USB 2.0 vs. USB 3.0 vs. eSATA vs. Thunderbolt vs. Firewire vs. Ethernet Speed

Your desktop or laptop computer has a wide variety of ports and connection types, but what are they all for and how do they differ? USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA, Thunderbolt, Firewire, and Ethernet are some of the technologies that are built into many of the computers sold today. So, what’s the fastest connection type? What type of connection is best to consider for an external hard drive? What about for 4K multi-monitor support? In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of high-speed data ports and how they are used.

Thunderbolt-Cable.png

No matter what type of computer you have, you probably have one or more of the high speed connection types covered in this article. Let’s first take a look at the different speeds for each type of connection. Note that the rated speeds are not what you’ll get in real-world conditions. Most likely, you’ll be able to get anywhere from 70% to 80% of the max speeds listed.

Speed

USB 2.0 Cable

The USB 2.0 connection type has pretty much become the standard. You have likely used a USB 2.0 cable to connect some device or drive to your PC or Mac at some point and you probably have several spare USB cables laying around the house. Even though USB 3.0 is here, many PC peripherals and other devices are still being manufactured with USB 2.0 connectivity.

Many devices do not yet use USB 3.0, nor do they use Thunderbolt. Why? Because USB 2.0 is simply fast enough to handle minor tasks and many devices simply do not require lightning fast speed, such as mice and keyboards. OK great, so how fast is USB 2.0 exactly?

USB 2.0 is rated at 480Mbps. That’s about 60 megabytes per second. For quick reference, 1000 Mbps equals 1 Gbps, which is considered gigabit.

USB 3

The USB 3.0 connection type is the next step for USB (from 2.0). USB 3.0 transfer speeds are about 10x faster than previous USB 2.0 speeds. So, what does that amount to?

USB 3.0 is rated at 5 Gbps. That’s about 640 megabytes per second. 

In 2013, USB 3.1 was also released and is rated up to 10 Gbps. That’s around 1280 megabytes per second or 1.2 GB per second. This means that USB 3.1 is about as fast as a single first generation Thunderbolt channel.

It’s also worth noting that the new USB Type C connection will support USB 3.1 for a max data transfer rate of 10 Gbps.

eSATA stands for external SATA. SATA, of course, is a connection type that is used to connect an internal hard drive to a computer. So, inside your desktop or laptop is the hard drive, which in most cases, connects to the motherboard using a SATA interface.

With eSATA, an external hard drive can use that same connection type and technology to be connect to the computer. The hard drive inside a computer is quicker than a standard external hard drive (USB 2.0), so what kind of speeds does eSATA produce?

eSATA is rated at 3 Gbps and 6 Gbps.

ESATA-Cable.png

Thunderbolt cables are the newest connection type featured on this list. Originally codenamed “Light Peak,” Thunderbolt was first a technology that was developed by Intel. For Thunderbolt’s consumer debut, Apple Inc. added the high speed interface to nearly all of their devices in the Mac lineup, making them one of the first companies to use the technology. Thunderbolt is capable of more than other connection types, but we will get to that later. What kinds of speeds does Thunderbolt produce?

Thunderbolt is rated at 10 Gbps per channel (x2). Thunderbolt 2 raises that value to 20 Gbps over a single channel. Thunderbolt 3 doubles the bandwidth again to 40 Gbps. 

Thunderbolt

Firewire, or IEEE 1394, is another connection type that was popular for a while, but has kind of gone away over the last few years. The popularity of USB 2 and USB 3 devices slowed adoption of Firewire, resulting in the slow decline of the connection. This occurred even though Firewire 400 and 800 are faster than previous USB technologies (not including 3.0).

Firewire is rated at 3 Gbps (400) and 6 Gbps (800).

Firewire Cable

Ethernet is a connection type that is used mainly for networking, so it is not designed to be super-fast. However, Ethernet cables can be used to transfer computer data too.

Ethernet is rated at 100 Mbps.

Ethernet

Summary

To summarize the above data, the connection types would result in the following, from fastest to slowest.

1. Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)

2. USB 3.1 (10 Gbps), then USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)

3. eSATA (6 Gbps)

4. Firewire (6 Gbps)

5. Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gbps)

6. USB 2.0 (480 Mbps)

7. Ethernet (100 Mbps)

However, this analysis is not quite accurate. As mentioned earlier, in actual situations, many of these max speeds are rarely achieved. Here is a chart from Wikipedia that summarizes the specs for many connection types beyond just the ones I mentioned.

peripheral speeds

When purchasing an external device or a new computer, the main thing to consider is the version of the connection type. For example, if you are purchasing a new Retina MacBook Pro laptop, you’ll notice that it has a USB 3.0 port and a Thunderbolt 2 port.

macbook pro ports

If you hold off for a bit, Apple will probably include the newer Thunderbolt 3 connections into their latest MacBook’s, meaning you can do a lot more with those ports than before. For example, with Thunderbolt 2, you can connect up to one 4K display at 60Hz or two 4K displays at 30Hz to your computer. With Thunderbolt 3, you’ll be able to connect up to three 4K displays at 60Hz or one 5K monitor at 60Hz.

Ethernet is extremely slow and it can be used for file transfers and moving folders, but its main purpose is for local networking.

In my view, Thunderbolt and USB 3.1 (Type C) will eventually become the standard on most computers. They provide the most speed with extra features like two-way power and multi-monitor support. In addition, both technologies have already been adopted by many major PC manufactures. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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Edit the Windows Hosts File to Block or Redirect Websites

The Windows Hosts file is a file that Windows uses to control and map IP addresses. By editing the Hosts file, Windows can be customized to block or redirect specific websites and even protocols that are used by programs and applications.

To get started editing the Windows Hosts file, you first need to locate it. Open Windows Explorer and click on This PC or My Computer. Double-click on C:, then the Windows folder and scroll down the page until you reach the System32 folder. Inside of that folder, open drivers and then open etc. You’ll now see several files, one of which is hosts.

hosts file

Now, notice that the file type for the hosts file is listed as File. Because there is no default program set to open a file type like this, double clicking the hosts file will simply give you a Windows prompt, asking you which program you would like to use to open the file.

Choose a program prompt - Windows 7

From this prompt, you can choose to edit the hosts file with Notepad. So, simply click to select Notepad and click the OK button. From there, Notepad will launch with the hosts file information.

hosts file notepad

This way of opening the hosts file was demonstrated to show where the hosts file is actually located within Windows, but you won’t be able to edit it because it’s a system file. In order to edit the file, you have to open Notepad first, running as an Administrator.

Click on Start and type in Notepad, but don’t click on Notepad to open it. Rather, right-click the Notepad listing to bring up the context menu. Select the option Run as Administrator.

notepad run as admin

With Notepad open, select File > Open. Navigate to C:WindowsSystem32driversetc. You will get a blank screen that displays the prompt No items match your search. Change Text Documents (*.txt) to All Files using the drop down menu. Now, you can select the hosts file and click Open.

open hosts file

Adding files to the hosts file is very simple. The hosts file uses the format:

IP Address   exampledomain.com

Blocking a website in Windows is as simple as typing the following into the bottom of the hosts file:

127.0.0.1    www.exampledomain.com

So, if I wanted to block a website like www.nytimes.com, I could just add the following line:

127.0.0.1    www.nytimes.com

redirect website hosts

What we are actually telling Windows is that the website www.nytimes.com should redirect to the IP address 127.0.0.1, which is just the loopback address on our local system. If you don’t have a local website setup on your computer, you’ll just get an error page in your web browser.

site cannot be reached

Pretty cool, huh!? Obviously, you can see how this can be used in several different ways: a prank, parental control, etc. If you didn’t want to block the website in that way, you could also redirect it to another website. In order to do this, you have to find the IP address of the other site first.

To do that, just open a command prompt (click on Start and type in CMD) and type in the following command:

ping examplewebsite.com

ping website

In my example, I pinged Adobe.com. The IP address is 192.150.16.117. Now I can simply plug that number into my hosts file in front of www.nytimes.com.

hosts file redirect

Now when I visit www.nytimes.com, I get redirect to Adobe.com! Nice! Note that if this doesn’t work for the websites you are entering, it could be because of the URL you are using. For example, it makes a difference if you use www.nytimes.com as opposed to nytimes.com without the www. Visit the website and see exactly what the URL is for the website you want to redirect. You should always try without the www first to see if that works.

If the website uses HTTPS like Google.com or something, it should still redirect if you use the host name. There is no way to specify the HTTPS version of a website in the HOSTS file, but it should redirect the HTTPS and non-HTTPS versions of the website if you use just the host name (i.e. google.com).

Lastly, you can use the hosts file to create simple shortcuts to your own devices on the network. For example, my router is at 192.168.1.3 on my home network, but I could add the following line to my hosts file and simply type in myrouter.com into my address bar.

redirect to local device

It doesn’t really matter if myrouter.com is actually a website or not because the hosts file is read first and you are redirected to the IP address specified in the file. It’s worth noting that not all browsers may use the hosts file, so if it’s not working, that could be the issue. I tested it using IE, Microsoft Edge, Chrome and Firefox and it worked on all of the browsers.

