Do All USB Cables Sync And Charge?

While it is commonly believed all USB cables are the same, it’s not true.

There are two types of USB cables; one that is charge-only, and the other is one that both charges and syncs data. The second type is sometimes referred to as a data cable or a USB sync-and-charge cable.

It is important to recognize the difference between these two USB cables and to choose the USB cable that will best fit your needs.

Differences Between Charge-Only USB Cables And Sync-And-Charge Cables

Looking at USB cables that strictly charge and those that can sync data as well, the difference is simply the number of wires within the cable casing. The number of wires determines the capabilities of the USB cable.

USB charging cables only have two wires, a positive and a negative. Sync-and-charge USB data cables have four.

There are positive and negative wires in both charger and data cables. These wires are responsible for carrying power to the connected device. Data cables add two more wires with the positive and negative wires. These wires are called ‘data transfer’ and ‘data receive’. They are responsible for the transfer and reception of data from the connected device.

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How Do I Tell From Appearances What Kind Of USB Cable I Have?

There are no rules implemented by the USB Implementers Forum that require manufacturers to label USB cables to identify one type from the other. A USB cable will not be labelled with any sort of symbol or icon. Of course, this makes it difficult to tell the two cable types apart.

There are a few steps you can take to distinguish between the two types. One way to determine the USB cable type is to physically examine the thickness of the cable. A data cable is noticeably thicker than a charge-only cable, as there are two extra wires within the casing. It might be possible to analyze the number of pins in the connecting end of the USB cable as well. A sync-and-charge USB cable will have one pin per wire; two would indicate a charge-only cable.

It may also be a good idea to contact customer support for the cable you are considering purchasing if there is any uncertainty about what type of USB cable it is.

You will be able to obtain more information and ensure the cable is the proper USB cable type for your needs. If purchasing in a store, consult with an attendant to confirm the product is what you need. Most USB cables are sync-and-charge and will be labelled as such on the packaging. However, if you aren’t sure, you have a way to find out.
The final option, if you still aren’t sure, is to test the cable to discern its capabilities. Connect the USB cable to your computer. If there are problems accessing your connected data but your device appears to be charging, it is likely a charge-only cable.

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