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USB-C, also known as USB Type-C, is a 24-pin USB connector system, which is distinguished by its two-fold rotationally-symmetrical connector.[2]

USB Type-C.svg
Type Digital audio/video/data connector/power2
Designer USB Implementers Forum
Designed August 11, 2014 (published)[1]

The USB Type-C Specification 1.0 was published by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) and was finalized in August 2014.[3] It was developed at roughly the same time as the USB 3.1 specification.

A device that implements USB-C does not necessarily implement USB 3.1, USB Power Delivery, or Alternate Mode, as USB-C devices are not mandated to have these standards. [4][5]

USB-C port on a smartphone




The USB-C connectors connect to both hosts and devices, replacing various USB-B and USB-A connectors and cables with a standard meant to be future-proof.[6][7] The 24-pin double-sided connector is slightly larger than the micro-B connector, with a USB-C port measuring 8.4 millimetres (0.33 in) by 2.6 millimetres (0.10 in). The female connector (receptacle) features four power and four ground pins, two differential pairs for high-speed USB data (though they are connected together on devices), four shielded differential pairs for Enhanced SuperSpeed data (two transmit and two receive pairs), two Sideband Use (SBU) pins, and two Configuration Channel (CC) pins. The male connector (plug) has only one high-speed differential pair, and one of the CC pins is replaced by VCONN, to power electronics in the cable, and the other is used to actually carry the Configuration Channel signals. These signals are used to determine the orientation of the cable, as well as to carry USB PD communications.

Connecting an older device to a host with a USB-C receptacle requires a cable or adapter with a USB-A or USB-B plug or receptacle on one end and a USB-C plug on the other end. Legacy adapters[clarification needed] with a USB-C receptacle are "not defined or allowed" by the specification because they can create "many invalid and potentially unsafe" cable combinations.[8]


Devices may be hosts (DFP: Downstream-facing port) or peripherals (UFP: Upstream-facing port). Some, such as mobile phones, can take either role depending on what kind is detected on the other end. These types of ports are called Dual-Role-Data (DRD) ports, which was known as USB On-The-Go in the previous specification.[9] When two such devices are connected, the roles are randomly assigned but a swap can be commanded from either end, although there are optional path and role detection methods that would allow devices to select a preference for a specific role. Furthermore, dual-role devices that implement USB Power Delivery may independently and dynamically swap data and power roles using the Data Role Swap or Power Role Swap processes. This allows for charge-through hub or docking station applications where the USB-C device acts as a USB data host while acting as a power consumer rather than a source.[5]

USB-C devices may optionally provide or consume bus power currents of 1.5 A and 3.0 A (at 5 V) in addition to baseline bus power provision; power sources can either advertise increased USB current through the configuration channel, or they can implement the full USB Power Delivery specification using both BMC-coded configuration line and legacy BFSK-coded VBUS line.[5][10]


USB-C 3.1 cables are considered full-featured USB-C cables. They are electronically marked cables that contain a chip with an ID function based on the configuration channel and vendor-defined messages (VDM) from the USB Power Delivery 2.0 specification. Cable length should be ≤2 m for gen. 1 or ≤1 m for gen. 2.[11] Electronic ID chip provides information about product/vendor, cable connectors, USB signalling protocol (2.0, gen. 1, gen. 2), passive/active construction, use of VCONN power, available VBUS current, latency, RX/TX directionality, SOP controller mode, and hardware/firmware version .[5]

USB-C 2.0 cables do not have shielded SuperSpeed pairs, sideband use pins, or additional wires for power lines. Increased cable lengths up to 4 m are possible.

All USB-C cables must be able to carry a minimum of 3 A current (at 20 V, 60 W) but can also carry high-power 5 A current (at 20 V, 100 W).[12] All USB-C to USB-C cables must contain e-marker chips programmed to identify the cable and its current capabilities. USB Charging ports should also be clearly marked with capable power wattage.[10]

Full-featured USB-C cables that implement USB 3.1 gen. 2 can handle up to 10 Gbit/s data rate at full duplex. They are marked with a SuperSpeed+ (SuperSpeed 10 Gbit/s) logo. There are also cables which can carry only USB 2.0 with up to 480 Mbit/s data rate. There are USB-IF certification programs available for USB-C products and end users are recommended to use USB-IF certified cables.[13]


Audio Adapter Accessory ModeEdit

A device with a USB-C port may support analog headsets through an audio adapter with a 3.5 mm jack, providing four standard analog audio connections (Left, Right, Microphone, and Ground). The audio adapter may optionally include a USB-C charge-through port to allow 500 mA device charging. The engineering specification states that an analog headset shall not use a USB-C plug instead of a 3.5 mm plug. In other words, headsets with a USB-C plug should always support digital audio (and optionally the accessory mode).[14]

Analog signals use the USB 2.0 differential pairs (Dp and Dn for Right and Left) and the two side-band use pairs for Mic and GND. The presence of the audio accessory is signalled through the configuration channel and VCONN.