Overall, the hosts file is still useful, even in Windows 10. It also still works just fine in Windows 8, 7, Vista, etc. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

The post Edit the Windows Hosts File to Block or Redirect Websites appeared first on Online Tech Tips.

Online Tech Tips 2016-03-21 17:14:55

Equipped with a wireless router from your ISP, most WiFi networks are usually fairly efficient. For at-home setups, a quality router will usually be more than enough to run a decent network. After all, even your close neighbors can normally see your wireless network. Of course, there are some exceptions.

If you live in a very large house or your ISP installed your router in a strange location like your closet, your WiFi signal may not reach every part of the house adequately. When it comes to streaming media, a weak WiFi signal result in extreme lag and choppy videos.

wifi signal

Luckily, there are several things that you can do to help boost WiFi signal strength. Here are some of my top recommendations for improving weak WiFi. Note that this article focuses on WiFi specifically and not on your Internet connection.

If your Internet connection is slow, check out my article that talks about the many ways you can boost your Internet speed.

Use Latest WiFi Protocol

Wireless AC has pretty much become the standard, but if you have not yet upgraded to a Wireless AC router and are still using Wireless G or N, you may want to consider upgrading. Wireless AC has proven to be a much more capable technology that not only produces greater WiFi range, but improved and more consistent signal strength as well.

Of course, a Wireless AC router will be most efficient with Wireless AC devices.  If you are using a newer device with a built-in wireless card, such as a laptop, check to see what wireless protocol it supports.

It’s also worth noting that after AC, there will be AD, AH, AJ, AX and so on. You don’t always have to be using the latest protocol, but you also don’t want to be several protocols behind. Wireless N and AC also support MIMO, which allows for multiple antennas.

Get a Dual-Band Router

You may have noticed that some routers offer a feature called dual band. This means that it supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks. So what’s the difference? 5 GHz allows for much greater speeds than 2.4 GHz, but over a shorter distance.

A dual band router can be helpful because you’ll get faster speeds when you are closer to the router, but you can switch to the 2.4 GHz network when you are farther away since 2.4 GHz signals can travel farther and penetrate more walls. Unfortunately, you mostly have to manually switch between these two networks.

Call Your ISP

Since most people use the default router given to them by their ISP, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the best one they have to offer. Most ISPs will install a cheaper router with less speeds and less features and then try to get you to upgrade later.

If you are getting service connected, you can usually make them give you the best router before you sign up with them. If you are already a customer, you can always try to threaten to leave. Unfortunately, to get a better router, you normally will have to pay a monthly cost or buy it upfront.

fios quantum router

However, if you buy the router upfront, never buy it from the ISP. Instead go to Amazon or eBay and buy it from there. You can always call out a technician to come and install the router, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.

Use a Cable Signal Booster

If you have cable internet, several factors can play into the actual cable signal strength coming from the cable company to your home. If you live in a busy neighborhood with many households, the actual cable power that your home receives may not be optimal. Aside from this, things like splitters that allow for a cable outlet in every room tend to weaken the signal, and the more splitters you have, the weaker the signal will become.

signal booster

A cable signal booster can help give your home WiFi network the best possible signal by acting as an amplifier. Basically, these devices look and work just like normal coaxial splitters. However, they are engineered to distribute cable signals in the most efficient manner. Cable signal boosters will also improve the signal strength to your television.

Optimize Router & Update Firmware

This one is pretty much a given, but it’s always best to have the most up to date firmware for your wireless router. As technology changes, firmware updates are needed to keep the router running at peak performance.

update firmware router

You should also tweak the settings on your router for maximum output. For example, if you are getting a lot of interference, you may want to switch channels. Most of the time it is set to Auto, but sometimes it’s worth manually configuring. It is best to consult a router’s user manual for firmware and settings tips.

wireless settings

Re-position the Router

For best WiFi coverage, a wireless router should be placed in a central location within a home. It should also be positioned not too close to the floor, but not too close to the ceiling either. WiFi signals travel in a lateral pattern, and most of the time, WiFi devices, such as laptops are used at midpoint within a home. For example, you usually sit on the couch when using a laptop; you don’t lay on the floor (most of the time), and you do not stand on a ladder.

