Introduction: Extend USB Cables Using Phone Jack Cable

Picture of Extend USB Cables Using Phone Jack Cable

Those dinky little USB cables that come with every device now-a-days are often to short to even reach the USB port from a reasonable distance. Well, I was tired of these cables, and I decided to find a way to make them longer. Paying for (also) very short USB extension cables was out of the question, so I knew I had to put my soldering skills to the test. What I did have was a ton of old phone cables lying around (the four pin kind). If you don't have any (they give you extras every time you buy a new phone), then they are cheaply available at places like Sears, RadioShack, or any other place that sells telephones. You could also try eBay for used or even bulk cable. NOTE: soldering skills are required for this Instructable.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

What you will need:
Soldering equipment
Heat shrink tubing (optional)
Electrical tape
Wire strippers and/or cutting pliers (scissors as alternative)
The USB cable you want to extend
Regular telephone cable

Note: Make sure the telephone cable you are using has four pins in it!

Step 2: Preparation

Picture of Preparation

First, start by cutting the USB cable directly in half. This way, if any mistakes are made, you can chop that part off and you'll still have some cable left to work with.
Next, getting as close to the connector as possible, cut off the connectors of the phone cable.

Now the cables are ready to stripped. Take off about an of the outer jacket only to expose the inner wires using the cutting pliers. If you happen to cut into one of the wires, just chop the rest off and try again on the next section of cable.

Optional: If using the heat shrink tubing, slip one over either end of the telephone cable and push it down it away from the working area. It is used at the end.

Gently strip a centimeter or less from each of the wires. (Yeah, 16 wires is kind of irritating). You are now ready to begin soldering.

Step 3: Soldering

Picture of Soldering

I need to first address something that similar Instructables did not. The coloring of the wires does not matter. Just make sure that the colors you matched up between the USB cable and the phone cable are the same on both sides. For example, if you have the black wire in the USB cable going to a blue wire in the phone cable, the other side must have the black USB wire going to the blue phone wire. Although phone cables normally use a similar color scheme as USB (black, red, green, white), sometimes the colors are a little different. This doesn't matter.

One end at a time, solder each wire of the USB cable to one wire of the phone cable until all four have been soldered. Take note of the colors you matched up. Now solder one wire at a time on the other side, paying attention to your previous color match-ups.

Step 4: Finishing Up

Picture of Finishing Up

Once everything is soldered, wrap a small piece of electrical tape around each solder connection, making sure no bare wire is exposed. If you are using the heat shrink tubing, slide it up over the connections now and shrink it. If not, use electrical tape to wrap all showing wire so all that is visible is the jackets of the cables.

You're done! Now let's test it...

Step 5: Testing

Picture of Testing

Plug the USB cable in like you normally would for the device. Confirm that it transfers data, and if it charges, make sure it is doing so. If everything appears normal, your done!
If for some reason your cable doesn't work, take off all electrical tape/heat shrink tubing and check all the connections. Are they soldered properly? Do all the colors line up? If everything looks fine, and you're still having trouble, send me a PM and I will respond as quickly as possible.


gapril779 (author)2017-01-05

You may simplify your path with this solution - extend USB between multiple computers over LAN or WAN.

jomac_uk (author)2014-05-28

There is a lack of research here, and a lot of misunderstanding about cables, ie twisted pair or shielded etc.

To put the record straight, its nothing do do with either of the above, you can have the best cable in the world, even fancy gold plated low resistance stuff, and the chances of getting any appreciable extra distance above the 5 metre limit is virtually zero.

The reason for this is not interference, but the timing of the signals that USB uses. Two of the cores are for power, +ve and Ground (red and black) the other two, green and white are clock and data (signal). The clock is a chain of pulses thats used to synchronise the data between the device and the PC, the data, well its just that. What happens when you extend a USB cable is to add a delay in the signals, for example, when a USB sevice wants to send data to the PC, it will do so on the start of the clock pulse, and any data it then sends is kept in step with the clock. As you increase the length of the cable, you increase this delay, to such a point where the data ends up completely out of step and meaningless to the other end.

There are other factors, but thats the reason in a nutshell.