Alternate ModeEdit

An Alternate Mode dedicates some of the physical wires in a USB-C 3.1 cable for direct device-to-host transmission of alternate data protocols. The four high-speed lanes, two side-band pins, and (for dock, detachable device and permanent cable applications only) two USB 2.0 data pins and one configuration pin can be used for alternate mode transmission. The modes are configured using vendor-defined messages (VDM) through the configuration channel.


USB Type-C Specification 1.0Edit

Connector pinoutsEdit

Type-C receptacle pinout
Pin Name Description Pin Name Description
A1 GND Ground return B12 GND Ground return
A2 SSTXp1 SuperSpeed differential pair #1, TX, positive B11 SSRXp1 SuperSpeed differential pair #2, RX, positive
A3 SSTXn1 SuperSpeed differential pair #1, TX, negative B10 SSRXn1 SuperSpeed differential pair #2, RX, negative
A4 VBUS Bus power B9 VBUS Bus power
A5 CC1 Configuration channel B8 SBU2 Sideband use (SBU)
A6 Dp1 USB 2.0 differential pair, position 1, positive B7 Dn2 USB 2.0 differential pair, position 2, negative[a]
A7 Dn1 USB 2.0 differential pair, position 1, negative B6 Dp2 USB 2.0 differential pair, position 2, positive[a]
A8 SBU1 Sideband use (SBU) B5 CC2 Configuration channel
A9 VBUS Bus power B4 VBUS Bus power
A10 SSRXn2 SuperSpeed differential pair #4, RX, negative B3 SSTXn2 SuperSpeed differential pair #3, TX, negative
A11 SSRXp2 SuperSpeed differential pair #4, RX, positive B2 SSTXp2 SuperSpeed differential pair #3, TX, positive
A12 GND Ground return B1 GND Ground return
  1. ^ a b There is only a single non-SuperSpeed differential pair in the cable. This pin is not connected in the plug/cable.
USB-C receptacle pinout end-on view
USB-C plug pinout end-on view

Cable wiringEdit

Full-featured USB 3.1 and 2.0 Type-C cable wiring
Plug 1, USB Type-C USB Type-C cable Plug 2, USB Type-C
Pin Name Wire color No Name Description 2.0[a] Pin Name
Shell Shield Braid Braid Shield Cable external braid Shell Shield
A1, B12,
B1, A12
GND Tin-plated 1 GND_PWRrt1 Ground for power return A1, B12,
B1, A12
16 GND_PWRrt2
A4, B9,
B4, A9
VBUS Red 2 PWR_VBUS1 VBUS power A4, B9,
B4, A9
B5 VCONN Yellow
18 PWR_VCONN VCONN power, for powered cables[b] B5 VCONN
A5 CC Blue 3 CC Configuration channel A5 CC
A6 Dp1 White 4 UTP_Dp[c] Unshielded twisted pair, positive A6 Dp1
A7 Dn1 Green 5 UTP_Dn[c] Unshielded twisted pair, negative A7 Dn1
A8 SBU1 Red 14 SBU_A Sideband use A B8 SBU2
B8 SBU2 Black 15 SBU_B Sideband use B A8 SBU1
A2 SSTXp1 Yellow[d] 6 SDPp1 Shielded differential pair #1, positive B11 SSRXp1
A3 SSTXn1 Brown[d] 7 SDPn1 Shielded differential pair #1, negative B10 SSRXn1
B11 SSRXp1 Green[d] 8 SDPp2 Shielded differential pair #2, positive A2 SSTXp1
B10 SSRXn1 Orange[d] 9 SDPn2 Shielded differential pair #2, negative A3 SSTXn1
B2 SSTXp2 White[d] 10 SDPp3 Shielded differential pair #3, positive A11 SSRXp2
B3 SSTXn2 Black[d] 11 SDPn3 Shielded differential pair #3, negative A10 SSRXn2
A11 SSRXp2 Red[d] 12 SDPp4 Shielded differential pair #4, positive B2 SSTXp2
A10 SSRXn2 Blue[d] 13 SDPn4 Shielded differential pair #4, negative B3 SSTXn2
  1. ^ USB 2.0 Type-C cables do not include wires for SuperSpeed or sideband use.
  2. ^ VCONN must not traverse end-to-end through the cable. Some isolation method must be used.
  3. ^ a b There is only a single differential pair for non-SuperSpeed data in the cable, which is connected to A6 and A7. Contacts B6 and B7 should not be present in the plug.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Wire colors for differential pairs are not mandated.