Use a Multi Router Network Setup

All the methods mentioned above still won’t help you if you live in a very large home and the distances are simply too great, even for the latest wireless protocol with MIMO technology. In these types of cases, you probably need to setup a second router.

This can come in the form of a wireless extender/repeater, wireless bridge, or simply a second wireless router. I’ve already written about setting up a second separate network using a second wireless router, but you can also add a second router to the same network.

For example, if you have Verizon FIOS, you can purchase another identical router and configure it as a MoCA LAN bridge. You can configure the second router with the same wireless SSID and password, so devices will connect to whichever router is closer.

Purchase a WiFi System

These days, there are a lot of companies selling WiFi systems. These are basically wireless mesh networks. They include multiple identical routers that you connect in different locations in your home.

The main advantage these systems is that they configure themselves and talk to each other automatically. This makes them really easy to setup and you can add as many devices as you want to keep extending the range of your wireless network.

eero

Eero is one example of a WiFi system. It comes with three access points for about $500. You can control and configure everything via an app and it takes half an hour to set it all up. Of course, you lose all the flexibility and control that you have when you purchase a traditional router.

Another company that I know is popular is Open-Mesh. Luckily, consumers can buy it too and it works just fine for residential purposes. Again, these are much more expensive solutions, but you’ll be one happy camper at the end of the day.

Add a WiFi Booster Antenna

Depending on the exact model of your WiFi router, it may be compatible with an add-on WiFi booster antenna. WiFi antennas seem to have a varying degree of mixed reviews from purchasers, but for approximately 50% of people, they are worth the purchase. WiFi booster antennas work with the same concept that retractable antennas on old boom boxes work. While the default antenna may be built-in or minimal, a standalone WiFi antenna may help improve WiFi network signals.

WiFi Booster Antenna

Use Powerline Adapter

For some people, you just can’t get a wireless signal into a certain area of the house. Maybe the wall is made of a material that blocks WiFi and therefore nothing but a direct cable connection would work. You can always try to drop a network or coax line to that location, but if that’s not feasible, then a Powerline adapter might be a good alternative.

powerline adapter

 

Speeds are nothing to write home about, but it’s definitely better than nothing. You basically plug them into the wall, one where your router is and one where you need an Ethernet connection. Most have just one Ethernet port, but some like the Actiontec one above, have several ports to connect multiple devices.

Turn Off Other Devices

If you are a heavy gadget user and have tons of devices connected all around your home like cameras, phones, monitors, IOT devices, etc., it might be worth turning some things off to see if there is some kind of interference.

Other appliances like microwaves can also cause interference, so try to keep your router away from any other electronic gadget.

Using any of the above methods should help strengthen your WiFi network and using a combination of the methods should greatly boost the WiFi in your home. Any other good ways to help improve WiFi signals? Leave us know in the comments! Enjoy!

The post Top Ways to Boost WiFi Signals & Improve Performance appeared first on Online Tech Tips.

Online Tech Tips 2016-03-17 13:57:44

Are you still using the WiFi password that is written on the back of the router your ISP gave you? If so, it’s probably some really long combination of letters, numbers and symbols that you can never remember.

Most people try to write the password down somewhere or simply check on the router every time they need to give it to someone else. Luckily, if you already have a computer connected to your WiFi network, you can easily view the password there.

I’ve already written about how to view WiFi passwords on a Mac and in this article, I’m going to talk about doing the same thing in Windows. Note that the procedure is the same for Windows 7, 8 or 10.

View WiFi Password in Windows

In order to view the WiFi password on your Windows machine, you need to make sure you are already connected to the WiFi network or have previously connected to the WiFi network. If so, then go ahead and right-click on the WiFi icon in the system tray and choose Open Network and Sharing Center.

open network sharing center

Now go ahead and click on Change Adapter Settings in the left-hand menu. Also, be sure to read my previous post if you want to learn more about the Network and Sharing Center.

change adapter settings

Find the icon for Wi-Fi, right-click on it and choose Status.

wifi status

This will bring up the WiFi Status dialog where you can see some basic information about your wireless network connection.

wireless properties

Click on the Wireless Properties button and then click on the Security tab.

network security key

Here you will see a text field called Network security key. Go ahead and check the Show characters box and you’ll now be able to see the WiFi security password. Note that this is just the WiFi password of the currently connected WiFi network. What if you want to see the WiFi passwords for WiFi networks that your computer previously connected to?

