How to Know If You Can Add USB-C to Your Motherboard
Laptops and mobile devices are increasingly using USB-C as a connecting standard. However, if you don't want to replace your laptop or desktop PC because it lacks ports, you'll need an alternative. The good news – you can add USB-C to your computer, as long as your motherboard supports it.
It's quite simple to add USB-C ports to a desktop computer.
You may use a regular Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) expansion connector to add a new card to your motherboard with fresh new connections, or you can change some bay drives, or the PC case itself if you want those ports on the front of the machine.
Laptops are a little more difficult to work with – you'll need to rely on adapters and converter cords.
How Do I Get USB-C On My Motherboard?
PCIe slots, Image Source
As we mentioned above, it is possible to add USB-C to your computer – whether it is a desktop or a laptop. However, as laptops are entirely enclosed units with extremely limited space, you will likely not be able to physically add ports to your laptop. However, there are great options for workarounds.
For desktop users, the process is much simpler and relies entirely on your motherboard. We are going to talk first about how to add USB-C to both laptops and desktops, and then we will discuss how to know if your motherboard is compatible with modern USB-C technology.
How to Add USB-C to a Laptop
If your laptop doesn't have USB-C ports and you need to connect something to it, the simplest solution is to use a USB-to-USB-C adapter.
USB hub plugged into laptop
Male and female USB-C to USB-A cables (the ones with the typical rectangular connection) are available. In fact, if your new device only connects through USB-C, as most recent Android phones do, a USB-C-to-A cable is almost certainly provided in the box.
Converters are the easiest to implement.
They can simply stay attached to your USB-C device and then be used to plug into USB-A/USB 3.0 (or higher) ports. This way you aren’t messing with more cables and cords and can always have it handy. Some, in fact, are fairly small so they don’t stick out too much and risk getting damaged.
USB Hubs are more common and, while bulkier than adapters, can offer a lot of utility.
They offer plenty of functionality for plugging in multiple devices. One word of warning, though: your motherboard in your laptop is likely not meant to handle so many devices and it will affect charging ability, upload speeds, download speeds, and more.
How to Add USB-C to a Desktop
Graphics cards, sound cards, and USB cards all require the use of PCIe slots on your motherboard. A limited amount of PCIe slot extensions will be available on your motherboard, unless you use PCIe risers. Keep in mind that you are giving up space for either an additional graphics or sound card when you add USB-C to your desktop.
The majority of contemporary motherboards will feature two or three PCIe slots. If your workstation only has enough for two PCIe slots, you've already narrowed down your possibilities. If your motherboard, on the other hand, has three PCIe slots, you'll have more flexibility to figure things out.
When you add USB-C to a desktop, it all comes down to the type of motherboard you are using, how many PCIe slots are available, and if everything will fit nicely in your case. To narrow our discussion down even further, we are going to discuss exactly what you need to know about whether or not your motherboard can add USB-C ports to your desktop.
Can I Add USB-C to My Motherboard?
Adding USB-C to gaming desktop
To answer this question, we really need to understand the concept of PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express). PCIe slots connect your motherboard to your PC's most important components and provide essential functionality. When you are ready to go beyond pre-installed features like graphics and storage, they also offer a variety of customization and upgrade choices.
One of these customization options is the ability to add USB-C card upgrades. However, there are two factors to consider when choosing a motherboard compatible with PCIe USB-C card expansions: PCIe size and PCIe generation.
PCIe size is an important factor because it determines whether or not you will actually have space for a USB-C card as well as capacity to take full advantage of the USB-C card. While there are a variety of sizes and combinations available, most users will only meet four basic sizes.
The number of direct connections available by a PCIe slot or card is represented by the size.
- PCIe x1
- PCIe x4
- PCIe x8
- PCIe x16
These connections are commonly referred to as lanes, and the more of them you have, the better your cards can perform. High-performance devices nearly exclusively use PCIe x16 to improve efficiency.