Related USB-IF specificationsEdit

USB 2.0 Billboard Device Class specificationEdit

USB 2.0 Billboard Device Class is defined to communicate the details of supported Alternate Modes to the computer host OS. It provides user readable strings with product description and user support information. Billboard messages can be used to identify incompatible connections made by users. They are not required to negotiate Alternate Modes and only appear when negotiation fails between the host (source) and device (sink).

USB Power Delivery specificationEdit

While it is not necessary for USB-C compliant devices to implement USB Power Delivery, for USB-C DRP/DRD (Dual-Role-Power/Data) ports, USB Power Delivery introduces commands for altering a port's power or data role after the roles have been established when a connection is made.[15]

Alternate Mode partner specificationsEdit

As of 2016 four system-defined Alternate Mode partner specifications exist. Additionally, vendors may support proprietary modes for use in dock solutions.

List of Alternate Mode partner specifications
Name Date Protocol
DisplayPort Alternate Mode Published in September 2014 DisplayPort 1.4[16][17]
Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) Alternate Mode Announced in November 2014[18] MHL 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and superMHL 1.0[19][20][21][22]
Thunderbolt Alternate Mode Announced in June 2015[23] Thunderbolt 3 (carries DisplayPort 1.2, and starting with Titan Ridge DisplayPort 1.4)[23][24][25][26]
HDMI Alternate Mode Announced in September 2016[27] HDMI 1.4b[28][29][30][31]
VirtualLink Alternate Mode Announced in July 2018[32] VirtualLink 1.0 (not yet standardized)[33]

Other protocols like Ethernet[34] have been proposed.

All Thunderbolt 3 controllers both support "Thunderbolt Alternate Mode" and "DisplayPort Alternate Mode".[35] Because Thunderbolt can encapsulate DisplayPort data, every Thunderbolt controller can either output DisplayPort signals directly over "DisplayPort Alternative Mode" or encapsulated within Thunderbolt in "Thunderbolt Alternate Mode". Low cost peripherals mostly connect via "DisplayPort Alternate Mode" while some docking stations tunnel DisplayPort over Thunderbolt[36].

The USB SuperSpeed protocol is similar to DisplayPort and PCIe/Thunderbolt, in using packetized data transmitted over differential LVDS lanes with embedded clock using comparable bit rates, so these Alternate Modes are easier to implement in the chipset.[16]

Alternate Modes are optional; USB-C features and devices are not required to support any specific Alternate Mode. The USB Implementers Forum is working with its Alternate Mode partners to make sure that ports are properly labelled with respective logos.[37]

Alternate Mode hosts and sinks can be connected with either regular full-featured USB-C cables, or converter cables/adapters:

USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-C full-featured cable
DisplayPort, Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), HDMI and Thunderbolt (20 Gbit/s, or 40 Gbit/s with cable length up to 0.5m) Alternate Mode USB-C ports can be interconnected with standard passive full-featured USB Type-C cables. These cables are only marked with standard "trident" SuperSpeed USB logo (for gen. 1 cables) or the SuperSpeed+ USB 10 Gbit/s logo (for gen. 2 cables) on both ends.[38] Cable length should be 2.0 m or less for gen. 1 and 1.0 m or less for gen. 2.
Thunderbolt Type-C to Type-C active cable
Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbit/s) Alternate Mode with cables longer than 0.5m requires active USB-C cables that are certified and electronically marked for high-speed Thunderbolt 3 transmission, similarly to high-power 5 A cables.[23][26] These cables are marked with a Thunderbolt logo on both ends. They do not support USB 3 Backwards compatibility, only USB 2 or Thunderbolt. Cables can be marked for both Thunderbolt and 5 A power delivery at the same time.[39]
USB 3.1 Type-C adapter cable (plug) or adapter (socket)
These cables/adapters contain a valid DisplayPort, HDMI, or MHL plug/socket marked with the logo of the required Alternate Mode, and a USB-C plug with a "trident" SuperSpeed 10 Gbit/s logo on the other end. Cable length should be 0.15 m or less[citation needed].

