How to add USB to your computer (for very old computers*)


*This page was written sometime around the year 2000. It has been made available for those with very old problems!

Note: There is no way to add USB to a computer through serial, PS/2 or parallel ports. With a desktop (as opposed to laptop) computer either the motherboard must support USB ports with built-in connectors or "header" connectors for attaching cable/bracket assemblies, or a PCI slot card must be used. Laptops require "PCCard" slot USB adapters. Older laptops with older versions of PCMCIA slots will not work.

So you want to use USB peripherals with your computer and your computer doesn't have USB?! First of all, you cannot use an adapter to connect USB devices to your computer through your serial or parallel ports, nor any other ports. You can only add USB support to a computer through either PCI slots, for Desktop computers, or PC Card slots/Cardbus slots for notebooks, and Powerbooks. Some motherboards support USB and are not equipped with external adapters. You will need to consult your manual to see if yours supports USB. Directions for that are down below. OK, so your motherboard or notebook computer doesn't have USB but you still want to install it?! Well, it could be easy or it could be impossible depending on your computer hardware and operating system. Let's start with operating systems since that's pretty simple. Yeah right!

Operating Systems

Windows: You'll need Windows 2000, Windows 98 or Windows 95 revB. Windows 2000 and 98 offer complete support "built-in" while Windows 95 revB will require you to install the USB "supplement" which you can download here. If you have a version of NT before 4.0 forget it, but there is a commercial USB solution for NT4.0. BSquare has software to allow you to use plug-and-play USB (Universal Serial Bus) mice, keyboards, printers, and Pocket PC cradles (HP Jornada 545/548, Compaq iPaq and Socket's USB Sync Card). See here. If you have the original version of windows 95, or anything earlier you may want to buy a "DOS" version of USB support, see here. How can you tell what revision of Win95 you have? "Right-click" on the "My Computer" icon and select "Properties". If it displays:

Microsoft Windows 95
4.00.950 B

You're in luck! If instead you see:

Microsoft Windows 95

Better luck next time. Either upgrade or pay for the above "DOS" version.

You'll need a North American English Mac OS 8.6 or later. Mac OS 8.5.1 users should download USB Adapter Card Support 1.2. You can read more about this here.

Well you don't want us to tell you, you want to figure it out yourself, right? Well, if you really do want help, see here.

Supported since version 4.1?! Well version 5 certainly supports it. Drivers for your devices will likely be your biggest problem.

Check with your OS vendor, geek!


You will need a Pentium computer with PCI slots or a Pentium laptop that takes PCcard adapters. There are some 486 PC's with PCI slots, but often they have an early revision of the PCI spec, and generally won't work. You'll also need a USB card.

You'll need a PowerPC based Macintosh computer with PCI or CardBus (PowerBook) slots, and a USB adapter card.

Same as for windows users only worse. Drivers for your stuff may not have been written, probably only the most popular devices will be supported for the time being, see here again!

See here.

See your Hardware vendor and your software vendor.

OK! Ready to install!
Installing an adapter for a USB Equipped motherboard:
Many motherboards that support USB were installed in many PC's without the cables and adapters to give you a rear USB port. This is especially true on the "clone" or "no-name" or perhaps best called "custom system" market. You will need your motherboards manual! Repeat, YOU WILL NEED YOUR MOTHERBOARDS MANUAL! Many manufacturers have their manuals on their website for easy downloading, if you cannot find yours. Generally the USB "connector" on the motherboard is two rows of five or one long row of ten "headers", or long thin spikes that stick up from the board. Sometimes its a dual row 16 pin header (typical for Abit) . Sometimes it's a header with a combination of USB, PS/2 and IR ports all on one bracketed subassembly. Sometimes you will need to know which end of each row is pin #1, or even better, the signals on each pin of the header in order to properly connect the cables. In the case of the subassembly board, it just plugs in, and you don't have to worry about it.

Adding a card:
Shut down and turn off the computer! Insert the PCI card into your PCI slot, or PCCard or Cardbus card into the laptop/powerbooks PC Card or cardbus slot. If you don't know how to do this, you may want to look in your computer manual, buy an "Upgrade your PC" book or ask a geeky technician type how to do this. We'll try to add some pictures to this page at some point to help you along.
After following any instructions that came with your card (if, in fact, it has any instructions) you'll turn on the computer. You'll get the usual "new hardware found" kind of messages, and will have to most likely insert your OS's installation CD. That should be it. After that, when you plug in a new USB device you should be prompted for the devices driver, or to insert the OS disk. Some kooky devices will need you to install the drivers before connecting the devices.

That should be it! After that, when you plug in a new USB device you should be prompted for the devices driver, or to insert the OS disk. Some kooky devices will need you to install the drivers before connecting the devices.