There have been several different versions of the USB standard, with several different form factors and connector types. The two most common connector types are USB Type A and USB Type C. Type A connectors have been around since 1996, and are still the most prevalent. The newer, smaller Type C connector has been around since 2014 and is often the only connector on newer devices. This post is going to walk through the process of identifying a USB 2.0 flash drive.
The reason I am talking about this old style USB flash drive standard in 2020 is that you still may need a USB Type A 2.0 flash drive to do something specific, like flash the BIOS on some PC motherboards. This is usually only required if you are flashing the BIOS using the “Flash BIOS” button (or something similar) on some motherboards. The more common method of flashing the BIOS from a utility inside the BIOS setup usually does not require a USB 2.0 drive.
Identifying a USB 2.0 Flash Drive
If you have been using personal computers for more than a few years, you probably have a collection of old USB Type A flash drives that you have accumulated over time. Many of the older, smaller ones are probably USB 2.0, or even USB 1.1. USB 2.0 drives were first available in 2000.
So how can you tell USB 2.0 from USB 3.0 (or newer)? Well, if you are lucky, there will be some sort of branding or marking on the outside of the drive that identifies it as USB 2.0 or USB 3.0. If you are not so lucky, you need to look for other identifying characteristics.
USB Type A 2.0 drives usually (but not always) will have a black connector inside rather than a blue connector. There will also be fewer metal connector pins inside compared to USB Type A 3.0 drive.
USB 2.0 is rated at 480Mbps, which is about 60MBps. Most USB Type A 2.0 drives typically do more like 25-35MBps for sequential reads.
Here are the CrystalDiskMark results for an old USB Type A 2.0 drive that I often use for BIOS flashing duties.
If you don’t have any old USB 2.0 flash drives, here are a couple of Amazon Affiliate links:
Identifying a USB 3.0 Flash Drive
The primary easy tip-off that you have a USB Type A 3.0 flash drive, is that part of the internal connector is blue rather than black. This is not 100% conclusive, since it is possible that you might have a counterfeit USB Type A 3.0 flash drive. You will also see a higher number of metal connector pins inside compared to USB Type A 2.0 drive.
Another way to confirm that you have a USB 3.0 drive is to run a disk benchmark like CrystalDiskMark on the drive. You want to make sure the drive is plugged into a USB 3.0 port (which is also usually blue).
Just to be clear, the main reason you might care about this is if you need one of these older version USB 2.0 drives for a specific purpose. You don’t want to use these for regular everyday tasks, since they are painfully slow my modern standards.
If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry. Thanks for reading!