How Far Can I Extend the USB Cable?

I can’t count how many times my friends have asked me why something they have is not working or charging properly, and I researched the problem only to discover that they are using a jumble of extension cables – or the world the longest is for transmitting power or data to the specified device.

There are times when extension cables are a valid and useful choice – for example, if the mini fridge on your patio needs power from a remote electrical outlet, or your bedside cabinet is too far from the surge protector for you to charge your phone. … And then there is the dilemma of Abi, a reader of Lifehacker, which is a snag this week in our Tech 911 troubleshooting column:

Q: Why doesn’t my webcam work with the USB extension cable?

I have a problem that I have been trying to solve for a long time without success. I thought I would send it to you if you have a solution. So, this is it:

I have a studio called Movement where I teach things like dance, yoga, martial arts, etc. I wanted to stream the lessons online. I used the Logitech C920 for this purpose – not the best, but it does its job. The setup looks like this:

– My laptop is connected to a webcam via USB

-Large TV screen connected to laptop via HDMI so I can see online visitors

The broadcast is carried out via Zoom. The challenge now is to have the TV screen at the back of the room and the camera at the front. This is mainly because people who follow the class on the Internet should see it from the front, while people who attend the class physically should not be distracted from the TV screen and laptop looking at them. So I set up my laptop and TV in the back of the room and connected the webcam to the laptop using a very long (10 meters) USB cable. Having connected everything, I realized that the webcam cannot work through such a long cable. After playing with it, in 10% of cases it starts working, but in most cases it is not. So it is not a reliable and reliable solution. Alternatively, I started looking for cameras that could work wirelessly. Most of what I see are IP cameras that are used for security purposes and cannot connect to laptop and broadcast using Zoom.

I wonder if you have a solution for this problem. Appreciate your help.

A: Don’t assume that every extension cable does a great job.

My first reaction is your cable is to blame. While in theory you should be able to use a USB cable up to 5 meters long with USB 2.0 devices (that’s about 16 feet), this is exactly the maximum length you’ll find in the USB 2.0 specification . Whether you’re connecting computers with a network cable or trying to transmit a data signal over a distance, devices can get fidgetier and fussier the longer you try to stretch the connection.

I’m surprised you get a signal at all from 10 meters away.

I dug around a bit and found several answers that seem to corroborate this conclusion. For instance:

HuddleCamHD (webcam manufacturer):

“Extending USB can be a real nightmare. In my experience, there isn’t a single cable that magically works reliably 100 times out of 100. We certainly have those we’ve tested that work better than others, but these are the ones that work the best. what we tested. We still recommend placing a dedicated conference computer behind the display, then placing the camera above or below the display and connecting the supplied USB cable to the conference computer. This will eliminate the need for USB extensions altogether, making things a lot more reliable. “

Pluggable (USB cable manufacturer):

“We’re sorry but we do not recommend using this 10m Plugable USB 2.0 Extension Cable with any camcorder or webcam. These types of devices require accurate timing (isoch devices) and may not work with this cable. Sorry about that. “

Pluggable (again!)

“Thanks for contacting Plugable! USB video capture devices such as webcams or security cameras are very sensitive to the length of the USB cable. They usually have performance problems after about 6 feet in length. For this reason, we do not recommend our video USB extension cables, sorry!

It is best to use a short USB cable and use an extension cord for the host computer’s power supply to move it closer to the webcam position. Or use a USB powered hub with its own power supply. “

I also looked to see if anyone was able to connect an extra long USB cable to the Logitech C920 webcam and it looks like some people managed to get the Logitech C922 to work with a 10ft extension cable, but that’s only about three meters. The 10 meter USB cable – nearly 33 feet – is right at your fingertips.

You can try switching to an active or “powered” USB extension cable, but you may not even be lucky: as noted in this list for a 32-foot active cable, “[d] oes not work for charging smartphones or tablets; not recommended for webcams and camcorders; not recommended for high power consuming devices or home theater electronics “

Can i try? Certainly. That’s about three times the price of a regular 10ft USB cable (no power), but it might be enough to get you the connection you need in this situation. Save the shipping bag just in case, so you can return the cable in the event of a malfunction.

You can also try the USB-over-Ethernet setup where you use a long distance network cable instead of USB. I’ve never tried this myself, and it is certainly possible that your webcam might crash if you try, but this is another inexpensive option worth exploring (and coming back if it doesn’t work).

If not, consider ditching the webcam setup entirely and setting your smartphone (or tablet) on a tripod – even a smaller one that at least allows you to tilt your device to any angle. It shouldn’t be more distracting than a webcam, and you can just hook into your Zoom call about it. Clip the feed from this camera into your Zoom room so everyone in the lesson can focus on it.

I think this is your best solution. A smartphone can work great as a wireless webcam and has all the technology you need. Heck, you could even spend the money you would spend on active USB cables or whatever and get a PSU. This will ensure that your device runs through all of your classes. This is either a 3-pin extension cable that can be used with a charger …

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