PC Components

What Are USB Headers

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Quick Answer

Simply put, USB headers are the physical connectors located on your motherboard. They allow you to connect additional USB ports situated on the PC case. Like everything in the computer-building world, there are lots of versions and types of headers to learn about.

Throughout this article, we’ll explore these types to give you a complete understanding of USB headers. 

What Are USB Headers?

USB headers are found on the motherboard. They’re used for connecting USB ports on a PC’s case. So if you’re building a PC with USB ports in the case, it must be connected to the correct headers.

If you’re new to the hardware world, you may not know that there are various USB versions and header types. But don’t worry; we’ll clear all that up for you here.

USB Versions and Speeds

Before you can understand the different headers, you need to be aware of the various USB versions. Consult the table below for insight into the speeds, transfer mode, and models of USBs.

USB 2.00.48 GbpsHigh Speed
USB 3.05.0 GbpsSuperSpeed
USB 3.1 Gen 15.0 GbpsSuperSpeed
USB 3.1 Gen 210.0 GbpsSuperSpeed
USB 3.2 Gen 1 x 15.0 GbpsSuperSpeed
USB 3.2 Gen 1 x 210.0 GbpsSuperSpeed
USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 110.0 GbpsSuperSpeed
USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 220.0 GbpsSuperSpeed

From the table, you’ve probably gathered that the names are quite confusing (especially toward the end). So, a key point to note is that USB 3.0, 3.1 Gen 1, and USB 3.2 Gen 1 are the same. That’s right — they’re identical, just repackaged with increasingly more complex names. 

It’s normal to be a bit overwhelmed at first glance. Even the most well-established PC builders become confused when faced with the sheer variety of USBs. 

The Four Types of USB Headers

Now that you have an overview of the USB versions, we can look at USB headers. 

There are four main types — 2.0, 3.0, 3.1 Gen 2, and 3.2 Gen 2 x 2. The ports on your PC case will correspond to one of these motherboard headers. For instance, if you find a USB 3.0 port on the case, it will go into the USB 3.0 header.

Simple enough, right? Let’s dive into the details of each type.

USB 2.0 Header

USB 2.0 headers contain nine pins arranged in a 5 x 2 grid. However, the 10th pin is missing to ensure you align the plug properly.

Depending on your motherboard, you may see the text “F_USB2” printed under the header for further identification. 

USB 3.0 Header

A USB 3.0 header is much larger, boasting 19 pins arranged in 2 x 10 format. Like the USB version, the header is known by a wealth of names, such as:

  • USB 3.1
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • USB 3.2 Gen 1

The name printed under the header on your motherboard entirely depends on when the manufacturer made it. If you’ve recently purchased a newer board, you should find it’s labeled “USB 3.2 Gen1.”

USB 3.1 Gen 2 Header

The USB 3.1 Gen 2 header is perhaps the most unique. You won’t find any pins sticking out like the others. Instead, it’s enclosed by a relatively large metal casing with barely visible pin tops.

USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 2 Header

Finally, you get USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 2 headers. They look very similar to the USB 3.1 Gen 2 headers but with dual channels.

Where Are USB Headers Found?

All USB headers are found on the motherboard, typically on the bottom edge. Failing that, you’ll find them on the right edge.

However, if you’re struggling to find them, try the following:

  1. Inspect Your Motherboard — Inspect each edge until you come across components matching the descriptions above. Remember, they may be labeled, making them even easier to spot.
  2. Check Your Manual —  The manual has a detailed depiction of the motherboard’s layout. 

Summary

The USB headers dictate how you connect your PC casing. As long as you can match the case’s ports to the corresponding headers discussed here, this part of your build will go smoothly!

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