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USB hub

Posted on 2011-04-30
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I have a whole bunch of USB devices, some connected to Mac laptop and some to PC with XP for example, microphones, keyboard, printer, backup drive, electric piano, mouse.   Is it possible to have one point to connect all these devices so that both PC and Mac can access all devices easily without the need to keep unplugging and re-plugging devices back and forth from Mac laptop to PC depending on what I need to work where at the time?
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Question by:mikecharters
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by:hmarcbower
hmarcbower earned 92 total points
ID: 35496316
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by:enachemc
enachemc earned 1468 total points
ID: 35496318
you cannot realy share the devices without having some dedicated software for this
you can share the printer, drive (because there is built in software for this in the OSes)
but how can you share the keybord ?
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by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 176 total points
ID: 35496320
Externally powered USB hub would do the job.

Something like this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817394008

Note that you won't be able to connect it to both computers at the same time.  Only one at a time but there'll be only one cable to swap over.
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by:Awen_22
Awen_22 earned 88 total points
ID: 35496322
You can do this, yes.

Essentially what you're looking for is a multiswitch USB hub.  You can find details on this item here:  http://www.smsc.com/index.php?tid=295&pid=24

The only caveat to this is that you can't have both your Mac and your PC accessing the features of these devices at the same time...  however, you won't have to keep plugging them in and out.

Hope that helps!

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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 176 total points
ID: 35496331
No.  USB uses a network protocol where it id's the devices as they are connected.  At least at this time, there is no way to share the devices because the id is dependent on it's position in the USB network relative to the hubs and other devices.  Unlike Ethernet where each NIC has a 'fixed' MAC address that is supposed to be unique.

Look at "Address Fields" on this page: http://www.faculty.iu-bremen.de/birk/lectures/PC101-2003/14usb/FINAL%20VERSION/usb_protocol.html
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by:dbrunton
ID: 35496333
Hmm.  That first link from hmarcbower is making a liar out of me.  Interesting.
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enachemc earned 1468 total points
ID: 35496337
the USB protocol says there's a master and more slave devices .... you can not have 2 masters (computers)
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by:enachemc
enachemc earned 1468 total points
ID: 35496343
that switch does not make it work on the same computers at the same time ... it just enables you an easy switching
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by:hmarcbower
ID: 35496359
He just said he wanted to access them from both computers without unplugging/replugging cables... the switch will do that.  If he used that he would just push a button depending on which computer he's sitting at.  He doesn't appear to need the peripheral to operate on two computers simultaneously.  But I'm sure he'll clarify. :)
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by:mikecharters
ID: 35496861
Thanks everyone for all the advice, I am just trying to digest everything.  I guess generally I was wondering what was possible.  I often have both computers going at the same time so was wondering if I could for example access a backup drive from both machines maybe not at the exact same moment but from one and then the other if necessary with everything turned on at the same time; however I did not realise about the master/slave nature of USB so that's very helpful.  

So it seems like all devices can be plugged into one USB hub but only either the PC or Mac laptop can access them all at one moment perhaps with a switch to redesignate or toggle to a different 'master' computer.  Am I getting it right? Thanks folks.
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by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 176 total points
ID: 35496902
>>  Am I getting it right?

Yes.

I'm curious as to how well such a device as suggested would work with an external hard disk.  The reviews of the device talk about using it with printers successfully.  

For the hard disk you'd have to make sure that the computer concerned has flushed all data to the disk before you switch over.  And would the OSes detect the fact that they had lost connections to the USB device?  And what happens when you switch back?

Interesting.
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by:enachemc
enachemc earned 1468 total points
ID: 35496964
it would disconect from one computer and connect to the other
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 176 total points
ID: 35497609
Using that switch with hard disks would make you likely to see data corruption.  When you 'eject' a USB drive, the system software makes sure the write data is flushed to the drive.  If you switch it externally, it doesn't get a chance to do that.
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