How to determine whether a USB 3.0 device is operating at SuperSpeed?

How to determine whether a USB 3.0 device is operating at SuperSpeed?

Note: The information provided in this blog post applies to Windows 8.

Hi, I am Sanket Patel, a software developer on the USB team. In this blog post, I will describe some ways in which you can determine whether a USB 3.0 device that is attached to a PC running Windows 8 version of the operating system, is operating at the optimal connection speed - SuperSpeed.

USB 3.0 introduces a new operating speed called SuperSpeed. Compared to USB 2.0 bandwidth of 480 Mbps, SuperSpeed supports 5.0 Gbps making it 10 times faster than USB 2.0. USB 3.0 also supports lower operating speeds: high speed, full speed, and low speed. Along with increased bandwidth, USB 3.0 host controllers and devices come with the promise of compatibility. USB 3.0 controllers are required to work with all existing USB devices. The fact that current PCs ship with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports presents an interesting challenge: how should you determine whether a USB 3.0 device is indeed operating at SuperSpeed?

Here are some ways to determine the operating speed of the USB device:

Make sure that you have USB 3.0-capable hardware

Typically, newer PCs with USB 3.0 support have both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 controllers, and both those ports are exposed. The receptacles on USB 3.0 ports are usually blue to distinguish from the receptacles on USB 2.0 ports, which are black. So, if the PC has a blue port, that is a good indication of USB 3.0 support. Note this is not a requirement of the official USB specification, rather a convention adopted by some PC makers.

Figure 1 shows a typical USB 2.0 port.


Figure 1. USB 2.0 port with a black receptacle

Figure 2 shows a typical USB 3.0 port.


Figure 2. USB 3.0 port with a blue receptacle

If the PC does not use blue receptacle for the USB 3.0 ports, it might have a USB 3.0 logo (clip_image006[4]) next to the port.

Figure 3 shows the USB 2.0 logo.


Figure 3. USB 2.0 logo

Figure 4 shows the USB 3.0 logo.


Figure 4. USB 3.0 logo

You should also look for the logo on USB 3.0 devices and cables. Figure 5 shows the USB 3.0 logo on the connector of a USB 3.0 cable.


Figure 5 USB 3.0 logo on USB 3.0 cable

View device information in Device Manager

Next, confirm that Windows enumerated the host controller as a USB 3.0 controller. To confirm that, open Device Manager and locate the controller under the Universal Serial Bus controllers node. If Windows recognized it as a USB 3.0 controller, USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller is appended to the device description as shown in Figure 6.


Figure 6. USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller in Device Manager

Look for Windows 8 UI messages to determine whether the USB 3.0 device is operating at SuperSpeed

To indicate whether the USB 3.0 device is operating at SuperSpeed, Windows 8 shows UI messages in specific places. If the PC has USB 3.0 controller to which a USB 3.0 device is attached, Windows 8 shows Connected to USB 3.0 when the device is operating at SuperSpeed. If the operating speed is lower than SuperSpeed, the message is Device can perform faster when connected to USB 3.0.

You can view those UI messages in PC Settings.

  1. Open the Charms Bar by dragging the cursor to top right of the screen or by pressing Win + C.
  2. Select Settings and then Change PC settings.
  3. Select the Devices under PC settings application.

Figure 7 shows the UI message when the USB 3.0 device is operating at SuperSpeed.


Figure 7. PC settings – UI message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at SuperSpeed

Figure 8 shows the UI message when the USB device is operating at a bus speed that is lower than SuperSpeed.


Figure 8. PC settings – UI message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at a speed lower than SuperSpeed

You can view similar messages in Devices and Printers, as shown in figures 9 and 10.


Figure 9. Devices and Printers - UI message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at SuperSpeed


Figure 10. Devices and Printers – UI message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at a speed lower than SuperSpeed

If the USB 3.0 device is a storage device, Windows Explorer shows similar messages when the volume label is selected, as shown in figures 11 and 12. Note that the View -> Details pane must be selected for the message to be visible.


