Most devices today are either powered directly or charged by a USB cable. Because of that, you’ve probably got dozens of USB cables scattered around your house. But not all of those USB cables are created equally. Some have both power wires and data wires, while others only have the power wires. If you try to use a power-only cable to transfer data, it just won’t work. Even if all you plan to do is charge a device, power-only cables may charge it slower. If you want to easily identify which cables are which, this “Is it me or is it USB?” USB cable tester is perfect for the job.
USB specifications call for a USB 2.0 or 1.1 cable to have four wires: ground, 5V, data +, and data -. The ground and 5V wires provide power from the host to a device, and the data wires are used to transmit bits between them. Because so many devices only use the USB cable for charging, manufacturers started omitting the data wires in order to save a few pennies per cable. The problem is that those cables aren’t easily identified, which can lead to frustration if you try to use them for data. For instance, you won’t be able to send transfer photos from your smartphone to your PC.
The lack of data wires can also slow down charging, because some devices are able to request more current from the host device for quick charging. To find out which cable is which, you can use the “Is it me or is it USB” USB cable tester. Just plug one end of a cable into the USB-A port and the other end into the micro USB-B port. Either two or four LEDs will light up, signifying whether the data wires are present. The USB cable tester is powered by a CR2032 battery, so no external power is needed. The “Is it me or is it USB” device is just $11.99 on Tindie, so it is an affordable and convenient way to test your USB cables.