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Best USB 3 PCI Adapter Card for PC's?

Updated on August 11, 2013
Will Apse profile image

Scientist, writer, audiophile and smartphone addict, Will Apse, loves explaining tech issues in a way that anyone can understand.

Why use USB 3.0 at all?

Speed is the main reason. Although USB 3.0 cannot live up to some claims that it is ten times faster than USB 2.0, it is comfortably three times faster and transfer speeds should increase with time (as drivers improve). The need to move Hi-def movies between devices and the increasing sophistication of gaming makes that old USB 2.0 connection a bottleneck in the system.

As an example: a 25 GB movie can be transferred from PC to an external drive in around 3 minutes. Using USB 2.0 it will take about 12 minutes.

With the ever-increasing need to move large amounts of data from one device to another, USB 3.0 has finally found a place for itself.

Backwards Compatibly

USB 2.0 plugs are completely compatible with USB 3.0 ports. The plug design (essentially the pin lengths) makes it impossible to mess up.

Other Advantages

Besides pure speed, probably the most significant advance has been in the management of peripheral devices.

USB 3.0 supplies enough extra current to allow you to do without power cables for many peripherals. There are also features like automatically switching devices to sleep mode when they are not being used.

The Problem

Although more and more PC's are being shipped with USB 3.0 on-board, it is far from being a standard feature. Only top models carry it.

For many people, the only way to take advantage of the new, fast write-speed, USB 3.0. hard drives is to install a dedicated PCI adapter card.

This is nowhere as difficult as you might think. In fact, with a laptop, it is simply a matter of pushing an ExpressCard into a standard port. With a desktop PC, you will need to open up the case and install a USB 3.0 PCI adapter. This is not so scary! You can check out the video below.

The Best?

There are several cards that will get you moving into the bright future of USB 3.0 but I have picked out only two: the power-crazed Buffalo and the SATA 6 Asus.

Inexpensive Dual Port Card

This is a no name card but works well enough and comes at a very reasonable price. The chipset comes from Renesas and is considered reliable by those in the know.

Buffalo Technology USB 3 card
Buffalo Technology USB 3 card

Buffalo Technology DriveStation, USB 3

This is one of the pricier cards but Buffalo are a quality name in high-speed data transfer and a pioneer in USB 3.0 devices. The heavy-duty copper circuitry can supply more power to devices than many other PCIe cards. There is a one-year warranty and unlimited technical support.

Supports Windows XP/VISTA/ WIN 7

Asus USB 3.0 Motherboard

This has to a good buy for anyone looking to back up data to an external hard drive fast (through SATA 6) and also have the advantage of USB 3.0. Asus has a great reputation in PC hardware and this card is inexpensive and easy to install according to users.

For data backup to an external hard drive there is the choice of USB 3.0 or SATA 6 which delivers data at twice the speed of SATA 3 in theory and about fifty per cent faster in practice. This should improve further as drivers improve (keep an eye open for new firmware from the Asus site) but is already a big step forward and faster than the impressive real world speeds of USB 3.0. It leaves Firewire floundering in the mud of the un-evolved.

Supports Win 7 and previous.

The female half of a molex connector on a motherboard (white plastic, silver pins)
The female half of a molex connector on a motherboard (white plastic, silver pins)

How to Install a USB 3.0 PCIe Card.

This is not rocket science. You will need a screwdriver and a friendly walk-through. The video below shows the installation of a video PCIe card which is exactly the same procedure. It is all you need to know, except that some of the USB 3.0 PCIe cards take extra power from the motherboard via a molex connector. The molex connecter is just a plug with male pins that slip into the female openings (don't get too excited here, keep those hands steady) in a ten second operation.

Useful Links

Molex connectors:


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    • toptenluxury profile image

      Adrian Cloute 4 years ago from Cedartown, GA

      Thanks for the hub. This is such an amazing hub! It's another thing to add to my computer build. Thanks!

    • Will Apse profile image

      Will Apse 5 years ago

      You should have got a CD with the drivers.

      I would contact your supplier.

      Also, did you connect the power supply?

    • profile image

      nofxian 5 years ago

      I have a Uspeed USB 3.0 PCI-E Card wlx-898u3-4 V1.0

      Did not come with a disk and and I cant get the driver to update and cant find one online. Please Help. I checked my BIOS. There is only Legacy USB option. No 3.0. Is this the problem?

    • profile image

      Wells P. Martin 6 years ago

      My computer ( Dell Studio XPS 8100 ) does not have a free

      PCI Express slot. Since the only USB3 cards I have seen

      require PCI Express, I guess I am left "sucking salt" :(

    • Will Apse profile image

      Will Apse 6 years ago

      According to the manual, the D845GVSR has three PCI bus add-in card connectors so I reckon the answer is yes, Mehtab

    • profile image

      Mehtab Alam 6 years ago

      Can i install it in D845gvsr

    • Will Apse profile image

      Will Apse 6 years ago

      Your last sentence says it all Barton. People need something they can afford. USB 3.0 is fast and inexpensive but not perfect. There are some really fast technologies available but the price tags are obscene. At CES this year OCZ announced a new version of its SSD that it calls HSDL (high speed data link) which is way faster than the 6 GB SATA you referred to. The problem is the original SSD cost around $1000 and there is no price yet on the new HSD.

    • profile image

      Barton 6 years ago

      Even though a plain PCI 32 bit normal slot woud seem too slow to make a USB 3.0 card for, I'd sure love to see such a card. I can obviously buy PCI cards that provide multiple STAT or eSTAT 300 port (version 2...) I can't get that much speed ouit of a USB 2.0 port, so have to use eSTAT where a USB 3.0 port would be much more user friendly even if it can't handle the full speed. The card could be made as a PCI-X card for 64 bit server slots, but be one that gracefully still works in the 32 bit PCI slots us poorons can afford.

    • profile image

      Barton 6 years ago

      Your piece says: "USB 3.0 is also faster than Firewire and SATA 3."

      So I wonder if that is true, but I'll guess it depends on what "SATA 3" means. If that meant SATA 300 MBPs (aka 3 Gbps), the that would be TRUE. But to me, "SATA 3" is VERSION 3, and that is SATA 600 MBps (6 Gbps) and THAT SATA is faster that USP 3.0 but precious few drives or arrays of drives get to that speed YET.

      Unles wer will be seing an eSATA interface for the new speed, USB version 3.0 will be the better external drive option. If eSATA does come to the new speed, I sure hope the chipsets actually support port expansion to 15 drives the spec allows for but current chips sadly stop at 5 drives. If you have an eSATA connected external drive case with more than 5 drives, you need two such cables. USB isn't hobbled that way.

    • bigocean profile image

      George Bogosian 6 years ago from New England

      Thanks for the help, very informative. I do open my computer at times and install new cards or added ram, but this hub gave me more confidence to keep at it.

    • save my system profile image

      save my system 7 years ago from United Kingdom - London

      With USB wireless adapters, you can easily remove the adapter off the computer and installing to other computer or laptop for troubleshooting reason. Adapter card is much complicated design. Thanks for providing PCB design of the same.