Microsoft building native USB 3.0 support into Windows 8

Getting those blue USB ports on your motherboard to work should be much simpler next year. According to the Building Windows 8 blog on MSDN, Microsoft will offer native USB 3.0 support in its next PC operating system. The implementation will involve a new software stack, which will co-exist with the existing Windows USB stack we all know and love.

As Windows chief Steven Sinofsky points out in the post, starting over with a clean slate and re-architecting Windows’ USB support from the ground up wasn’t an option. "Countless devices and their drivers rely on the behavior of our existing software," he says. Rather, Windows 8 will have a special software stack for USB 3.0 controllers, and previous-gen USB controllers will continue to rely on the legacy stack. Microsoft is also conducting extensive testing—using "roughly 1000 unique devices" representative of most USB hardware out there—to make sure everything works as expected.

As a teaser, the blog post includes a demo video of SuperSpeed file transfers happening in Windows 8. (Sinofsky adds as a side note, "If you’re like me when looking at the video, you might think that those file copy progress indicators are looking a bit dated…stay tuned.")

Windows 8 getting native USB 3.0 support seems like one of those "well, duh" announcements. Still, it’s nice to see Microsoft come through, especially considering some companies out there—*cough* Apple—are snubbing SuperSpeed USB altogether.

Comments closed
    • PeterD
    • 8 years ago

    I hope it’s true and not just a rumour.
    All those promised but absent improvements were one of the mean reasions for my dissappointment with W XP; Which made me stick with W Me for years. Really.

    • PenGun
    • 8 years ago

    Linux started supporting USB 3.0 in the September 2009 release of the 2.6.31 Linux kernel.

    Seeing I’m running 2.6.36 I am good to go. Pitiful windose.

      • Farting Bob
      • 8 years ago

      Good for you.

        • PenGun
        • 8 years ago

        Indeed and I don’t have to do/be done by windows at all. Well my Steam account seems to need some 7 64 thingy to run well.

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    Where the hell did they find “roughly 1000 unique devices” of the USB 3.0 variety??

    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    In other news, tech journalists discover [i<]Windows[/i<] latest versions typically include drivers for almost all previous hardware.

      • 5150
      • 8 years ago

      Installing Windows 8 off of a USB 3.0 flash drive sounds wonderful….yes….I’m impatient.

    • Krogoth
    • 8 years ago

    Why does it matter? Less CPU overhead?

    In any case, USB 3.0 is just a stop-gab meant to address the shortcomings of USB 2.0 in external HDDs. USB 2.0 is quite sufficent to handle practically any external peripheral need. If you need more external bandwidth, chances are that USB 3.0 would also be insufficent. You need to shoot for a beefer solution (Thunderbolt, External PCIe, Fibre Channel, Light Peak [If it comes out] )

      • Game_boy
      • 8 years ago

      Intel will not be licensing Thunderbolt/Light Peak to anyone else.

        • bcronce
        • 8 years ago

        Everything that Intel has posted about Lightpeak, prior to Apple’s Thunderbolt, has been about fiber. My guess is Intel doesn’t want a lot of people using the 10gb copper version when the 40gb fiber version will be out in a few years.

        It would be bad for Intel to fragment its own market between copper and fiber, when their entire line-up should be fiber.

        Completely my opinion.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 8 years ago

      Considering that even hard drives which can go 500MB/s won’t actually go that fast when you’re copying a bunch of different files, I don’t see how in the world USB 3.0 is still insufficient. Being stuck at 30MB/s when you have to copy even a few GB sucks. So what if your drives can only manage 100MB/s between the two? That’s still about three times faster.

      Maybe most people can still put up with USB 2.0 for the time being, but as time goes on, more people will have laptops that came with SSDs, larger and faster external drives that can keep up with them, and more and more pictures/videos/music/whatever. It’s not as if many people go back through their oodles of old files and delete some when they’ve still got hundreds of GBs to burn.

        • Krogoth
        • 8 years ago

        I was referring to other external peripheral device besides external HDDs and SSDs. You will be hard press to find something other than computing clustering that would make USB 3.0 woefully inadequate.

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          USB memory sticks.
          Memory card readers.

          And I think you meant “USB 2.0 woefully inadequate”, as that’s what you mentioned in the first post.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      USB 3 may be a stop gap, but it’s well needed.

      P.S. Thunderbolt is Lightpeak, just the copper version of it. Not sure if the fiber version will maintain the same name.

        • Krogoth
        • 8 years ago

        IMO, if eSATA had power over cable from the start.

        USB 3.0 would have never existed. Intel would have a easier time to push Thunderbolt/Light Peak.

          • bcronce
          • 8 years ago

          I’m not really a fan of the copper version of Thunderbolt. I think the current version of Thunderbolt is nice to have on Apples so Intel can get some real world testing on it before the “real” version goes live. There are security issues and what not to worry about.

          I say, let the early adopters weed out the bugs for us. USB3 will probably be the last major upgrade to USB. I’ve read that the USB protocol won’t scale much faster without breaking backwards compatibility. If USB ever has to ditch legacy, it will lose all of it’s benefit.

