Introduction: Extra USB Headers for Internal Card Readers/front Panel USB Ports

I'm making a bold  move, from milkshakes to electronics! Basically this instructable is for people who are in need of an extra USB header, be it for front panel ports on your case or an internal card reader (like me!) You can skip on to the next step if you aren't interested in the back story to this momentous discovery...

...If you are still reading, then congratulations! I just recently built another computer and had everything up and running fine, but because the motherboard supports USB 3.0, there weren't enough USB headers to support the front panel ports and an internal card reader. We have a bunch of card readers scattered around the house, but I really wanted the convenience of having a decent one always available. Because the Bitfenix Shinobi has four front USB 2.0 ports it takes up two headers on it's own. 

I considered buying a PCI USB card for an extra header, but my motherboard already had an abundance of ports and it was also going to cost more money than the damn internal card reader in the first place. I lay in bed last night, holding a USB port and waiting for a "House"-like epiphany, when it came to me! This was my rough and ready solution to a problem that, from my research anyway, plagues a small number of people.

Necessity is the mother of invention!

Step 1: Source Your Parts!

What you need 

- USB A male to male cable
- 9 pin header (5+4)
- Soldering iron
- Solder
- Lighter or wire strippers
- Some soldering skill

"Don't do what Jonny don't does!" - borrowed from the Simpsons

I'm quoting this because I want to save you some hassle. I borrowed an expansion card, shown below, from one of my older computers. It had fried a long time ago and was useless otherwise so I thought I might as well borrow the header off it. Bad idea! The thing was glued and soldered, so was only coming off in pieces.

I would advise you to buy some headers, as they come in handy for a lot of projects, and if not you should look for the second type below. I recovered it from another case, and it was broken so fair game. It was a lot easier to work with and didn't fall apart. You can solder the USB wires directly to the internal card reader or what ever else you are working with, but using a header is less destructive.

Also you need a USB A male to male cable, as it has two of the same connectors. I had one lying about from an old Palm docking station.


Step 2: Harvest Your Header (if Needed)

I took the broken front panel connector from an old case and cut off the non-required parts, everything except the header. The header was larger than required, so I cut it down to the usual 9 pin arrangement (4 pins and a missing pin one side, and five pins the other).

I left it on the PCB this time for some support after the last one fell apart :/ 

Step 3: Prepare for Soldering

Take the USB A male to male cable and cut it in half, giving you two identical cables. This is because it requires two USB ports to function correctly.

Strip both at the exposed ends, remove the foil shielding and strip the inner wires. Previously I used to use wire strippers, but recently I have converted to the lighter method! Just heat up the end of the insulation with a lighter or flame and then pull it off! If the cores are untwisted, twist them to keep their strength.

Disclaimer! Be careful of course, as molten plastic can be incredibly hot so if in doubt, just youtube it and watch someone else doing it first! I don't want to be responsible for third-degree plastic burns, even if I am a med student :P

Step 4: Now for the Important Part!

The two USB cables should be identical, and both sides of the header are the same, aside from an extra pin on one side, though it isn't important for us. Follow the pin guide below, and from top to bottom the order is: red, white, green and black. 

When both sides are soldered they should look essentially like a mirror image, and you are pretty much done. Make sure the wires are not shorting out as this would cause problems. If you have electrical tape you can insulate the wires where they have been stripped, or better yet, heat shrink tubing would work nicely. 

Mine is still rough and ready, but the important part is that it works well.

Step 5: The Finishing Touches

My finished cable was very basic, and not particularly strong so I used a battery case to house it. It needed a few cuts to allow the wires to pass through, but it protects the assembly well. It is now screwed in behind the hdd cage and well hidden.

Of course, you still need to plug it in! I was fortunate because my case came with watercooling grommets, so I passed the USB cables through them and into the rear ports. The interface requires two USB ports to work as each header supports two ports. (In the case of the internal card reader - one for the usb port, and one for the card reader itself)

I hope this has been helpful, as I know others have been in the same situation I was in until earlier today. Comment away! Hopefully someone reads this :)

Comments

author
frans.ji (author)2014-07-30

Hey thanks dude, i have a acbell power supply display which needs 2
slot of j-usb internal header, and 4 usb front panel, my old motherboard
GA EP35 DS3P only provide me with 4 usb internal for front panel and 8
eksternal. i've been searching trough google for couple of hours and
ended up with your trick, well before that i read a post for j-usb
internal splitter, like making a hub or i thought i am gonna spend about
190 bucks to by internal header from nzxt, lol. But i guess j-usb
splitter has the same method with your trick, anyway Thanks again :D

author
frans.ji (author)2014-07-30

Hey thanks dude, i have a acbell power supply display which needs 2 slot of j-usb internal header, and 4 usb front panel, my old motherboard GA EP35 DS3P only provide me with 4 usb internal for front panel and 8 eksternal. i've been searching trough google for couple of hours and ended up with your trick, well before that i read a post for j-usb internal splitter, like making a hub or i thought i am gonna spend about 190 bucks to by internal header from nzxt, lol. But i guess j-usb splitter has the same method with your trick, anyway Thanks again :D

author
cwleveck (author)2012-11-05

Not thinking of becoming a transplant surgeon? Haha, j/k. If you look at Jameco or just search for "usb headers" online you'll find a whole mess of adapters and extensions and breakouts and etc. You didn't have to reinvent the wheel, but speaking from experience the guys in the field could sure use someone resourceful like yourself. Ever thought of becoming a field surgeon?
Anyway, this is how I got started. Just wait your going to start seeing stuff you just have to take apart in no time. When you get a leatherman just so you can take anything apart just to see how it works, then you might have a habit, not a problem. Its when you start trolling around the Goodwill buying cheap electronics and taking them apart in your van in the parking lot for a fix.....

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Bio: Hey, what's up? I'm Adam, and it's hard to sum myself up in this little box. Basically I'm a human, and ... More »
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