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Printer USB Cable: Everything You Need to Know Before Purchase

Printer USB Cable may seem trivial, but they perform an essential function. Without printer cables, you will never be able to print your documents. Most printers use the same USB cables that other USB devices use to connect to your computer.

Printer USB Cable

USB’s development was driven by the need to create a connection standard to replace the myriad serial, parallel, and other cables previously used to connect peripherals to computers.

Prior to USB, most printers connected to computers via parallel cables.

Universal Serial Bus Development

The Universal Serial Bus is the primary connection type for most computer peripherals.

USB was designed to replace the old-school approach that used a different connector type for almost every device attached to a computer.

The USB ports on your computer can be used to attach a keyboard, hard drive, mouse, printer, or any other USB device.

USB ports have become so common as the primary means of connecting printers, PC manufacturers have stopped including parallel ports on their machines.

Universal Serial Bus Printers

USB is the standard cable choice for printers, so much so that many printers aren’t sold with a cable; you’re expected to either buy one separately or already have one on hand.

A USB printer will have a USB-B port on the back. The cable necessary to connect the printer, the USB AB cable, has a standard USB-A connection to plug into your computer.

What is a Printer Cable?

Most of us know how to take print outs using a printer. If you have used a printer, you must connect it to your computer via a cable.

The printer cable is the cable that connects the printer to your computer.

The cable comes with a connector on both ends and transfers printing commands from the computer to the printer.

One end of the printer cable connects to the port on a computer.

The other end fits into the port in your printer, setting up a connection between the two devices.

When you give the print command on your computer, the cable sends the information to the printer.

Without a cable, your printer wouldn’t function or be able to print documents.

The printer cable facilitates two-way data transfer. It sends the print instructions to the printer and transmits messages or information from printer to computer.

For example, the cable sends information related to ink levels, paper status, and printer details to the computer.


Types of Printer Cables

Printers have a long history of evolution, just like most computer peripherals.

The earliest dot matrix printers used parallel cables while all new printers use USB cables. Let’s take a look at some of the printer cables in use

USB Printer Cables

The USB standard has become the most common technology to hook up devices, including the printer.

If your printer was manufactured any time in the last decade, there are high chances that it uses a USB connection.

The USB AB cable is the most widely used by present-day printers.

The cables feature a USB-A plug at one end that fits into the standard female USB port on your computer.

The USB-A end is flat and rectangular and can be recognized easily.

The other end comes with a USB-B plug and has a small, square shape. You need to connect this end to the USB port of your printer.

You will be able to find different types of USB printer cables in the market.

Some of the common types include USB Type A, USB Type B, B5 pin, Mini B4, and Micro USB A-B.

Printers use specific types of USB cables, so you need to make sure you are using the right type.

USB printer cables are capable of transferring data at high speeds of 480 Mbps. You can ideally use them for bigger projects and bulk printing.

One disadvantage of USB cables is that they are mostly available up to lengths of 16 feet.

Printer USB Cable

If the cables are any longer, the data transfer speed begins to drop as the distance increases.

Parallel Printer Cables

If you’re working a printer that was manufactured prior to USB standardization, you might need what’s called a parallel cable.

These cables have wide, flat ends with pins that connect to a printer’s parallel port.

The parallel port is the female end that sits on the printer’s rear panel.

The vast majority of computers manufactured today will not have a parallel port.

If you’re trying to pair up a new computer with an old printer, you may run into difficulty achieving a wired connection without purchasing an adapter cable.

These are cables that have a parallel plug on one end and a USB-A plug on the other.

Serial Cables

Earlier versions of Mac printers used serial ports to make the connection between printer and computer. 

This is a design that’s been phased out by Apple.

If you’re trying to pair up a new Mac computer with an outdated printer that’s still running strong, you’ll need to purchase a serial to USB adapter cable.


FireWire cables use the Apple IEEE 1394 standard to secure high-speed communications and real-time data transfer.

The standard developed by Apple during the 1980s and 1990s is used in printer cables to connect them to a computer.

FireWire cables support the plug-and-play feature like USB cables but can only accommodate 63 devices.

The cables come with a data transfer speed of up to 400 Mbps using the High-Performance Serial Bus technology.

FireWire printer cables are thin serial cables and more convenient than parallel cables where space is restricted.

Moreover, FireWire cables enable peer-to-peer connection and can connect two devices without the need for an intermediary computer.

FireWire ports still exist on some devices and desktops. They can also carry power along with data and suitable for distances of up to 15 feet.

You can compare the IEEE 1394 interface to USB because the latter can introduce FireWire and use it In a short time.

Printer USB Cable

What USB Cable do I Need for my Printer?

If you are looking to print without the worry of a spotty wireless signal, a reliable USB cable is the best way to go. 

A USB cable connects your printer to your computer, so you have a direct connection every time you print. 

The majority of printers are compatible with a USB 2.0 A/B cable. 

The “A” side of the cable plugs into the USB port on your computer and the “B” side plugs into the back of the printer.

This is a standard cable that is widely available and it can also be used to connect some mice and cameras to your computer too! 

Don’t be surprised if your new printer doesn’t come with a USB cable. 

Unfortunately, most printers don’t these days since printer manufacturers would rather have you print wirelessly.