Active cables/adapters contain powered ICs to amplify/equalise the signal for extended length cables, or to perform active protocol conversion. The adapters for video Alt Modes may allow conversion from native video stream to other video interface standards (e.g., DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA or DVI).

Using full-featured USB-C cables for Alternate Mode connections provides some benefits. Alternate Mode does not employ USB 2.0 lanes and the configuration channel lane, so USB 2.0 and USB Power Delivery protocols are always available. In addition, DisplayPort and MHL Alternate Modes can transmit on one, two, or four SuperSpeed lanes, so two of the remaining lanes may be used to simultaneously transmit USB 3.1 data.[40]

Alternate Mode protocol support matrix for USB-C cables and adapters
Mode USB 3.1 Type-C cable[a] Adapter cable or adapter Construction
USB[b] DisplayPort Thunderbolt superMHL HDMI HDMI DVI-D Component video
3.1 1.2 1.4 20 Gbit/s 40 Gbit/s 1.4b 1.4b 2.0b single-link dual-link (YPbPr, VGA/DVI-A)
DisplayPort Yes Yes Does not appear No Passive
Does not appear Optional Yes Yes Yes Active
Thunderbolt Yes[c] Yes[c] Does not appear Yes Yes[d] Does not appear No Passive
Does not appear Optional Optional Yes Yes Yes Yes Active
MHL Yes Does not appear Yes Does not appear Yes No Yes No No Passive
Does not appear Optional Does not appear Yes Does not appear Yes Active
HDMI Does not appear Yes Yes No Yes No No Passive
Optional Does not appear Yes Active
  1. ^ USB 2.0 and USB Power Delivery are available at all times in a Type-C cable
  2. ^ USB 3.1 can be transmitted simultaneously when the video signal bandwidth requires two or fewer lanes
  3. ^ a b Only available in Thunderbolt 3 DisplayPort mode.
  4. ^ Thunderbolt 3 40 Gbit/s Passive cables are only possible <0.5m due to limitations of current cable technology.

Connector pin usage in different modesEdit

The diagrams below depict the pins of a USB-C socket in different use cases.

USB 2.0/1.1Edit

A simple USB 2.0/1.1 device mates using one pair of D+/D− pins. Hence, the source (host) does not require any connection management circuitry, and therefore USB-C is backward compatible with even the oldest USB devices. VBUS and GND provide 5 V up to 500 mA of current. However, to connect a USB 2.0/1.1 device to a USB-C host, use of Rd on the CC pins is required, as the source (host) will not supply VBUS until a connection is detected through the CC pins.


USB Power DeliveryEdit

USB Power Delivery uses one of CC1, CC2 pins for power negotiation up to 20 V at 5 A (or whatever less the source can provide). It is transparent to any data transmission mode, and can therefore be used together with any of them.


USB 3.0/3.1/3.2Edit

In the USB 3.0/3.1/3.2 mode, two or four high speed links are used in TX/RX pairs to provide 5 to 20 Gbps throughput. One of the CC pins is used to negotiate the mode.

VBUS and GND provide 5 V up to 900 mA, in accordance with the USB 3.1 specification. A specific USB-C mode may also be entered, where 5 V up to 3 A is provided.[41] A third alternative is to establish a Power Delivery contract.

The D+/D− link for USB 2.0/1.1 is typically not used when USB 3.x connection is active, but devices like hubs open simultaneous 2.0 and 3.x uplinks in order to allow operation of both type devices connected to it. Other devices may have fallback mode to 2.0, in case the 3.x connection fails.


Alternate ModeEdit

In the Alternate Mode one of up to four high speed links are used in whatever direction is needed. SBU1, SBU2 provide an additional lower speed link. If two high speed links remain unused, then a USB 3.0/3.1 link can be established concurrently to the Alternate Mode[17]. One of the CC pins is used to perform all the negotiation. An additional low band bidirectional channel (other than SBU) may share that CC pin as well[17][28]. USB 2.0 is also available through D+/D− pins.

In regard to power, the devices are supposed to negotiate a Power Delivery contract before an alternate mode is entered[42].