Luckily, that’s pretty easy too in Windows 7. In Windows 8 and 10, you have to use the command prompt, which is pretty annoying. Anyway, in Windows 7, open the Network and Sharing Center and then click on Manage Wireless Networks.

manage wireless networks

You will now see a nice list of all the wireless networks that computer has ever connected to. Just double-click on the one you are interested in.

list of wireless networks

Then just click on the Security tab and check the Show characters box again to see the password.

windows 7 wifi key

In Windows 8 and 10, you have to open a command prompt by going to Start and typing in CMD. When the command prompt opens, type in the following command:

netsh wlan show profiles

wlan netsh

You’ll find all the wireless profiles listed under User Profiles. The name of the WiFi network is on the right. In my case, I only have one WiFi network listed. Now to see the password for a profile, type in the following command:

netsh wlan show profile name=profilename key=clear

Go ahead and replace profilename with the actual name of the WiFi network listed from the previous command. In my case, the WiFi network is named VFTJM. You do not need to use quotes anywhere in the commands.

profile key

When you run the second command, you’ll get a lot of output, but you are only interested in finding the line that starts with Key Content. To the right will be the WiFi password. I’m not sure why Microsoft removed the convenience of seeing all your previously connected WiFi networks in Windows 8 and 10, but thankfully there is still a way to get all of the information. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

The post How to View Saved WiFi Passwords on Windows 7, 8, & 10 appeared first on Online Tech Tips.

How to View Mac Files on a Windows PC

Even though OS X can read Windows formatted hard drives just fine, the opposite is still not true, even with Windows 10. Granted, OS X can’t write to a Windows formatted disk, but at least it can read the contents of the drive and you can copy the data to your Mac computer.

Windows has absolutely no support for the Mac hard disk file format (HFS+). This means that if you connect a Mac formatted drive to Windows, you’ll simply get a blank drive letter and a message asking to format the disk.

format disk windows

If you click Cancel, you’ll just get a message stating that the volume does not contain a recognized file system.

drive not recognized

I’ve already written about how, if your external USB drive is not recognized by Windows, you might have to use the exFAT file format, which both Windows and Mac support, however, this requires formatting the drive and copying all the data back on.

Another solution is to enable file sharing on your Mac and access files from Windows that way, but this requires a decent amount of setup. So are there any other options? Well, thankfully yes. If you use Macs and PCs heavily in your setup, it might be worth spending some money on a program called MacDrive.

MacDrive

MacDrive is a great program that allows you to use Mac formatted disks on your Windows PC like a normal drive. Using the program, you can read and write data to HFS+ drives just like a normal Windows formatted drive.

You can then disconnect the drive from Windows, plug it into your Mac and access everything normally. If you find yourself having to copy data back and forth between Macs and PCs fairly often, this program is a great investment.

The Standard version is $49 and the Pro version is $69. You can see the difference between the two versions here. For me, the Standard version was more than enough. If you need to mount Mac formatted RAID sets on your PC or create ISO Mac images in Windows, then the Pro version will be necessary.

mac drive install

You can try out the program using the five-day free trial. Once you install it, you’ll have to restart your Windows PC. Once you log back into Windows, everything should automatically be good to go. If you connect a Mac formatted disk to your computer, it’ll instantly show up in Explorer with a little Apple icon on it.

mac drive on windows

If you double-click on the drive, it will open just like a normal Windows drive. If there is any file that is Mac-specific, it will also show an apple icon next to it.

mac data on windows

Now you can copy data from the Mac formatted drive to your Windows PC and vice versa. It works perfectly and I didn’t run into a single issue. I was able to copy DMG files to my Windows PC and EXE files over to my Mac without any issue.

If you open the MacDrive app, you’ll see the main screen lists out the Mac drives the program has recognized already for you.

select mac disk

Click on the drive and you’ll get some options like opening the drive, removing it, getting a size breakdown and checking for errors.

mac drive options

I really like the fact that Disk Aware is part of this program because it allows you to quickly see what is taking up the most space on your hard drive, just like TreeSize does for Windows.

disk aware

MacDrive also has other tools, which you can see across the top: Create, Repair, Burn, etc. Using Repair, you can connect a Mac drive to your Windows PC and fix it so that the data can be accessed. This is a great tool if you are a PC technician and someone brings you a Mac formatted hard drive that is corrupt or unreadable by OS X. You can use Mac Drive to try and repair it and access the data right on your PC.

Using the Create tab, you can create, delete or format partitions on a Mac disk. The Burn tab allows you to burn a CD/DVD for your Mac.

Overall, it’s an excellent program that is well worth the cost if you work with both operating systems on a regular basis. There is no other program out there that lets you access Mac files on a PC as easily and seamlessly as MacDrive. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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