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What is USB Switch?
A Guide to USB Switches

Editorial Team Editorial Team Mar 15, 2024

A USB switch is a device that enables multiple computers to share access and control of several USB devices. A USB device switch is similar to a network switch except that its focus is on USB devices rather than Ethernet connectivity. When a USB switch is implemented, users can share printers, external hard drives, or any type of USB device between multiple computers without moving cables to access the peripheral equipment.

Different types of USB switches are produced that provide varying levels of functionality to address diverse user requirements. Following are the major kinds of USB-sharing switches available on the market and some suggestions for specific models.

There’s also a new type of solution, which can be far better - it’s USB Switch Software. The limit on shared devices is much higher, up to 10, and it has all the advantages of a software solution - doesn’t take up space, no need for cables, doesn’t need mechanical repair, works on any distance, and best of all - instant delivery!

Hardware USB Switches

This section dives deep into the various USB switches available, offering hardware solutions for sharing USB devices. We'll explore different options catering to diverse needs and functionalities. We'll also delve into the common features, potential drawbacks, and crucial factors to consider when choosing the best USB device switch for your specific USB sharing requirements.

USB Device Switch

Generic USB device switches enable multiple computers to share any type of USB peripheral device. This type of switch is appropriate for offices looking to share diverse USB-connected equipment like flash drives, webcams, or scanners.

Our top choice in USB device switch:

UGREEN USB 3.0 Switch Selector:
  • Compatible with a diverse selection of USB devices such as printers, scanners, external storage devices, and webcams;
  • Employs USB 3.0 technology to support high-speed transfers of up to 5Gbps;
  • Serves as a USB switch for two computers and allows them to share up to four USB devices.

KVM Switch with USB Peripheral Sharing

KVM switches can be used in several ways. The switch enables a single keyboard, video monitor, and mouse to control multiple computers. A KVM switch can also serve as a peripheral sharing switch so multiple computers can share USB devices like printers or keyboards.

Our top selection:

IOGEAR 4-Port USB VGA Cable KVM Switch:
  • Simple installation with plug-and-play functionality;
  • Supports multiple video resolutions up to 2048x1536.
  • Enables up to four computers to be controlled with a single keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

USB Printer Switch

This is a dedicated type of USB switch that is designed to enable multiple computers to share a USB printer. It’s great for printing documents from several computers to a centralized printer in an office setting without moving any cables.

Here is a typical printer switch:

2-Port USB 2.0 Automatic Printer Switch:
  • Plug-and-play functionality eliminates any complex installation;
  • Supports two PCs or Macs sharing a single printer;
  • Automatic switching between users for streamlined operations.

USB Hub with Switching Functionality

Certain models of USB hubs are equipped with onboard switching functionality. This feature lets users connect access to attached USB devices by enabling or disabling individual ports. Manual switching capability is also typically available for managing port switching.

Here is a popular solution:

ATEN US424 USB 2.0 Peripheral Sharing Switch:
  • Compact design eliminates external power requirements for most devices;
  • Switch between devices with keyboard hotkeys or buttons;
  • Supports up to four USB 2.0 devices shared between four computers.

Network-Attached USB Hub

Network-attached USB hubs or servers enable users to access USB devices over a network. A hub lets users connect and control network-connected USB devices as if they are directly attached to the equipment. A USB hub provides a convenient and flexible method of sharing USB devices across a network with multiple computers.

An example of a USB hub:

Digi AnywhereUSB 2 Plus:
  • Supports remote access over IP to facilitate managing remote or distributed USB devices;
  • Digi’s remote management software provides simple setup, configuration, and monitoring of the hub;
  • Two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports are available to connect USB devices to the network.

USB Switch Features and Limitations

The following features are fairly standard for quality USB switches.

  • Plug-and-play: The majority of USB switches provide plug-and-play functionality for simple installation and use.
  • Compatibility: USB switches are typically compatible with multiple operating systems and types of USB devices.
  • Multiple computers and a single device: USB switches let multiple computers access a single USB device, but only one machine can use the device at a time.
  • Automatic or manual switching: Some models offer the choice to switch between conputers using software controls and device requests or manually by pushing a button on the switch.

Several limitations and drawbacks need to be considered when using USB switches to share USB devices.

