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How To Solder:


In this guide I'll be showing you guys how to solder your own USB2.0 and USB3.0 connectors. There aren't a lot of options out there for USB3.0 extensions, and in most builds they tend to look bulky and ugly. I'll also be showing you how to sleeve these custom length cables to fit your rig. I'd like to start off by saying that this is not easy. I've had some significant experience with soldering, and even USB3.0 connectors tend to err on the difficult side for me. Each cable with sleeving can take me in upwards of one hour, depending on what header's I'm using. However with some trial and error, as well as some practice, you'll be able to get a nice, functional, good looking cable.

There are a couple differences between USB2.0 and USB3.0 that I'd like to point out. USB2.0 cable contains four wires, two for power and two for data. USB3.0 has a total of 9 wires per header. By opening up more data lanes engineers were able to greatly extend the speed of the Universal Serial Bus. On the downside, there is currently NO standardization of the USB3.0 in terms of wiring and cabling. Motherboard manufactures such as ASUS and ASRock have taken their own initiative to configure these data busses, but in this thread I will be showing you Intel's definition and pinout. Another important point is that both USB2.0 and USB3.0 support two connections per header. You are more than welcome to wire up only one side for one header, though. Why does this matter to us? Soldering USB3.0 headers is difficult because of the massive amount of wires, and if you have devices that only operate on a USB2.0 bus, you're better off going to the USB2.0 guide and following that instead.

USB 3.0 Extensions/Headers

There are several types of USB3.0 headers on the external end. For most computer applications, you'll want to use the standard-A external: this is the standard, most recognized Universal Serial Bus interface and backwards compatible with USB2.0.

To start, you'll need several tools and items:

Soldering Iron: Should be >20W, with a clean, precise tip. It may be worth your money to buy a brand new tip.

Solder: Obviously you're going to need solder to use the soldering iron. However, I highly recommend .022" solder. This is extremely thin, and will allow for precise amounts of solder. You'll soon find out that the USB3.0 connector has very little room for error or spillover, and while using larger solder is possible, this extremely thin stuff gets the best results.

USB3.0 Cable: This is pretty standard stuff. You can get it here at FrozenCPU, competitively priced.

USB3.0 Connectors: You will need different types of connectors depending on what you're trying to do. If you are trying to make a USB3.0 internal extension, you will need two (but I recommend more, just in case you make a mistake) connectors: one male and one female. If you are trying to make internal to USB headers, you will need one female internal connector, and two female external headers (remember, each USB3.0 internal connector splits to TWO external headers).

Exacto Blade: Or any other precise blade works.

Wire Strippers: Don't use the all-in-one strippers that simply require you to squeeze. You'll need a nice pair of the old fashioned clamp and rip ones.

Sleeving and Heatshrink (optional): In this guide, I will be using Kobra High Density [1/4"], however MDPC small also works for this diameter of cable. I prefer MDPC heatshrink for this application, due to it's large shrink ratio, however you can use regular 2:1 heatshrink. You'll want to pick up both ¼" and 3/8" heatshrink.

Soldering Clamps (optional): These clamps hold on to whatever piece you are working on. It's not necessary however I highly recommend picking one of these up because it helps immensely.

The Process:
Now that you've got all your tools, it's time to get started. At this time, plug in your soldering iron to give it a nice long chance to really heat up. Next cut two equal lengths of USB3.0 cable and use the exacto blade to "roll" the cable.


You should cut through the outer layer of shielding. After making a complete circle, you can pull off the rubber outer shell with some force. You will now have exposed the wires in the cable. You'll see that it looks like they're coated in aluminum foil. This wrap serves as both an over-current protectant and EMI shield. Take this foil stuff off to expose the inner wires.
NOTE: There is a piece of unshielded copper wire on the outside of the foil shield. If you are soldering a USB3.0 internal connector, you can cut this piece of wire with the foil. If you are soldering a USB3.0 external header, make sure you leave this copper wire intact, you will use it later on.


You should now see your wires, almost fully exposed. The USB cable contains white threads as fillers, these can be cut off to give you more room to work. You should see a red, white, green, and black wire, along with two wrapped wire clusters.



I'm going to take a second to explain what each wire is and what it does. I think it's important to understand which wires do what; in my opinion it helps when soldering and getting the correct pinout.
Red: This is the +5VDC line. This is what supplies the USB device with the standard 5V of power.
Black: This is the ground wire for the 5V line.
Green: Ever wonder how USB3.0 is compatible with USB2.0? This wire (along with the next) is the reason. This is the Data+ line, transmitting data from the device to the motherboard.
White: This is the Data- line, receiving data from the motherboard going to the device.