Thermosfet (author)jomac_uk2016-10-17

Hmm, could be the start of a poor-man'sTDR project. ;-)

falcomvpm (author)2016-02-07

Usb cable great loses amperage. If you use to charge a smartphone, you must load with low amperage. How to solve this problem?

falcomvpm (author)2016-02-07

Usb cable great loses amperage. If you use to charge a smartphone, you must load with low amperage. How to solve this problem?

SouravP4 (author)2015-09-28

xchcui (author)2014-11-02


I need to extend the usb cable to 12 meter.

Is there any point to try and make it ?(i don't want to spend time and get a message"usb not recognized"as other got).

jomac_uk says that 5 meter is maximum and the quality of the cable doesn't matter(delay issue).other says that they done it with success.

So i am not sure if there is a point to try it.

what are you saying?is there any chance that it will work?

Thanks in advance.

Hack-A-Joule (author)2014-04-16

You could also try cat5 or cat6 cable and just double up on the connections for better quality...

coselinn (author)2012-12-10

I also got the same problem with flame boyyy.My computer said usb device not recognized.

pcfan (author)2012-02-22

Can I ask, wich instructable are you referring to with:
"I need to first address something that similar Instructables did not. The coloring of the wires does not matter." ?

flame boyyyy (author)2011-10-08

why does it tell me that my usb device is unrecognized when i plug the usb device into the cable?

hai bulletride37,
Brother,Thanks a worked for me for mounting my webcam.Without using any active usb extenders I got 5 meters! 5 meters includes the length of webcam cable.i also found out flash drives are working a bit more than 5 meters.but if I exceeds a lot more I will got "usb not recognized"popup i windows 7.

Excellent, I'm glad I could help! Yes, some devices that aren't very sensitive can work with longer cords. The quality of the phone cable used also makes a difference in workable cable lengths, as better sheilded cable is less prone to outside interference.

grundisimo (author)bulletride372011-07-21

If you make multiple lengths of three meter and put the right usb hub(repeater) In between you can get the signal to go for hundreds of feet.

akhan14 (author)2011-06-25

Bro i have a Q!
I m having a USB cable with a mesh sort of cover over the four wires. What is that conductor mesh for ? do i need to connect that too? like do i need to have five cores in the telephone cable ?

spocker-1 (author)2011-03-17

i have two computers and a modem.i have plugged the lan cable for the first one and the usb cable to the other.i have to take my other pc downstairs. can i extend
the usb cable with the phone cable?

r0max (author)2010-05-20

Would it also work with UTP CAT5 cable instead op shieleded wire to extend the cables of a webcam to about 50ft (15m)?

bulletride37 (author)r0max2010-05-21

As long as the cable is shielded, it should  work. Although if you have a finicky web-cam, it may not. Some devices, like iPods for example, may look like they connect, but won't transfer any data. For what it's worth, if you have the cable lying around, you might as well try.

computergeek (author)2009-07-20

Good Idea! The two thing I worry about are signal loss & interference. (Most USB cables are shielded) I did something similar, so that I could use a webcam in a ROV.

Good RJ-11 (phone) cable is shielded. That RadioShack crap isn't, and I don't recommend it. I made a cable out of it (15 feet specialty cable) and it didnt' work at all. Buy the phone cable online and make sure it says that it is shielded.

daniel2008 (author)computergeek2009-07-21

cool, i did just that when i made my rov ( of which you can see my instructable too) . Do you have any pictures of your ROv? i'd be greatly interested in hearing how it worked.

computergeek (author)daniel20082009-07-21

Sorry no pictures. :-( As of right now it's basically an underwater webcam. I would like to finish it up & rebuild the camera housing, but I don't really have any place to run it. It was kind of an experiment to see how well it would work & how I would like it. Every thing I built it from with was salvaged. Your instructable was the reason I started getting interested in ROV's.

daniel2008 (author)daniel20082009-07-21

you also are a member of my ROV group i see :)

l8nite (author)2009-07-22

nicely done!! Being colorblind this is something I wouldn't attempt but in response to the length arguement.... I have a friend who installs wiring/cables in new construction, he made me a 175' usb cable so I can use my laptop anywhere in the house or yard (yea I know I could have gone wireless but this was FREE! ) There is a little signal loss but not to bad and it was afterall FREE..