Audio Adapter Accessory ModeEdit

In this mode, all digital circuits are disconnected from the connector, and certain pins become reassigned for analog outputs or inputs. The mode, if supported, is entered when both CC pins are shorted to GND. D- and D+ become audio output left L and right R, respectively. The SBU pins become a microphone pin MIC, and the analog ground AGND, the latter being a return path for both outputs and the microphone. Nevertheless, the MIC and AGND pins must have automatic swap capability, for two reasons: firstly, the USB-C plug may be inserted either side; secondly, there is no agreement, which TRRS rings shall be GND and MIC, so devices equipped with a headphone jack with microphone input must be able to perform this swap anyway.[43]

This mode also allows concurrent charging of a device exposing the analog audio interface (through VBUS and GND), however only at 5 V and 500 mA, as CC pins are unavailable for any negotiation.


Software supportEdit

  • Android Marshmallow and up works with USB 3.1 and USB-C.[44]
  • Chrome OS supports USB 3.1 and USB-C starting with the Chromebook Pixel 2015 and supports alternate modes, power delivery, and USB Dual-Role support.[45]
  • FreeBSD released the Extensible Host Controller Interface, supporting USB 3.0, with release 8.2[46]
  • Linux has supported USB 3.0 since kernel version 2.6.31 and USB version 3.1 since kernel version 4.6.
  • MacOS High Sierra supports USB 3.1, USB-C, and other form of power delivery and display options.
  • OS X Yosemite supports USB 3.1, USB-C, alternate modes, and power delivery.[47]
  • Windows 8.1 added USB-C and billboard support in an update.[48]
  • Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile support USB 3.1, USB-C, alternate modes, billboard device class, power delivery and USB Dual-Role support.[49]

Hardware supportEdit

An increasing number of motherboards, notebooks, tablet computers, smartphones, hard disk drives, USB hubs and other devices released from 2014 onwards feature USB-C receptacles.

Currently, DisplayPort is the most widely implemented alternate mode, and is used to provide video output on devices that do not have standard-size DisplayPort or HDMI ports, such as smartphones and laptops. A USB-C multiport adapter converts the device's native video stream to DisplayPort/HDMI/VGA, allowing it to be displayed on an external display, such as a television set or computer monitor.

Examples of devices that support DisplayPort Alternate Mode over USB-C include: MacBook, Chromebook Pixel, Surface Book 2, Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, ROG Phone, HTC 10/U Ultra, Huawei Mate 10, LG V20/V30, Samsung Galaxy S8/S9, Microsoft Lumia 950 etc.

Examples of devices that support high-power charging according to the USB Power Delivery specification include: MacBook, Chromebook Pixel, Surface Book 2, Dell Venue 10 Pro, Lenovo ThinkPad X1, Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, iPad Pro, Nintendo Switch, Nexus 5X/6P, Google Pixel/2, ROG Phone, BlackBerry KEY2, Essential Phone, HTC 10/U Ultra, LG G5/G6, Moto Z, Nokia 8, Razer Phone, Samsung Galaxy S8/S9, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Sony Xperia XZ1/XZ2, Apple iPhone 8/X etc.

Non-compliant cablesEdit

Many cables claiming to support USB-C are actually not compliant to the standard. Using these cables would have a potential consequence of damaging devices that they are connected to.[50][51][52] There are reported cases of laptops being destroyed due to the use of non-compliant cables.[53]

Power issuesEdit

Some non-compliant cables with a USB-C connector on one end and a legacy USB-A plug or Micro-B receptacle on the other end incorrectly terminate the Configuration Channel (CC) with a 10kΩ pullup to VBUS instead of the specification mandated 56kΩ pullup[54], causing a device connected to the cable to incorrectly determine the amount of power it is permitted to draw from the cable. Cables with this issue may not work properly with certain products, including Apple and Google products, and may even damage power sources such as chargers, hubs, or PC USB ports.[55][56]

Compatibility with other fast charging technologyEdit

In 2016, Benson Leung, an engineer at Google, pointed out that Quick Charge 2.0 and 3.0 technologies developed by Qualcomm are not compatible with the USB-C standard.[57] Qualcomm responded that it is possible to make fast charge solutions fit the voltage demands of USB-C and that there are no reports of problems; however, it did not address the standard compliance issue at that time.[58] Later in the year, Qualcomm released Quick Charge 4 technology, which cited – as an advancement over previous generations – "USB Type-C and USB PD compliant".[59]


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  15. ^ Universal Serial Bus Type-C Cable and Connector Specification Release 1.3 (July 14, 2017), section 4.5.2, page 144
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  58. ^ "Qualcomm says it's fine to fast-charge your phone over USB-C".
  59. ^ "Qualcomm Quick Charge 4: Five minutes of charging for five hours of battery life - Qualcomm".

External linksEdit

  • The Universal Serial Bus Type-C Cable and Connector Specification is included in a set of USB documents which can be downloaded from