Introduction: Make Your Own USB Adapters
I feel like I can't ever find the right wire for the device I am using. I have collected a few adapters and chargers, but they weren't universal enough for my needs. I decided to modify and combine them to make a more complete set of adapters.
Step 1: Materials
I can't stand carrying a ton of wires, but its nearly impossible to find a set of adapters that have everything you need. I decided to take pieces of a few different adapter kits and combine them into one kit.
I still needed a few more things, so I tore apart a couple old computers and used the parts to make some new adapters that you can't buy.
Step 2: Scrounging Internal Cables
Internal cables are the ones that are routed out to the jacks on the front of the computer. On one end they have a plug that slips onto the pin headers on the motherboard and on the other they have female USB-A jacks from the front of the machine. The cable colors are all standard and you just need to match up the colors for pretty much any type of USB connector. This is a good site to see the pinouts of the different cable types. All computers are going to be different, but they should be simple enough to remove and reuse.
Step 3: Scrounging Internal & External USB Ports
USB ports are a bit more difficult to remove than the internal cables. I found its easiest to use some tin snips to trim away the PC board from the port stacks. Sometimes it's easiest to cut in from the edge as far as you can, and grab the piece with pliers and snap the remaining piece of circuit board.
Step 4: USB Female Coupler
Sometimes you need to couple 2 cables together to make a longer cable. This is incredibly easy to do if you have one of these USB port stacks salvaged from an old motherboard. The USB ports are stacked directly on top of each other. Because the ports face the same way, it is easy to make a pass through coupler out of these. You just have to solder jumper wires between the pins of the 2 rows of headers. I just tinned a few strands of wire and soldered them between the headers.
When all the wires were connected and I verified that the connections were good, I covered the entire thing with epoxy putty. I use epoxy putty on all kinds of things and it almost always sticks. It's great for building up a surface that is too small to glue effectively. It's also great for bonding metal which is not possible with most glues.
Step 5: Internal/External USB Adapters
Inside computers the case ports connect to pin headers on the motherboard. I figured it could come in handy at some point to have an adapter that would convert from pin headers to a single USB port and from a single USB male end to header pins. I cut some of the pin headers off the motherboard and soldered them to a USB-A male plug. I then took an internal plug and soldered it a USB-A female jack.
Again, once everything was connected and tested, I covered it all up in epoxy putty. I expect this adapter to help me out with troubleshooting some USB port issues I have been having.
Step 6: Flip Adapter
I have a few ports on my computers that are upside down. It shouldn't make a difference, but when I use my thumb drive, its handy to be able to see the activity light. These ports on my computer and laptop are upside down, so I can't see my activity light. I decided to make a flip adapter out of a USB extension wire.
I cut the cable ends off, leaving enough spare wire to be able to make the connections. I ran a utility knife down the molded plastic around the USB ends to remove it. Once there is a slice the plastic peels back very easily. The metal inside the plug was longer than I expected, so the adapter didn't turn out as small as I had hoped, but it works for what I need it for. Make sure you use heat shrink tubing to cover the bare connections, you don't want the leads to short out after you cover it all in epoxy. I found it makes it easier to line everything up for the epoxy application if you wrap the wire strands with electrical tape and tape the 2 ends together. Again, I covered everything in epoxy to protect them from fatigue.
Step 7: Power Pack
This is part of a project I made a few years ago. My nephew was making a robot costume for Halloween and I had some sound-activated, USB computer lights. I made this battery pack to give him power for the lights while he walked around trick-or-treating. It worked great, we mounted the microphone inside the head of the costume and the lights were mounted to antennae. Every time he talked it lit up the antennae and it looked really cool.
All I used was a salvaged USB port from a motherboard, a 9 volt connector and a 4 AA battery pack to make the adapter. The 4 AA batteries make 6 volts if they are alkalines, but most Ni-Cad batteries only put out 1.2 volts, making only 4.8 volts together. This would be fine to use since standard USB power is only 5 volts.
Step 8: USB Power Splitter
My wife's car has a USB jack for the radio, but you can also use it for power. I decided to make a power splitter for this USB jack that would only split the power.
I cut off an end from an old cable and removed the molded end. I cut all of the wires but the black and red ones. I soldered these wires to the outermost headers on the circuit board and covered it all in epoxy putty. I had to make sure I was bonding it in the right direction so I didn't end up with the jacks facing down.
Step 9: USB Phone Charger
My Dad found this phone charger/led flashlight generator for me. It didn't have the plug for my newest phone, which uses the USB-mini A style plug. I decided that since I have a full set of adapters for any current type of plug, it would be more convenient if it just had a standard USB jack to plug into.
I took one of the larger jacks that I believe were for Qualcomm or older Motorola phones and removed the screws. I removed all of the spring loaded bits and the end popped right out. I soldered a standard USB jack in place and screwed the whole thing back together. Because the sides were wide open where the grey release buttons were, I filled the voids with hot glue and wrapped some electrical tape tightly around the whole thing. Now I can leave all of these adapters behind and just use the generator, extension cable and the USB adapter.
Step 10: Complete Set
To me this is the perfect set of USB adapters. I have data connectors, extension cables, power connectors for the car and for emergency power away from a power source. I can troubleshoot issues with usb ports on a computer and I can flip a USB plug over to use it on a computer with ports that are upside down.
I have thought of using this process to make a few other types of adapters like a 90 degree bending data adapter and a USB to ethernet adapter to make extra long extension wires. If I was going to rebuilt the USB power connectors again, I would add an LED power indicator. You can use these steps to make any kind of wire, but I can especially see people making adapter ends out of any proprietary cell phone cables they have. There is no point in having 100 different cables twisted up in a drawer someplace, you are much better off consolidating everything into one little kit.