Many notebooks no longer come with USB-A ports, having already transitioned to the USB-C standard now favored by most USB and Thunderbolt devices. This can be an issue if you have older cables and flash drives that you want to use, but there’s a simple solution that will save them from the landfill.
Use Cheap USB-C Adapters to Convert USB-A Devices
By far the easiest and cheapest way of using older USB-A cables and devices on a notebook that only has USB-C ports (like the M1 or M2 MacBook Air) is to use adapters. These sit on the USB-A plug, whether it’s a cable or flash drive, and make it possible to connect it to a USB-C port directly.
The most compact adapters are small and add no additional cable clutter to your desk. They’re also quite easy to lose on account of their size, so it’s a good idea to leave them connected to your most-commonly-used cables and peripherals.
You can buy a pack of two for around $10 on Amazon (like this Syntech USB-C to USB Adapter bundle). As is the case with many similar products, the more you buy the more you’ll save on the individual unit price.
Syntech USB-C to USB Adapter
This USB-C to USB-A adapter features USB 3.0 data transfer speed and surprisingly durable build quality.
One thing to be aware of is what speed the adapters are rated for. Some cheaper varieties may only be capable of USB 2.0 speeds (480Mbps), whereas the Syntech adapters above are USB 3.0 compliant (5Gbps).
Buying New Drives and Cables Is Expensive
If you’ve bought a notebook that lacks a USB-A port, it makes sense that going forward you ensure that any cables and peripherals you buy use the latest USB-C standard. Many smartphone manufacturers already ship their devices with USB-C cables, and many smartphones use a USB-C connection also.
But many buyers find themselves in a period of transition, where they have a lot of cables and accessories that use the older standard. Replacing all of these cables with new ones isn’t just impractical, it’s expensive.
A new USB-C to Lightning cable at the Apple Store will set you back $19, compared to around $5 for the cost of an adapter alone. That’s before you consider all of the flash drives and cables you already have at home that you can still get years’ worth of use out of.
Satechi USB-C On-The-Go Multiport Adapter
Do you need to plug in all your stuff but don't have the ports to do it? This multiport adapter comes with built-in USB-C PD charging, Gigabit Ethernet, a USB-C data port, two USB-A data ports, a MicroSD card reader slot and an SD slot, a 4K HDMI port, and a VGA port.
Some users may also be interested in a more stationary solution in laptop docking station like the Satechi Multiport Adapter above. These connect to your existing ports and add a range of connectors, from USB-A to Ethernet adapters, HDMI outputs, and card readers.
The Future Is USB-C
USB-C is a simpler, reversible standard with support for the fastest transfer speeds and power delivery standards. In the future, USB-C will be used for everything from charging your laptop to displaying an image on a monitor.
While you’re transitioning your cable collection, find out more about the future of USB and the Thunderbolt standard.
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