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Expand your network with ease by plugging devices into a network hub

What are network hubs?

A network hub is a piece of hardware that fills a fairly straightforward purpose: connecting multiple devices together through a wired connection so they all become part of the same network.

In the example of an Ethernet hub, multiple I/O ports can be used to physically connect other devices (typically computers) to the same “hub network,” so they can communicate with each other. s

Different types of network hubs

There is no one single type of network hub. The most common are Ethernet hubs, which typically have four to 12 I/O ports. Also common are USB to ethernet hubs, sometimes known as a USB network hub. These are a popular method for networking PCs and devices that lack USB ports to an existing network. The hub connects to the network via an Ethernet cable, while the devices connect to the hub using their USB ports.

A USB to ethernet adapter allows devices (like many current laptops) that lack a built-in Ethernet port to join a network by means of their USB port. This is not a “hub” but serves the same purpose for a single device.

Many PC owners use a USB hub, especially with ultra-compact laptops that may be equipped with only one or two USB ports. For those concerned about wire clutter, the best USB hub for this situation plugs into a free USB port on the computer for power (so no electrical power supply required), also using that connection to allow multiple accessories to connect to the PC by plugging into the hub. If the accessories require significant power over USB to operate, then a powered USB hub (that plugs into an electrical outlet) would be needed. Some USB hubs also include an Ethernet port, so the PC can physically connect to a wired network without requiring a separate adapter.

What’s the difference between a network hub and a switch?

While a network hub is a fairly straightforward device, a switch is much more complicated. Ultimately, the two do the same thing: connect multiple devices to a network. However, while a network hub does so passively (sending data to all connected devices and leaving it to them to process), a switch actively manages network traffic, filtering data and directing it to specific connected devices. As a result, with a switch there can be more ports, and data speeds are faster than with a network hub.