USB Color Codes

I have never really taken much notice of the different colours of the USB ports in the past but recently I was issued a new Ultra Hub from Lenova to connect my monitors to my laptop in a hot-desk configuration (this seems to be the rage at most major companies these days) and after they had installed this, I noticed the one port was yellow and marked SS with a battery + next to it.

After I saw that I checked my laptop and what do you know, there is exactly the same symbol. So I did a little research and I wanted to share my findings.


Sleep-and-Charge Port


Sleep-and-Charge Port is in fact the technical name for these yellow ports. But how do they relate to my blog of travel accessories, well the idea behind these ports is that they stay active when the laptop is shut down. Normal operation of a laptop dictates that when the unit is shut down, then all USB Ports are turned off.

In the case of the yellow ports, these stay active and as you well guessed it, that’s why they have a battery symbol next to it as the power that is drawn is from the laptop battery and that is then sent to your mobile device to charge it.


Terminology and Symbology?


There is no one colour coding naming system for all models of laptop’s or electronics. To give some typical examples, Dell and Toshiba laptop’s will both have the standard USB symbol with a lightning bolt symbol next them however the Dell will call this feature PowerShare while Toshiba calls it USB Sleep-and-Charge.

In another example, Aver and Packard Bell laptop’s have both the same USB Sleep-and-Charge port marked in the unconventional USB over the drawing of a battery. In addition to this they also term this a Power-Off USB.

So what is clear here to understand, regardless of the terminology, what you are seeing is that any USB Port with a different colour to the rest with a battery symbol next to it with some reference to USB will most likely be a USB charge point that remains active after shutdown.


Laptop Battery Limitations


I think a very valid question when passively charging your mobile device, will this completely deplete the battery of my Laptop if this is not plugged into the wall socket?

The answer is yes. By taking advantage of this passive feature, your power source is no longer the unseen coal-fired power station very far away but now your laptop’s on board power source. There are some safety features built into the laptop’s hardware and software that will prevent the battery from being completely depleted but this is no substitute for finding a longer term solution in the form of reliable wall socket power.

Certain laptop docking stations also have this feature such as the ThinkPad Ultra that I have currently where the feature is still active even when a laptop is not connected.

~~Click Here to Learn More about USB Power Bank Chargers~~

Not all USB’s are created equal



With the development of technology as with anything, the newer Laptops have 2 main type of USD ports namely the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. These are easily identifiable as the USB 2.0 will have a symbol like the one located to the upper left and the USB 3.0 will have the letters SS usually associated with is as can be seen on the right.


The main difference between them is the charging capability. While both ports will charge your mobile device, the USB 3 has better capabilities in that it can supply more current and thus charge your accessories fast.


The Recommendation


If you have a bit of time on your hands then I would really recommend that you experiment a little with the USB Ports. As can be seen from this post, there are so many variations from colours to symbols to terminology that to properly understand what you have available to you, you need to try it for yourself.

Each manufacture has attempted to differentiate itself from its competitor and has therefore changed things to try to stand out. What remains constant is that this feature is a good feature to use when in a bind but should not be the go-to power source that you used to recharge your electronics on a regular basis.

USB is evolving at a constant rate with new features and possibilities being added constantly, it’s going to be super exciting to see what the tech guru’s will be releasing next for the USB ports.

If you have found this article interesting, drop me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.




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2 Responses

  1. This is a really interesting post. In what situations would you recommend the use of one particular USB over the other?

    • Richard says:

      Im not sure if you’re referring to the difference between a normal USB and the 2.0 or the colour coding but I will answer both. The colour coded USB ports provide power even when the laptop is shut down so if you want it to keep charging through the night for example, use the colour coded ports otherwise you will be disappointed to see in the morning that nothing has been charged.

      With respect of the differences between conventional 2.0 and 3.0, there are 2 very important differences related to power output and secondly data transfer. A standard or conventional USB 2.0 port has a power output of approx. 500 mA of current and data transfer of 480 mbps. A USB 3.0 port supplies 900 mA of current and has a data transfer capability of around 4.800 mbps which is 10x the data transfer of a USB 2.0.

      The main consideration is if your device can handle USB 3.0 or only 2.0 in which case the port you use will have little influence over the result. If your device is designed for USB 3.0 then the use of the correct port will mean the difference between a slow data transfer and charge vs a substantially improved one. There is no chance of a USB 3.0 port damaging a USB 2.0 capable device.

      I hope this answered your question and if you have further questions, drop me a note.


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