          Also, I would rather have a copper wire than a fiber one for my mouse(unless they have some super flexible fiber). I think USB3 will live quite a long time as it has more than plenty enough bandwidth for printers/mice/keyboards/headphones/etc, plus legacy support.

          I do think Thunderbolt is the future(assuming Intel keeps it open), but I don’t see an absolute “need” for it yet. It would definitely have an epeen factor to have my SSD hooked to my comp via a 40Gb/sec fiber link, but completely unnecessary.

            • Oem
            • 8 years ago

            I predict USB *ports* will be here forever, even if the USB protocol dies. The port has already been repurposed multiple times (eSATA + USB, LightPeak + USB proposal, etc.). It’s becoming the de facto port for all peripheral interfaces. So let’s say that the USB 3 protocol cannot scale further. So, invent a new protocol that can, figure out a way to shoehorn it into a USB port while maintaining backward compatibility, then call it “USB 4” – voila, we just scaled USB.

        • Oem
        • 8 years ago

        USB 3 will still be on motherboards 10 years from now, so if it is a “stopgap” then so is USB 2, USB 1, GBe, 100BaseT, 10BaseT, PCIe 2.0, PCIe 1.0, PCI-X, PCI, SATA 3.0, SATA 2.0, SATA 1.0, ATA-133, ATA-100, …

        It’s only among us geeks discussing and thinking about LightPeak / Thunderbolt and where they will be in 5-10 years that USB 3 seems already obsolete. I hope by 2020 there is a deep, wide, mature LightPeak ecosystem that has trickled down all the way to hooking up printers, keyboards, and mice, but that is a big if, and I highly doubt it is going to happen significantly before then, if it is true that the optical version won’t even be out until 2015. That gives USB 3 or even USB 4 a really long time to establish itself as the primary peripheral standard, something hardly inconceivable considering USB 1 and USB 2 already accomplished this.

          • bcronce
          • 8 years ago

          It’s a “stop gap” because it’s usefulness going forward is quite limited. Yes, it is great because of legacy support, but that’s about all it’s good for.

          Technically, Thunderbolt is better, but from a practical standpoint, the difference in performance right now doesn’t justify losing legacy support for USB1/2 devices. Once we get to the point of a cheap 40Gb Thunderbolt connection, USB’s future growth will have all but stopped. I see USB3 turning into PS/2. It will linger for a long time just because it’s everywhere and it works great.

          USB has done its job extremely well. I do not miss comm/lpt/serial ports at all.

        • Farting Bob
        • 8 years ago

        Every bit of hardware technology has only ever been a stopgap to something better around the corner. There is no such thing as the perfect piece of hardware that will never be superseded.

      • 5150
      • 8 years ago

      Yawn, wake me when USB 4.0 is released.

        • NeelyCam
        • 8 years ago

        Quit bugging the dude.

      • Oem
      • 8 years ago

      100% of your statements are wrong.

        • Krogoth
        • 8 years ago

        How so?

        The problem is that majority of external peripheral devices aren’t limited by bandwidth, which is part of the reason why Light Peak/Thunderbolt have one hack of an uphill battle to fight. There’s no killer app in the mainstream that warranties the need for their bandwidth. External HDD were held back with USB 2, which is why engineers went back and increased the bandwidth and current of USB 2 giving gives us USB 3.

        The only area where having more external bandwidth is always welcomed are SANs and computing clusters. Light Peak/Thunderbolt have a future here, provided they are cheaper/faster than current solutions.

        “Native USB 3.0 support” is just marketing speak. It really means that Microsoft is going to include generic USB 3.0 drivers with WIndows 8. You can still can use third-party drivers for older versions of Windows to get full USB 3 support.

      • A_Pickle
      • 8 years ago

      Thunderbolt is crap, considering that not a single current-generation PC can ever run it. Not so for USB 3.0.

    • Farting Bob
    • 8 years ago

    Why cant they add it into win7 (and vista and XP) via an update? Yes they want to give people as much reason to upgrade next year as they can, but it seems like if they stop giving new features to OS’s as soon as they announce the next one then fewer people will want to buy their OS because they know it will recieve limited support a few years down the line.

      • sweatshopking
      • 8 years ago

      they likely will. i’d expect it is sp2 for 7, if not before. i agree it should have been there by now.

      • mutarasector
      • 8 years ago

      The fact that they intend to do a separate USB class/LDD (Logical Device Driver) as its own stack might make this a more likely possibility, not less. An update for Vista/Win 7 users would be considerably easier to do than shoehorning it into the existing USB stack.

      Whether or not they do provide native support via an update (like XP’s SP2 did) is another question entirely and may be a moot point considering most Vista/Win 7 systems in use don’t have USB 3.0 ports anyway. Support for it on those systems may not really require a level of xHCI support beyond what OEMs currently provide via their motherboard drivers (ie:AMD’s Renesas based implementation of an xHCI in its Llano chipset.)

      Then consider also that USB 3.0 is slated for upgraded voltage/wattage (100W) delivery. This will only be available natively on motherboards in the future, but may also be another reason Microsoft is planning to provide separate stack support.

      • LaChupacabra
      • 8 years ago

      Seems to be working for Apple =D

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