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There are a wide range of electrical connectors found on the side and back of a typical laptop. These are strictly noticed by the average user, however, by understanding what these ports are for and how to use them can consider enhance the power of a typical laptop. In this article consideration will be given to the commonest and most useful connectors found on many modern laptops.
Connection via a USB port is the most versatile method to interface a laptop with an add-on device such as a USB dongle or an external USB hard drive. Most users would probably be able to identify this port but would not be aware that USB 1, USB 2 and USB 3 may be present on a laptop. USB 1 has the lowest and USB 3 has the fastest data transfer speed. USB 1 and USB 2 can easily be identified as they have a metal rectangular connector with 4 brass connection pins. The newer USB 3 connector is similar but has 9 connection pins. A USB connection is very versatile, but USB 1 & 2 can not be connected with a USB 3 device and conversely a USB 3 connector will not connect to a USB 1 or 2 devices.
Some of the latest laptops have a HDMI connector to connect the video output to a modern TV. The majority of older laptops have a VGA video output connector to output the video signal to many older monitors and TVs. The HDMI can be identified as having a rectangular connector with two rows on pins, one of 9 pins, one of 10 pins making a total of 19 connections. The VGA connector has a rectangle surrounded with curved ends and having three rows of 5 pin holes. The advantage of the HDMI connector is that more connections are used to interface the laptop to a TV or monitor usually usually resulting in a better picture quality.
Various designs of audio connectors have been used in laptops over the years. The simplest connection is by a phono plug offering mono sound or a dual phono plug providing stereo sound. More recently a single stereo jack has been used along with a microphone input and line input sockets. Audio input and output can easily be identified as the jack and phono sockets are always seen as small circular holes usually with a metal surrounding.
Most laptops have a network connector also known as a RJ45 connector. This can be identified as a square connector with 8 brass pins; there is a catch that holds the cable into the connector. This is usually used to connect the laptop directly to a network or to a router box to allow Internet connection. There is a slightly smaller version of the connector with just 4 pins that is sometimes found on older laptops to connect them to the internet via a telephone line.
When inserting a plug into a connector great care should be taken to ensure that the plug is not inverted or reversed as damage to a laptop connector is expensive to repair and may render the laptop completely useless.