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USB expansion PCI card causing problems with 9 printers!

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by dangent, May 28, 2010.

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  1. dangent

    dangent Thread Starter

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    My friend runs his own CD duplicating business and to print onto the CDs he has 9 CD printers. 3 x Epson R285. 6 x R265
    Originally he had 3 of each all connected to his front panel and rear USB and it worked fine. In order to connect the 3 new R265s he bought a PCI expansion card:
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Scan-5-Port-PCI-USB2-Card-NEC-Chipset-PC-MAC-OSX-Compatible-Hi-End

    This worked but was a bit troublesome, it kept giving various errors. He tested the PCI expansion card by plugging in his external CD Drive and it could only burn at 2x.

    When he had all 9 printers plugged in he changed one from being plugged in to the expansion card and connected it to the rear mobo USB and the power cut out. Since then he's had various problems with the printers and wants me to format his PC and install everything from scratch. He's tried reinstalling the printers, I can give a detailed list of the problems if needed.

    He's got a custom built PC with he thinks a Tagan PSU thats 400W. So it shouldn't be a power thing as USB doesn't draw much does it? 5V? His mobo is a Abit IC7G. Can get any more info thats needed.

    . Basically I'm hoping you guys of much knowledge can help me out with these questions:

    - Do PCI expansion cards work as well as onboard USB? Should he have got a branded card e.g. http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Belkin-Hi-Speed-USB2-5-Port-PCI-Card-(F5U220VEA1)
    - Is this the best setup for using this many printers? Should he have a 2nd PC with 4 of them plugged in or even something fancy like a print server? (not sure how they would accomodate 9 printers!)

    Any tips or suggestions would be really needed!

    Thanks for reading,
    Dan Gent
     
  2. Alex Ethridge

    Alex Ethridge

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    This might not answer your entire question; but, I've long suspected that USB add-in cards are actually add-in USB hubs. In other words, they are splitting one USB port into two or more USB ports using hub technology. Some devices don't work well together on USB hubs. I don't understand the technical reasons why there are conflicts' I just know from experience that they do have them.

    For that reason, I have stopped buying 4- and 5-port USB add-in cards and gone to buying the 2-port ones. If I do happen to wind up with cards having more than two ports, I use only 1 or 2 of them. I quit installing 4- and 5-port cards on customers' machines because I sometimes get call-backs on the 5-port or 4-port installations, due to conflicts between devices. If they need more than two ports, I install more than one USB add-in card as they seem to handle two devices okay.
     
  3. dangent

    dangent Thread Starter

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    Hi Alex,

    Much thanks for the reply. Interesting idea. I couldn't find anything on the net detailing how USB expansion cards worked, but I imagine it would be easier to do the chaining through USB rather than creating a more complex 5 x USB to PCI interface.
    Have you much experience with wiring this many devices to a USB hub? Talking about not knowing the technical reason with USB, I find that with my USB hub it works best if i just plug in mice and keyboards and protection dongles, but if I start connecting high bandwidth stuff like external harddrives then stuff just doesn't seem to work.

    I suppose a sure fire giveaway to test your idea would be that, i find anyway, reconnecting USB devices to different ports means you have to reinstall the drivers (so I find repeatedly anyway). Maybe it doesnt happen on hubs.... (therefore using the same address).

    My other idea was just to get a 2nd PC and hook half the printers up to that. Could work out to be the most stable solution.
     
  4. Snagglegaster

    Snagglegaster Banned

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    To ensure top performance and full power for attached devices, there should be one controller (identified as a Root Hub in Device Manager) for every two ports. What you find on every 4 and 5 port card on the market (that I've seen anyway) is indeed a built in hub and a single controller. Fine for devices that don't require much bandwidth, but not for heavy duty use.
     
  5. dangent

    dangent Thread Starter

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    thats really interesting gaster. I'll be sure to check that out on device manager. USB isn't really a bus at all is it ;^)

    For the price, I might just get 2 or 3 more PCI cards (however many can fit) and put them in this computer. See how that works out.
     
  6. win2kpro

    win2kpro

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  7. dangent

    dangent Thread Starter

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    I'll get him to buy one and try that then. For the cost its well worth it :^) Apparently CD printers (standalone devices) cost £2500+ and only do 25 CDs an hour. With his 9 printer setup + PC he says he can do 10 times that and for a fraction of the price. So £10 to get it working well is easily worth it!
     
  8. Snagglegaster

    Snagglegaster Banned

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    Generally, I'd have to agree, but I think the problem is less about supplying power to the devices than insuring adequate bandwidth. I think more expansion cards with no more than 2 devices connected per card is going to work better in this case.
     
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