bulletride37 (author)l8nite2010-01-14

Like I always say: "If it's free, it's for me!" It's good to hear that a 175 foot cable actually works; that's awesome.

pooker (author)2010-01-14

Could i just use 4 different copper wires instead of a phone cord?

bulletride37 (author)pooker2010-01-14

Yes, but they are not shielded as well as a phone cable, so your wire length should probably not exceed 10 feet or so. Unless you have shielded copper wire, than things are different. Note that thicker gauge wires are not recommended, as they don't carry smaller current loads very well.

ricky5564 (author)2009-12-09

EEK! i tried this with a webcam and IT DDNT WORK! my comp said it could not recognize the devise !!!! AAHHH!!.. i am using 8 ft of teli wire... and even before i tried the webcam i tried my psp... and it WORKED!! ..... i did check all of my connections... PERFECT!.... please help i dont want to buy another 30 doller webcam... ( also ... do u think i could just reconnect the webcam back tougher... would it work?_

bulletride37 (author)ricky55642010-01-14

Sorry for the late reply! I hope you didn't buy another webcam yet. The webcam probably requires a very tight data voltage range, and extending the cable hindered it's performance to the point were it wouldn't be recognized. The PSP, on the other hand, obviously didn't need this perfection that short cables provide. And of course you can put the webcam back together. If everything goes well putting it back together, it should work like new.

Sk8erCk4Life (author)2009-09-10

can you go about 25-50 feet even though your pushing the limit...without messin up your pc

Most likely. Some devices are more sensitive than others, and won't work with longer cords. But even with a ridiculously long cord (200ft +), your PC won't be harmed. Also, with a cord that long, data (obviously) won't flow very well, but you will still probably get 5 volts to power small lights and that kind of thing.

cammel8 (author)2009-07-20

You should also point out in here somewhere that you can only make five meter or 16 foot max cables as anything after that wont work due to signal loss. (NOTE THAT IS 16FOOT TOTAL NOT 16 FOOT EXTENSION THEN YOUR USB CORD FOR YOUR DEVICE THAT IS 16FOOT OVERALL) After that you must have a cable called a active useb cable (more or less a repeater) only then can you go over 16 foot. Other than that this method works wonders... have used it many times!!!

bulletride37 (author)cammel82009-07-20

Thank you for commenting. I appreciate all feedback, but I have to disagree with you partially. The first picture I have is of a 100 foot cable I made that actually does work. You are correct in saying that there will be signal loss, as this is more of a power cable than anything else. It does, however, still transfer data (though I'm not sure how much is lost).

cammel8 (author)bulletride372009-07-20

I dont see how... There is just not enugh power in a usb to push anything 100 feet without help... it only runs 5 volts. Every time I have ever made one longer than 16 it wont even recognise. and trust me... being I.T. for as many places as I am I make A lot of them. never once havce I ever gotten one to go more than 16 without a repeater. Im not saying yours is not working... Im just saying its the exception to the rule... not the norm.

Usually you need one of these to do that.

dpdonohue (author)cammel82009-12-13

i've made extention cables longer than 16 feet for a surveillance webcam before and it works fine.. although as you said it doesn't always work ok..

bulletride37 (author)cammel82009-07-21

I have used a multimeter, and I do get all 5 volts at the end of the cable (5.08 actually). Although that cable came with a satellite receiver box I used to own, and may be magnetically shielded, helping it work at such an extreme length. I do understand what you're saying, though. The data transmission wires are very low voltage, and degrade very quickly. I guess it really does break all the rules...

Scott_Tx (author)cammel82009-07-21

I've done this with webcams and exceeded the max length by about 2x.

condoritos123 (author)2009-08-12

that is really great!! thank youu(: I just have a 100 meters phone cord (H) ohh, this is great to use some USB cameras (the chating cams...) at the garage, just like a vigilance cam!!! (HH)

cheating-master (author)2009-07-22

Well i just made this and it works :) but not 100ft :( I have now a 12-16 foot cord. It has a small lag but it works. Has some one used one of the cords with a wifi adapter?

About This Instructable




Bio: Whats up everybody? I'm a crazy rebellious metal-head that enjoys a good conspiracy theory. I despise the state I live in (MA), with their ... More »
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