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Linux and USB 3.0

No Bragging Rights for Windows

  • January 19, 2010
  • By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
The newest, fast interface, USB 3.0, is finally out, but only one operating system has native support for it: Linux.

Ever get tired of Windows people proclaiming how their operating system has device support for this, that, and the other thing and Linux doesn't? Well, now you have a perfect come-back. The newest, fast interface, USB 3.0 is out and only Linux has native support for it.

Linux started supporting USB 3.0 in the September 2009 release of the 2.6.31 Linux kernel. Neither Windows 7 nor Snow Leopard currently supports USB 3. Windows support? That will have to wait for Windows 7 SP1 ---whenever that shows up.

Long before then, many USB 3.0 devices will have arrived. Some will doubtlessly have Windows drivers, but only Linux is USB 3.0 ready. USB 3.0, aka SuperSpeed USB, reaches new highs in PC peripheral speeds. USB 2.0 has a maximum throughput of 480Mbps (Megabits per second), which is fast --- but these days, when you might want to move gigabytes of movies from one your PC to an external hard drive, it's not fast enough. USB 3.0, by comparison, has a maximum throughput of 5 Gbps (Gigabits per second). Of course, that's a peak speed. In real life, USB 2.0 has an effective throughput of about 32MBps (Megabytes per second) while USB 3 easily laps it at an effective throughput rate of 350MBps (Megabytes per second).

What About Firewire?

Users who have been around for a while may be saying what about Firewire, aka the IEEE 1394 interface standard. It's true that Firewire, Apple's name for their implementation for the technology, was faster than USB 2.0. Firewire 400 could reach a peak throughput of 400Mbps and 800 could, as you might have guessed, hit 800Mbps.
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