Typically, as long as everything fits you shouldn’t have much else to worry about. However, even though they appear to be physical matches, not all PCIe ports have the same amount of possible ratings. This brings us to PCIe generations.
Updates to PCIe have historically quadrupled transfer rates and have been categorized with multiples of 8 since generation 3.0.
New generation bandwidth has also doubled compared to previous versions, substantially boosting the quantity of data which can be transferred each second. When you use ports and cards of the same generation, your benefit is maximized.
Practically speaking, you are more than likely going to be able to add USB-C ports to your motherboard, but upgrading your motherboard before doing so will pay off in the long run.
3 Great Motherboards Capable of Adding USB-C Ports
Adding USB-C to a motherboard
With all of this information in mind, we want to showcase three of the best motherboards in our stock that will give you the absolute best performance with your USB-C card upgrades. All of these options are ready to go with all the bells, whistles, and anything else you need for your desktop.
If you are happy with your motherboard and just looking for a PCIe USB-C card to plug and play, then we have our top three list here. If you are already planning out your motherboard and USB-C upgrades, then feel free to check out the article to get a feel for the best combinations to meet your needs and goals.
The Z390 AORUS ULTRA motherboard has a high-performance thermal architecture to provide the best cooling possible. With rates up to 1.73Gbps, Intel's next-generation wireless technology ensures fast video streaming and a better overall experience.
Most importantly, it has 3x PCIe x1 slots and 3x PCIe X16 slots for a wide range of expansion cards to be plugged in. You will have more than enough space to upgrade your USB-C card.
As it is one of the newest motherboards on the market, it is more difficult to find but you can be sure it will function perfectly with any USB-C card you choose. If you want to upgrade your motherboard and add a USB-C card at the same time, then look no further.
Coming in at #2 on our list is the MSI Z390APRO LGA1151. This motherboard is a little more affordable than the GIGABYTE, but still packs in everything you will need to add USB-C ports to your desktop.
This MSI motherboard allows you to connect any ultra-fast storage device, which provides significant advantages. When you add USB-C ports, possibly with Thunderbolt technology, you can expect those charging times and upload/download speeds to increase even further!
With 4x PCIex1 slots and 2x PCIex16 slots there is more than enough space to add anything you want, especially USB-C cards. These motherboards are designed to meet the needs of even the most discerning professional and will fit into any PC.
We are rounding out our list with the GIGABYTE Z170 ATX, another one of the premier motherboards on the market right now. The beautiful thing about this motherboard, though, is that it won’t break the bank while bringing your motherboard and ability to add USB-C ports to the most recent generation of hardware.
With 2x PCIex1 slots and 3x PCIex16 slots, this motherboard is all set to give you just what you need. As an added bonus, it is one of the safest motherboards on our list because it has DualBIOS equipped, meaning that your motherboard will stay protected against virus attacks, hardware malfunctions, and power fluctuations.
Other Notable Motherboards Supporting USB-C
ASRock 128GB DDR4, PCIe4.0, USB-C, HDMI, AMD AM4
GIGABYTE AORUS ELITE V2 ATX 128GB DDR4, PCIe4.0, M.2, RGB, USB-C, AMD AM4
GIGABYTE AORUS ELITE AX V2 128GB DDR4, PCIe4.0, USB-C, M.2, Wifi 6, RGB, AMD AM4, ATX
GIGABYTE AORUS MASTER ATX 128GB DDR4, PCIe4.0, M.2, USB-C, Ultra Durable Motherboard, AMD AM4
Looking For More Information About Motherboard or USB-C Upgrades?
When it comes to motherboards and whether or not they can support USB-C upgrades there is good news and bad news: most of them can, but it’s usually best to upgrade to be sure.
So, what do you think? Are there any questions we can answer for you? We think the Z390 AORUS ULTRA is your best bet all around, but we would love to talk through any questions you might have.
You can find other articles and comparisons elsewhere on the SabrePC blog. Keep a lookout for more helpful articles that will be on the way soon. If you have any questions or want to suggest some other topics for us to focus on, please feel free to contact us.