1) Yes, I am hard on equipment - I use this stuff for troubleshooting in an industrial environment.
2) In my case the damage seems to come from a little jerk on the cable breaking off the plastic insulator inside the female socket.
3) Rated for 500 insertions ? Preposterous! That is only one insertion of a memory stick per working day for less than two years. Can't say i have ever worn out one of them though, so the reality must be considerably better than 500.
4) Just for curiosity i picked up four USB gadgets at random. Three memory sticks and a USB to Serial adaptor. NONE of them has the USB Logo anywhere on it. One of the memory sticks has a manufacturer's mark on the 'up' side - if it were inserted horizontally. Since writing the original post I have become more sensitive to this orientation issue and have noticed minor things like the split in the case that others have mentioned that provide orientation cues. That was not my major gripe - my major gripe is that flimsy insulator inside the female connector.
rickgtoc, you must have a Mac newer than mine. I don't know when this changed, but for decades the ports were horizontal, so the connector on the end of each cable showed the embossed symbol on the top surface. One of Apple's myriad simple, elegant, graphic, and easy to understand solutions, making things intuitively obvious. Just like the (original, pre-OSX, pre-Intel) OS.
I think all my USB-A connectors have the USB symbol on one side. When they're printed, the symbols are useful. When they are embossed, they are less so. And what's this about Mac's having the symbol indicating "this end up." All the connectors on my iMac are vertical. side by side, like dominoes on edge. And they are on the back. where they are not easily viewed. The old serial and parallel 'D' connectors could be oriented by feel, when it was inconvenient to get eyes on the target. Not so USB. I know, the form factor is smaller, but there should be a tactile method of determining orientation of the plug AND the jack.
That said, I've not had a USB connector or jack mechanical failure so far. My only USB failure was a big ouch though - with a powered hub that had a round power port that fit a 12V adapter just as well as it fit the included 5 volt adapter. A moment of carelessness and then, so much for the Zen mp3 player. Fried either its power supply or battery. We may never know.
I have several Seagate SATA hard drive connections ( both power and data ) that break off at the root when any sideways pressure is applied. I've had some luck by retrieving the pieces and using a monothithic ( power and data ) cable that gets hot glued on. A $2 cable in quantity on ebay.
That is why I don't recommend a RIGHT ANGLE SATA CABLE. One pull and your 1TB is rendered useless...
The USB A connectors are supposed to survive for 500+ cycles if the connector purchased for the PC is of the correct quality. I have a laptop from HP where one USB connector failed in less then three months. The only thing I plugged into it wast the HP external DVD drive that came with the laptip. I plugged it in maybe 20 times. The failure was one of the data signal fingers peeled up and was pushed back so could no longer make connection. Was that user abuse or poor quality connector? I could not get HP to repair it under warranty since they claimed it was user abuse. I did find a repair shop to replace the connector for a fraction of their repair cost. The connector has been fine since. I chalked it up to an inferior quality connector. Sad that the manufacturer could not stand behind the product.
The easy fix for this is to buy a cheap and short (or longer) extension cable. If anything wears out, then it is the plug on the cable, which is simple to replace. Maybe that is why I yet have to see any of the USB ports on my PCs fail.
The other failure mode, which hasn't been discussed, but which is relevant, is the connector on the PC side. I had two cases with a Dell netbook (Mini Inspiron, which I think is no longer made) where the female power supply connector on the computer end failed. It was impossible to fix it for several reasons: It was attached to a PC board (I don't remember if it was the mobo or an ancillary board running parallel to the display. Anyway, the problem was that a nipple-like bubble in the metal, inside the connector, which was there to keep the male power supply connector locked in place, had become pushed in, and thus no longer held the power supply connector in place, in less than 500 cycles. (The computer wouldn't get power unless you jiggled the cable just right, but it wouldn't hold in place. I tried to bend the connector metal back out so it would hold the male power supply connector in place, but the female connector was encapsulated in metal bent around it, so no go.
Analog Bill Here is the reasoning behind the badly designed USB connector "Cost". In engineering team i work with cost and quality are the main considerations. You provide enough quality to meet spec. If the spec is 500 Cycles then ask yourself this did your connectors fail within 500 cycles? Though to be honest i had not fine-combed the spec. If requirement is 500 cycles i am not so psyched about USB all of a sudden. Maybe i have been lucky. I have laptops that have had over 10k cycles on some USB ports and had no breaks. 5-20 times a day and laptop is over 4 years old now not a single USB port went out.
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