These next wires are specific to USB3.0 and require some explanation. There are two bundles of wires, each wrapped in it's own plastic housing. Each of these wires are the "SuperSpeed" bundles. In a simple sense, they open up the Data+ and Data- lines with greater lanes. Think of it as a highway, when a 2 lane highway (USB2.0) expands into a multi-lane interstate (USB3.0). However only USB3.0 devices will utilize these extra lanes; USB2.0 devices only have 4 contacts in the connector (VBUS, Data+, Data-, GND). Each bundle contains three wires: two are coated, one is the bare thread wire. The coated wires are used as the actual signals, while the exposed thread wire is used as the ground for that specific bundle.

These wires are bundled together and act as the receive signal:
Purple: RX-
Orange: RX+
Unexposed: RX-GND

These wires are bundled together and act as the transmit signal:

Blue: TX-
Yellow: TX+
Unexposed: TX-GND

Now that you have a better understanding of USB3.0 and the wires, you can begin separating all of the wires in preparation for stripping.


At this time, taking your exacto blade, cut open each of the SuperSpeed bundles in the cable, taking extra care to not cut the unexposed wire in each bundle, and to keep each bundle with its respective grounding wire.



Next, 1-2mm off the end of each wire. Twist these exposed threads together so they do not fray.


Next is a process called pre-tinning. This is essentially putting the solder on the wires before attaching the connector. If we were to apply the solder with the wire on the USB3.0 connector, it would become a huge mess. This method allows for a quick and clean solder job. Take your hot soldering iron and melt a small amount of solder on each wire, even the unexposed ones. The key here is to not use too much, but to use enough so that the USB connector contacts have something to hold on to.


Congratuations! You've successfully dissected and prepared the USB3.0 cable for soldering to the connector. However the difficult part is not over. Now it is time to solder each wire to its respective terminal in the connector. Using the pinout diagram I have created below, put each respective wire to it's connector contact. Hold the soldering iron up to the tinned wire and it should melt pretty quickly. Try your best not to hit any plastic areas on the connector-you may jeopardize its shape. Eventually, I will create a video for you guys to show some good techniques, however as of this week, my main priority is getting this guide out.



After you've gotten the top row soldered, this is what you should have:


Next, you'll have to take the second cable and do the exact same thing. Expose the SuperSpeed bundles, strip the wires, and pre-tin. As you continue the second row, you're probably wondering "Wait, there's one less terminal than wires that I have!" That my friends, is another flaw in the USB3.0 configuration: you'll have to take the black wire from the second cable and solder it on top of the black wire from the first cable (Terminal 10). While there isn't a whole lot I can say to help you with the soldering process, I can say that it's crucial to take your time. Even with practice, these cables take awhile. After the soldering process, you should come out with something like this (left the black wire unsoldered, just in case people forgot to read what to do with it above
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):


Next take two pieces of 3/8" heatshrink about 5mm in length and slide one over each cable. Shrink the heatshrink at the very end of the blue connector; this prevents side one and side two of the USB connector from accidentally crossing. If you are choosing not to sleeve your USB3.0 cables, you may skip this step. However, if you are sleeving your cables, now is the time to get our your sleeving.
Like I stated previously, I'm using Kobra High Density black sleeving. To sleeve these cables, take your piece of sleeving and slide it all the way up to the heatshrink you just heated. Cut the sleeving at the end of the USB3.0 cable and it will give you a perfect length after you put on the USB3.0 external headers.



Now it's time to grab your USB 3.0 headers! Using the aforementioned soldering process (exposing, stripping, and pre-tinning), prepare the second side of each USB cable for the headers. If you'd like to save yourself a couple seconds, you do not need to pre-tin the exposed TX-GND and RX-GND wires that come bundled with the SuperSpeed wires. You will not be using them on this side of the cable.
IMPORTANT: Make sure when you cut the black rubber shielding off of the cable to expose the inner wires, you take extra care not to cut the exposed copper wire. This copper wire sits inside the black rubber, but outside of the EMI aluminum foil shield. You will need this on the USB3.0 external header.


On your USB3.0 External header you will notice that on one side there is four terminals, on the opposite there is five. This is for the different types of USB: the 4-terminal side is for the USB2.0, and the bottom is for the USB3.0. Using the diagram below solder your wires to the external header. Remember that copper wire that you were supposed to make sure not to clip off? That's what goes on the GND_DRAIN terminal; it is simply a grounding wire from overcurrent. As for the exposed TX-GND and RX-GND wires in the SuperSpeed bundles, you can clip them off, they are of no use on this connector:


Here's what you should end up with:


Lightly tug on your solder job to make sure no wires come loose. If all seems good, go ahead and expand your sleeving back up to the edge of the connector. Stretch a piece of 3/8" heatshrink to fit over the external header, shrink it, and you're all done. Repeat for the other side.



