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Everything You Need to Know About USB Headers

Every computer cabinet has USB ports on the rear side as well as the front side. While the rear side’s USB ports are directly connected to the motherboard, the same does not apply to the front side’s USB ports. Have you ever wondered how the front USB ports function without directly being connected to the motherboard? Well, that is where USB headers come in.

Every motherboard has USB headers to make the front side’s USB ports functional. Headers are connectors that connect the external USB port to the motherboard easily. There are different types of USB headers available with varying speeds. In this article we will explain what are USB Headers, what are their types, how to identify them, and at last how to locate USB headers on a Motherboard.

What are USB Headers?

USB headerUSB headers are connectors on the motherboard that connect the front panel USB ports on your PC case to the motherboard through extension cables. They are endpoints to connect external USB ports to the motherboard. They are essential for increasing the number of USB ports available on your PC case.

Most motherboards have two-three USB headers located at the bottom side or right side of the motherboard. Every USB header has a certain USB version and generation, such as USB 3.2 Gen 2 headers. Depending on the version and generation, their speed of operation and appearance vary.

What are the Types of USB Headers?

Currently, there are mainly four types of USB headers available. They vary not only in terms of data transfer speed but also in PIN arrangement. If you are building a PC, you should know the types of USB headers to purchase a motherboard with your preferred version.

1. USB 2.0

USB 2.0 header is the most common USB header that you will find in most motherboards. Even some modern motherboards include at least one USB 2.0 header. They are present on the bottom edge of the motherboards. They have nine pins, five in one row and 4 in the other. The data transfer speed stands at 0.48 Gbps.

2. USB 3.0

USB 3.0 headers are currently referred to as USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers. They can be present on the bottom or on the right edge of the motherboards. You will find 19 pins in the USB 3.0 header, 10 in one row and 9 in the other. The data transfer speed is 5.0 Gbps, ten times more than USB 2.0.

3. USB 3.1

USB 3.1 headers are currently referred to as USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C headers. Just like USB 3.0, you can find them either on the bottom or right edge of the motherboards. Surprisingly, there are no pins in this header, and they have a unique metal casing without any pins. The data transfer speed stands in the range of 5 to 10 Gbps.

4. USB 3.2

USB 3.2 headers are an advanced version of USB 3.2 Gen 2 headers. They are referred to as USB Type-E. They have a 2×2 dual-channel arrangement with metal casing. You will find these headers only in premium motherboards. They are located either on the bottom or right edge of the motherboards. The data transfer speed stands at 20 Gbps, the highest among all.

How to Identify the USB Headers?

To identify USB headers on your motherboard, you must watch out for certain shortcodes. The common short code for USB headers is “F_USB”, where F stands for the front panel. Since most motherboards have at least two USB headers, you must find “F_USB1” or “F_USB2” to identify them.

You can also identify them with the label “FPANEL_USB” on some motherboards. However, if you do not find F_USB anywhere, you should look out for “J_USB”, where J stands for jack. Some motherboard manufacturers, such as MSI, denote USB headers as “J_USB”. Even though “J_USB” and “F_USB” differ in certain features, they denote USB headers on motherboards.

What is the Difference Between F_USB and J_USB?

“F_USB” is the most common short code for USB headers. Only certain motherboard manufacturers use “J_USB” to represent USB headers. F stands for the front panel, while J stands for jack. The main difference between F_USB and J_USB is that J_USB supports half-duplex communication while F_USB supports full-duplex communication.

The half-duplex transmission is a one-way communication between the external USB port and the motherboard. The full-duplex transmission is a two-way communication that is more efficient. That is why J_USB creates deadlock situations in communication, and the external USB ports can sometimes malfunction. Therefore, it is always better to opt for motherboards with F_USB headers.

How to Increase the Number of USB Headers?

If you want to get more USB headers, you can use any of the following methods depending on the USB type on your motherboard.

Way 1: Manual USB 2.0 Header Duplication

If your motherboard has USB 2.0 headers, you can use one header for two cables with some manual tweaking. Take a pair of tweezers to flip the plastic tabs of the second USB header cable. Extract the wires of the cable and place them inside the first USB header cable. Make sure that you match the color of the wires for perfect placement. Thereafter, connect the modified cable to the USB header, and you can use two USB ports with one USB header. Please note that this method is only applicable to USB 2.0 headers.

Way 2: Use PCIe USB Headers or Converters

Starting from USB 2.0 headers to USB Type-E headers, you can install an external PCIe card with USB headers. For example, you can use Phoenix PCI Express x1 To Dual 20 Pin USB 3.0 Header Card that takes a stand PCIe x1 slot and gives you two USB 3.0 headers.

If you have USB 3.0 ports but need USB Type-E headers, you can convert USB 3.0 to USB Type-E using a converter. For example, you can use JoyReken USB 3.0 20 Pin Header to USB 3.1 Type-E Adapter to convert USB 3.0 to USB Type-E.

How Do You Locate USB Headers?

There are two ways to locate USB headers on your motherboard easily. You can either go through the manual that comes with your motherboard or inspect the motherboard physically.

1. Through Inspection: Check the motherboard’s bottom or right edge. Watch out for labels like “F_USB1”, “FPANEL_USB” or “J_USB” as these represent USB headers on the motherboard. You can use a magnifier for better visibility. Check the pin arrangement to understand the type of USB header.

2. Through Manual: The easiest way to locate USB headers is by checking the motherboard manual. Check the layout of the motherboard and watch out for “F_USB1”, “FPANEL_USB” or “J_USB”. Once you locate them in the manual, you can easily spot them on the motherboard. You can even understand the type of USB header on the motherboard directly from the layout in the manual.

USB Header – FAQs

1. Can I plug USB 3.1 into the 3.2 header?

Ans: Yes, you can plug USB 3.1 Type-C to USB 3.2 Type-E header.  Similarly, you can plug USB 2.0 into the USB 3.0 header. But you cannot plug USB 3.0 into the USB 3.1 header.

2. What is the difference between USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 header?

Ans: The data transfer speed is the main difference between USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 headers. USB 3.1 Gen 1 has up to 5.0 Gbps speed, while USB 3.1 Gen 2 has up to 10 Gbps.

3. How many USB ports can a USB 3.0 header support?

Ans: USB 3.0 header supports 2 USB 2.0 headers. This means it supports 4 USB 2.0 ports. Otherwise, it supports 2 USB 3.0 ports.

4. How to differentiate between USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports?

Ans: USB 2.0 has 9 nines, while USB 3.0 has 19 pins. USB 2.0 has 4 wires in the connector, while USB 3.0 has 9 wires. If you check inside the port, USB 2.0 has a black interior, while USB 3.0 has a blue interior.


USB headers are essential for properly functioning the USB ports in the front panel of your computer case. You have stated the different types of USB headers and their specifications. We have also explained how to locate and identify USB headers and get USB headers to connect more USB devices. We hope this USB header guide helps you select the motherboard with the best USB headers per your requirements.

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