Figure 11. Windows Explorer - message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at SuperSpeed


Figure 12. Windows Explorer - UI message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at a speed lower than SuperSpeed

Use USBView to view device information about the bus speed

If you are writing a device driver, the USBView tool might be more useful for verifying the bus speed. The tool is included in the Windows Driver Kit (WDK) 8 Release Preview (RP), which is available for download at this Web site. USBView in this release has been updated to display SuperSpeed information.

Figure 13 shows a USB 3.0 device operating at SuperSpeed in USBView.


Figure 13. USBView – Message for a USB 3.0 device that is operating at SuperSpeed

Determine the bus speed programmatically

If you are a device driver developer, the USB driver stack exposes a new IOCTL, IOCTL_USB_GET_NODE_CONNECTION_INFORMATION_EX_V2, which you can use to query speed information for USB 3.0 devices.


Here are a few things to try if you find that your USB 3.0 device is capable of operating at SuperSpeed but is operating a lower bus speed:

  • Make sure that you do not have a USB 2.0 hub between the device and the PC. That is because USB 3.0 devices that are attached to a USB 2.0 hub can only operate at high speed. In this case, either switch to a USB 3.0 hub or attach the device directly to the USB 3.0 port on the PC.
  • Ensure that the USB 3.0 hub that your device is attached to appears correctly in Device Manager.  For certain unsupported USB 3.0 hubs, Windows may disable the SuperSpeed portion of the hub and report it as “Non Functional” in Device Manager.

Figure 14 shows a non-functional hub in Device Manager.

clip_image030[4]Figure 14. SuperSpeed USB Hub is not functional

  • Make sure that the cable that is used to connect the device is a USB 3.0 cable. It is also possible that the USB 3.0 cable has signal integrity issues. In that case, the device might switch to high speed. If that happens, you must change the USB 3.0 cable.
  • Update the firmware for the USB 3.0 device by obtaining the latest version from the manufacturer site. Some USB 3.0 device manufacturers release fixes, for bugs found in the device, as firmware updates.
  • Update the firmware for the USB 3.0 controller by obtaining the latest version from the manufacturer site. Some USB 3.0 controller manufacturers release fixes, for bugs found in the controller, as firmware updates.
  • Update the BIOS for your system by obtaining the latest version from the manufacturer.  On some motherboards, the BIOS can incorrectly route a device that is connected to a USB 3.0 controller to a USB 2.0 controller. That incorrect routing allows the USB 3.0 device to operate at high speed but not at SuperSpeed. A BIOS update might fix such a problem.


In this blog post, we discussed ways of making sure that you get optimal experience with your USB 3.0 device attached to a USB 3.0 controller on a PC. If you have any questions, please leave us a comment.

-Sanket Patel

Comments (20)

  1. xpclient says:

    The logical and optimal place to show that the device is connected using USB 3.0 is the "Safely remove" icon in the notification area. The tooltip of the notification area icon should have said "Connected to USB 3.0". Not everyone uses Windows Explorer.

  2. dsmtoday says:

    Is all of this native support for USB 3.0 in Win8 going to be backported to Win7 in a future service pack?  Will I be able to use IOCTL_USB_GET_NODE_CONNECTION_INFORMATION_EX_V2 on Win7?  Will Win7 show these cues about USB 3.0 in Explorer?

    Sorry if this has been mentioned already somewhere, but I've done a fair amount of digging and can't seem to find a straight answer anywhere.

  3. There is no plan to provide native support for USB 3.0 on Windows 7.

    -Eliyas Yakub [MSFT]

  4. Crazy USB 3.0 says:

    Funny, had no problem with USB 3.0 in Vista 64 for last 3 years….just moved to windows 7 64 and now every USB 3.0 device I plug in results in a device can perform faster message, though when I test transfer speeds from external hard drives it is around 75 megabytes per second…

  5. Gary says:

    Can a usb 2.0 also be blue? the back of my computer features 2 black and 2 blue with only the 2.0 logo. Hopefully there are is 3.0, but i wish it was on the front because the ones on the front are all 2.0.