Finally, add a piece of heatshrink to the bottom, and you're all done!


Congratulations, you've just created your own custom length USB3.0 headers!
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With a little practice and time, creating your own USB extensions can be extremely helpful. You can sleeve them to neatly match a very tight build, or even build your own front panels, etc. This is my first official guide, so please let me know if there's anything I can do to work on this. This started out as a 6-page word document, but even Word can't find some of my horrid grammar mistakes. If you are interested in having these done, please PM me. If you've have any questions or concerns, ask away I'd be happy to answer them.

Special thanks to Ryleh, for giving me the great idea for this guide!
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USB2.0 Coming Soon!
 

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Great write up... Don't foresee myself doing it but certainly nice to know I could. haha.
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Thank you. +rep
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I am aware, thanks. This guide is for people who want to do it themselves, make a custom length, or sleeve it a special color.

I actually own some of those cables, but I was unsatisfied with the way they looked, especially the heatshrink.
Quote:
Originally Posted by deafboy View Post

Great write up... Don't foresee myself doing it but certainly nice to know I could. haha.
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Thank you. +rep
Thanks!
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Oh man, that is some tight ass soldering required there, got to have a fine tip and a steady hand for that, still looks like a fun little experiment, or at least once I can actually solder with a steady hand!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by llamaegg View Post

Oh man, that is some tight ass soldering required there, got to have a fine tip and a steady hand for that, still looks like a fun little experiment, or at least once I can actually solder with a steady hand!
Thanks! It does take a steady hand, but the most important thing is a HOT and clean soldering iron. I plan on making a video on soldering technique, hopefully tonight.
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks! Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the video up due to Christmas festivities, thanks everyone for bearing with me if they need it.
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Good I'm glad you like it! =)

I just realized I haven't updated the USB2.0 or gotten the soldering video for you guys, I'm really sorry. With school starting up tomorrow, that should provide me with some great procrastination time
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There's no need to solder usb 3 connectors. Moddiy is selling a dupont for usb 3 + corresponding pins so all you have to do is, expose the wires, crimp them, slide them into the connector and you're done.
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I don't see why people are trying to rip on this thread. This is a guide. If you don't want to solder them yourself, then go out and buy the crimper, pins, and connectors to do so. For those that would like to solder rather than crimp, this guide is perfect for them. I've also provided and demonstrated pinouts for the USB3.0 cable as well.
 

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Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I went a different route, but it is always good to see other ways of doing things that could prove handy in the future.
Guides are one of the things that make OCN stand out from the rest.
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I want to try this except a little different. Just want two input USB ports on one side and one PC connection USB on the other side with a power switch and LED light in between. Here is my master design plan: http://screencast.com/t/Z8xTUqeg

My question is, if you basically split one usb port into two and connect two devices, will the PC be able to identify them as two separate devices?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yes that should work.

Each INTERNAL header on a motherboard supports two USB2.0 connections; the USB3.0 header also supports 2 USB connections. It's important that you put the switch turning off and on the +5V only, not the D+/D- lines.

As I said before this can only be accomplished through the internal header. You cannot use a single USB port to power two USB ports. You will have two sets of data lines, but you should safely be able to combine the +5V and GND.
 

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Do you mind making some read/write tests with it? WOuld be really interested.

Also, this usb "wire" they offer at frozencpu is a scam imo. Cat 6 F/UTP is absolutely the same stuff and you can get it MUCH cheaper.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by aka13 View Post

Do you mind making some read/write tests with it? WOuld be really interested.

Also, this usb "wire" they offer at frozencpu is a scam imo. Cat 6 F/UTP is absolutely the same stuff and you can get it MUCH cheaper.
It's been awhile since I wrote up the guide, I suppose I could update it one weekend.

As for the wire, I was an employee at FrozenCPU when we got the stuff in and it was my job to make a pinout/label for it so I used what they gave me. It's terrible to work with I'd agree
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WebsterXC View Post

It's been awhile since I wrote up the guide, I suppose I could update it one weekend.

As for the wire, I was an employee at FrozenCPU when we got the stuff in and it was my job to make a pinout/label for it so I used what they gave me. It's terrible to work with I'd agree
tongue.gif
I will be making a "fresh" wire in a few weeks, I'll just post the speedtests etc here, so you can update the OP.
 
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