While your computer might run fine with a Windows 7 installation and USB 3.0 slots, you currently cannot exploit the full potential of USB 3.0′s speed without installing compatible drivers from a website or disc. Microsoft promises that Windows 8 will support USB 3.0 natively, meaning that you’ll be able to enjoy the qualities of this new hardware specification without having to bother installing newer drivers.
The late implementation of this feature has caused Windows to fall behind Linux although it’s still on par with Macintosh, which hasn’t implemented it yet either. It’s still surprising, though, to note that Linux has made advances before anyone else. Again, we’re talking about native support for USB 3.0, which is not the same as peripheral support. You can still install drivers on Windows 7 for USB 3.0 that will work just fine, but you have to go through the inconvenience of getting the driver.
Although Windows 7 shipped without USB 3.0 support, companies like Intel (supposedly) purposely delayed the production of USB 3.0 motherboards and hardware to advance another agenda: Thunderbolt, originally known as Light Peak. This new technology put forth by Intel boasts transfer speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second, more than twice as fast as USB 3.0. Thunderbolt technology uses fiber optic cabling to transmit messages much faster than traditional electric USB signals. A fiber optic wire receives light from a diode and transmits it to the other end flawlessly. This technology also significantly increases the maximum length of the cable. Intel denies any claims to the delay. This isn’t the first time, though, that a company delays production of something to advance its own more powerful technologies.
How USB 3.0 Works
USB 3.0 transfers data at speeds 10 times faster than its predecessor. It does this by using four more wires, which consequentially allow for simultaneous transfer to and from a device attached to the computer. At these speeds, external hard drives become more practical and USB can compete with the eSATA standard, which allows for direct attachment of hard drives to the computer using their native interface.
To take advantage of USB 3.0, you need the port, cable, and device to support it. Otherwise, the computer will use USB 2.0′s standards to communicate. This comes as a consequence of the different wiring in USB 3.0 and cannot be bypassed.
You’ll see USB 3.0 used in high-end video devices, high-speed modems, high-definition speakers, and hard drives. USB 2.0 devices are still reverse-compatible with a computer’s USB 3.0 ports.
How Native Support Affects End Users
Native USB 3.0 support will provide you with an easy plug-and-play interface that doesn’t require constantly messing with driver versions to find the least buggy one. Seamless integration into the Windows operating system will also allow you to use its conventional interface to remove USB hardware safely, while some peripheral drivers might come with their own utilities that make you take up space on your hard drive and resources your computer could use for something else. Updates will come directly from Microsoft’s website, keeping you on top of the latest fixes and features.
That said, Windows 8 sounds like a very promising system. Let’s just hope it keeps up to its promises.