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Grow Your Business Technology

A Guide to Computer Ports

Laptop vs. Desktop power

When you shop for a new computer or laptop, one important feature to look for is the type and number of ports. Ports are docking points that connect external devices, wired connections and more. With the many types of ports and versions of each port available, it can be hard to know what to look for.

To help you find the right computer for your business, here are some of the most common types of ports and what they do.

This is the most common USB connector found on computers. Often simply referred to as a USB port, it is a universal port that can connect everything from external drives to peripherals. 

A less common type of USB, a USB Type B port connects docking stations and printers.

The newest type of USB port, the USB Type C is predicted to replace other types of USBs. It is the slimmest version – thus fitting in slimmer laptops and smaller computers – and is reversible, so the connector fits both ways. The USB Type C supports different types of connections, including displays and chargers.

A USB 3 offers high-speed transfers, such as between external drives and computers. It has a maximum transfer rate of 5 Gbps, making it a decent option for transferring files over a wired connection.

A microSD slot reads microSD memory cards that contain external storage.

This slot reads SD cards from digital cameras. It is also known as a 3-in-1, 4-in-1 and 5-in-1 card reader. 

Also known as a headphone jack, the audio jack connects your headphones and microphones to your computer. The 3.5 mm audio jack is the most common type of audio jack found in computers.

The Ethernet port connects your computer directly to local networks and the internet using a wired connection. Ethernet is the alternative when Wi-Fi is not available or when the Wi-Fi signal is poor. 

The HDMI port connects your computer to TVs, projectors and other external monitors. The output resolution depends on your computer's graphics card. It also includes audio with video, so you don't need a separate audio connection. 

Similar to HDMI, a DisplayPort connects your computer to an external monitor. It is the most advanced type of display connection, able to broadcast videos with a resolution of up to 4K and to accommodate multiple monitors in HD. The DisplayPort appears as its own connector or using a USB Type C port.

DVI is a more budget-friendly version of a DisplayPort. Also known as Dual Link, DVI is limited to an output of 1920 x 1200 resolution and needs a second connection to support a 4K monitor. DVI only appears on desktop computers, not laptops. 

Thunderbolt 3 is the fastest connection for data transfers, at up to 40 Gbps. It can also connect multiple external monitors at 4K resolutions.

The VGA port connects your monitor to a computer's video card. It is one of the oldest and least powerful display ports, so you won't find it on many current computers.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a Los Angeles-based tech writer for Business.com, Business News Daily and Tom's IT Pro. A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, she has worked as a freelance writer and copywriter for tech publications, lifestyle brands and nonprofit organizations in the Southern California area and throughout the U.S. Sara joined the Purch team in 2013.