  • Manual switching issues: It can be inconvenient to use a manual switch depending on the location of the device.
  • Limited simultaneous access: USB switches typically limit access to a single computer which can be problematic when sharing devices between multiple users.
  • Latency and performance: Devices that need fast data transfer and precise timing may experience latency when connected to a USB switch.
  • No network functionality: USB switches generally do not support multi-user access across a network, limiting their usefulness in some settings.
  • Compatibility issues: Some driver-specific equipment or devices that require high bandwidth like webcams and certain external hard drives may have issues when connected to a USB switch.

USB switches offer a simple method of sharing peripheral equipment between computers. The limitations of USB switches need to be understood and considered when implementing them in environments where performance, simultaneous access, and high performance are required.

USB Switch Software

USB Network Gate is a software solution that can operate as a virtual USB switch. The utility eliminates the need for a physical USB switch. The software enables multiple computers to conveniently and flexibly share access and control over network-attached USB devices.

How to Use USB Network Gate as a USB Switch

A simple three-step process lets you start sharing devices with USB Network Gate.


Install USB Network Gate on the local machine attached to the device you want to share as well as all computers that will access the device.
Install USB switch software


Launch USB Network Gate on the local computer and navigate to the Local USB devices tab. Click “Share” next to the name of the USB device you want to дmake available over the network.
Share the USB device


Start USB Network Gate on a remote computer and go to the Remote devices tab. Click “Connect” next to the device you want to access.

Connect to the shared USB device

USB Network Gate streamlines the process of sharing and switching between USB devices or computers. The software minimizes cable clutter and promotes a more efficient workplace.

Try USB Switch Software now
Connect up to 10 devices!

Advantages of USB Network Gate Over Physical USB Switches

USB Network Gate offers the following advantages over traditional USB switches.

No distance or location limitations - Network-attached USB devices can be accessed remotely from any location. This feature is extremely useful when supporting a remote workforce or a large facility.

No additional hardware requirements - The elimination of additional hardware makes USB Network Gate a cost-efficient solution for device sharing that leverages existing network capabilities.

Elimination of manual interaction - No manual switching is required to access shared devices by multiple different computers.

Enhanced functionality - USB Network Gate provides features unavailable in physical switches like supporting remote access over the Internet or sharing devices with virtual machines.

Additional features available from USB Network Gate

Following are some of the other features that make USB Network Gate an excellent solution for sharing USB devices.

Operating system compatibility - USB Network Gate supports multiple operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android for more flexible operation than most hardware switches.

Selective access - The software enables USB device owners to determine and control which computers can access a shared device without manual intervention.

Simultaneous access - In some device and software configurations, multiple computers can access a device simultaneously if the equipment supports it. This offers a substantial advantage over the hardware switches that are limited to providing access to one machine at a time.

Device sharing over IP - USB Network Gate lets users share USB devices over local IP-based networks or the Internet. Access provided to remote computers is the same as that of a direct connection to the peripheral.

Centralized management - USB Network Gate gives users a centralized interface to manage network-attached devices and client connections.

USB Network Gate as a USB switch software solution provides many advantages over traditional USB switches, but network bandwidth and reliability are essential when sharing high-performance devices. The quality of network connections also has a bearing on the performance of shared devices.

USB Network Gate is an efficient and flexible alternative to physical USB switches. Features like network sharing, cross-platform support, and remote access make it an excellent solution for today’s business environments. Members of the mobile workforce can easily access company devices from any location.


There are three types of USB switches.
  • Manual USB switches - Manual switches require users to press a button when they want to switch control of a USB device. These simple devices typically do not need external power.
  • Automatic USB switches - These switches automatically switch control of USB devices according to software controls or defined conditions. They may require external power.
  • Electronic USB switches - An electronic switch usually offers advanced features such as remote switching with software and multiple device connections.
KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, and Mouse. These switches enable users to share control of a keyboard, monitor, and mouse between multiple computers. A KVM switch may also support switching other types of USB devices between machines.
Let’s compare a USB hub vs a switch.
  • USB Hub:
    A USB hub expands a single USB port into multiple USB ports so multiple USB devices can be connected to a single USB port.
    Hubs are passive devices without any capacity to process data or manage connections.
    Hubs are often used to supplement computers with limited onboard USB ports or when multiple devices must be connected at the same time.

  • USB Switch:
    A USB switch enables multiple computers to share virtually any type of USB device without moving cables to disconnect and reconnect the equipment.
    Switches typically are equipped with buttons or toggle switches to control access to shared USB devices.
    USB switches are effective when multiple computers need to share a set of USB peripheral devices.
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