New USB 3.0 Support Built-In to Windows 8

Microsoft is formally launching Windows 8 today. With all the talk about Windows 8 being focused on the UI, it’s easy to overlook developments that have been happening under the hood. Some important changes include the addition of a native USB 3.0 stack, UASP or USB Attached SCSI Protocol support as well as support for function suspend and remote wake-up. The new driver stack supporting USB 3.0 is loaded whenever a USB 3.0 device is attached to an xHCI host controller and is based on Microsoft’s Kernel Mode Driver Framework (KMDF). New features available to developers include:

  • Static streams for bulk endpoints — allows a client driver to open up to 255 streams in a bulk endpoint
  • Chained MDLs — can boost performance by avoiding buffering
  • Function suspend and remote wake-up for composite devices

With USB 3.0 users can expect the fastest performance for external USB drives to date, and if their hardware is UASP capable — the improvement can be even greater. UASP allows hardware that supports it to use command queing which enables the device to perform transfers in parallel. Function suspend and remote wake-up allow the operating system to utilize advanced power management features that are defined in the USB 3.0 spec. With the growing array of USB 3.0 devices available and backward compatibility with USB 2.0 and 1.1, USB 3.0 is bringing much better performance to what is probably the most ubiquitous hardware interface around.

Many Windows 8 systems are thin-and-light with room for only 1 or 2 USB ports. Most people have a lot more devices than that. Fortunately, one of the wonderful features of USB is a great architecture for supporting hubs which enable many devices to share one port. So a USB 3.0 hub like our Plugable USB 3.0 7 Port Hub with 4A Power Adapter is a great companion.

The increased throughput also allows a better user experience when connecting one of our USB 3.0 graphics adapters like our USB3-HDMI-DVI graphics adapter or our USB3-VGA graphics adapter. Another great match is our USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station. Featuring graphics, audio, and networking all managed by single DisplayLink DL-3700 chipset the UD-3000 also provides a 4 port USB 2.0 hub and a 2 port USB 3.0 hub. The added bandwidth greatly improves the performance of USB docking stations, and the UD-3000 performs accordingly with network intensive and video tasks.

Each USB 3.0 device such as the DisplayLink graphics solutions still requires specific device drivers, but with the underlying USB 3.0 host controller stack built in to Windows 8 there won’t be much difference to the user from USB 2.0 — except speed. Prior to Windows 8, different USB 3.0 host chipset vendors shipped updates to drivers for their host controllers that fixed bugs and added features. Thanks to Microsoft’s efforts, this function has been moved into Windows 8 so users will have one less thing to do when trying to get the maximum performance possible from their equipment.

You can get a lot more background on what’s new for USB in Windows 8 from the Windows USB Core Team Blog.

Any questions about Windows 8 and any Plugable products? We’d be happy to help. Post below, or email anytime. As always, we’re here to help!