  6. Wayne says:

    Good post… is there an update for Windows 8.1?  I don't see anything related to the speed when I select the device.  It'll just say "Mass Storage Device."  

  7. Mauricio says:

    Does UEFI has sth to do with a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex STAA1000101 working as High Speed instead of SuperSpeed?

    I've checked all items in this blog, and still have that damned "Device can perform faster …"

  8. g1cmz says:

    In Vista it is possible to run a vbs script that can detect whether a controller is USB1 or USB2.

    From the lack of any mention of this amongst your various tips here, am I to assume that is no longer supported in Windows 8/USB3?

  9. Siddhant says:

    Thanksfor inforamation its very helpful for me….

  10. InternalAudit says:

    Thank you for sharing this info.  Confirmed the Ethernet + USB 3.0 hubs I bought are good. 🙂

  11. boss says:

    thank you for the useful infor , just started using windows 8 , thanks boss

  12. vinay says:

    Hi buddy, very interesting and informative indeed.

    I have a 1tb seagate expansion drive. When I copy data (upto 1.3 gb) into it,

    I get transfer rates of upto 110 mb/s,  but the moment 1.3 gb of data has been copied, the transfer speed drastically droops to 35 mb/s……….. ie usb 2.0 transfer speeds!

    What could be the reason and how can I over come this block?

    My email id is.



  13. tophe says:

    Useful post thatnks… except…

    we could do with an update – esp. for 8.1 (as of this post date), I can see nowhere a mention of active usb 3.0 devices.

    Seems extraordinary that virtually a whole SDK should be required just to confirm something that should be more obvious.

  14. usbgeek says:

    Theoretically, USB 3.0 should have a max speed of 625 MB/s. However, in my case the maximum speed I got was 68 MB/S on Win 8.1.

    Is this normal?

  15. GMEades says:

    Download H2testw 1.4 and perform a Trabsfer Rate  Speed Test on your USB ports that you have a thumbdrive or external drive attached to.

    With USB 2.0 ports, my maximum transfer rates were 12 MB/s

    After installing a USB 3.0 PCIe adapter, I am now getting transfer rates of 98 MB/s, a significant improvement.

    Downloading and installing USB View will show you which parts are USB 2.0 and which are USB 3.0 (bcdUSB 0x200 or 0x300) but that's just indicating what the port registers as. It gives no indication of the transfer rates you will see on that port.

    Running H2testw will show that actual MAXIMUM TRANSFER RATES you are getting on any given USB port.

    Just select "English", select a "target" drive, and enter a specific data size you want to test.  I have achieved 98MB/s testing 100 MB as well as testing 1000 MB.

    This is the program you've been looking for to test actual transfer rates on your USB 3.0 ports.  

    Note that not all USB 3.0 adapters are of the same quality and may not achieve the rates I've seen on my computer.  Some individuals have reported getting between 35 – 52 MB/s from their USB 3.0 ports, and part of this has to do with the speed their hard drive can transfer at.  

    You can test the transfer rate of the hard drive itself if you think your hard drive might be limiting your transfer rates from your USB 3.0 ports with this program.

    In my case, the transfer rate to my hard drive is only 71MB/s, while the rate writing directly to my external HDD through the USB 3.0 port is 98MB/s.  The explanation being my hard drive is SATA II, while my external drive is SATA III.

    Enjoy…!  😉

  16. Nor Sivad says:

    Excellent. Helped so much! I was plugged into the 2.0 port.

  17. rs38 says:

    most comprehensive and well shown overview for USB3 connection info on the web. thx!

  18. Jaydeep says:

    Thanks for the info. Helpful 🙂

  19. Peter says:

    Truly an awesome write-up. It took me 2 years before I realized I have 3.0 ports on my machine :/. And I got a new docking station that has 3.0 ports as well, yay!

  20. Matt Sykes says:

    “Compared to USB 2.0 bandwidth of 480 Mbps” Don’t mistake the USB spec for the speed. This is done so often, and even caused a known Windows bug. The USB 2.0 spec encompasses low, full and high speed devices, AND their respective bandwidths!

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