct. The logo faces you. (Actually, it’s really two USB memory sticks in my sample, since one has a logo both sides!)

    • I wouldn’t mind a type-C connector, but not for the “flipping” issue. It’d be nice to have a faster connector so that I can make better use of the larger-capacity external USB “sticks” to complement the tiny storage in my travel laptop. (Wish it had more RAM, too, but that’s not something I can do anything about unfortunately.)

  • I think the long story short is that I’d need a newer model laptop, and probably a better model at that!

    The USB ports on my computer are limited to 5 Gb/second, so there’s not much I can do there.

    There is a ‘Thunderbolt 2’ port that potentially runs to 20 Gb/second, but you can’t just hook type-C things to that unfortunately. The older ‘Thunderbolt’ 1 & 2 ports are ‘active’, expecting the device plugged into them to supply their own power. That’s OK for things with their own battery or power-supply; say, another monitor or hooking a up a camera to transfer photos off the camera. It’s no good for something like trying to use external SD card or whatnot.

    There might be a way to hook external SSD drives to the Thunderbolt 2 port, but SSD drives are still pretty expensive, and I’m guessing it’d want to also use the adjacent USB port (to grab power off it). Seems to me if I were to go that way, it’d be easier to just hook up a clunky old USB external drive and put up with the slower speed & bulkier gadget. At least you get a couple of Tb for your trouble for less cost.*

    So, as far as I know I’m stuck until I get more money from somewhere.

    And this is way more geekery for one afternoon! Back to biology, and writing…

    (* For anyone wondering: this is for travel, not home use! If you’re, say, cycle touring all those little bits of extra bulk add up horribly and finding the damn things amongst everything else is a hassle too! The idea was to try use physically small storage devices—the faster SD sticks for example—to effectively expand the limited storage enough to get by. For example if you have some of those little SD devices that barely protrude from the case and just leave them plugged in they basically don’t use any extra space at all.)