Types of computer ports, connectors, and their symbols

First let’s try to answer the question, what is a computer port?

A computer port is a physical interface with the computer that is used to connect computer peripherals. 

To connect any external device to a computer you require to use a connector that goes to the port in the computer. Ports are used to connect peripheral devices to the computer motherboard or the casing.

The main ports that are in a modern computer are USB, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA, Power, Serial, PS/2, DVI, Audio, and Firewire among others. They are used to connect different devices to the computer for data transfer and communication. USB is replacing most of these other ports since is simple to connect and convenient.

What is a computer connector?

A computer connector is used to join the peripheral device to the port by using a cable. It is the part that goes into the port for connection. There are either male or female input or output types of connectors.

Male-female connector type

Just like in animals, male connectors have “pins” while the female has “holes”. 

The female port has holes that accept the pins from the male part of the connector.


The male connector has pins that are equal numbers to the holes of the partner female.


The number of pins should be equal to the number of holes. This arrangement ensures that the connection can be done in only one way otherwise the male won’t be accepted by the female part. If users try to force they may end up breaking the male pins.

In this article, we discuss the most common types of ports and their function and symbols that are used to recognize them. The front of a Personal computer (PC) has fewer connections compared to the back. This ensure user is not disturbed by the many cables used for the connection in front.

Types of computer ports and their functions

Many ports and connectors are used in a modern computer. Below we will discuss the most common types of computer ports.

  1. Universal Serial Bus (USB)

This is the most common type of port and it replaces other older types of connectors. It mostly connects plug-and-play devices. Most smartphone devices can be connected to the computer by using a USB. one cable can have 2 different types of USB on each end.

There 6 types of USB generation or technologies.

  1. USB-A: it is the most common connector that connects to the computer. It can enter in only one direction. It can be used for data transfer of charging devices.
  2. USB-B: they are not common like type A. mostly used to connect printers and external hard disks.
  3. USB-C: This is the latest type of USB connector that comes with the latest smartphone. It transfers data at a higher rate of above 30Gbps. They are reversible which is to say you can plug them in any side and they will fit.
  4. USB3: They are similar to USB-A but transfer high data. They are color-coded blue inside to differentiate them from black USB-A. They are mostly used in external hard disks
  5. Mini USB: they were mostly used by the earlier smartphones which were small in size. They are used to connect digital cameras too.
  6. Micro USB: They are used by many smartphones although they are being replaced by type C ports.

2. Ethernet port: for a device to connect to the network using a cable requires an ethernet port. The connector used to connect is mostly RJ45 or RJ11. the port connects the device to the network switch, router, or any other networking component

The main function of an ethernet port is to provide communication of devices within a network. The latest laptop computer doesn’t have an ethernet port since they are meant to use WIFI connections. You can read more on functions, uses, and how to identify ethernet ports in this article.

  1. Video display ports: These are ports that are used to connect devices that are used for video display and audio. You can read a detailed article on VGA adapter and their functions. There are 4 main types of video display ports used in the display units. They can be used to connect monitors or overhead projectors.
    1. Video Graphic Array (VGA) computer port: This is the most common type of port that is used to connect computer monitors. HDMI computer port
    2. Digital Visual Interface (DVI): it has a better video display than a VGA connection and can be used to transmit both analog and digital signals.
    3. High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI): It is used to transmit high-quality video and audio data. They are used in games console and TV and monitor that require high-standard output. They support 4K types of video. There are either micro-HDMI or mini-HDMI.
    4. DisplayPort: it was intended to replace both DVI and VGA but they are not that common. They offer high-quality video output. They also support multi-screen. This means many computer screens can be used at the same time.
  2. Microphone (sound input) port: it is an input port used for audio input
  3. Speaker (sound output) port: they are used to connect voice output such as speakers and headphones.
  4. Power port: this is a port that is used to connect the power supply to the computer. The type depends on the county that the device was made for. Some have 3 plugs while others have only 2.
  5. Serial port: they move data one bit at a time. They are also known as communication ports (COM)
  6. Parallel ports: these were used in the old models of computers to connect devices using parallel interface connections. They are mostly used to connect printers. They have been replaced by USBs. They move data in a stream of bits at the same time.
  7. Personal System/2 (PS/2): it is an old technology that was used to connect a mouse and keyboard to the computer and was developed by IBM computer. It allows a 6-pin connector to plug into it. They were color-coded where purple was for the keyboard and green for the mouse connection. This port and connectors were replaced by a USB port.
  8. Small Computer System Interface (SCSI): it is a parallel type of connection that is used to connect different types of peripheral devices. It is a bus that can connect many devices at the same time such as hard disks, printers, DVD drives, etc.
  9. Firewire port: it is a standard connection type that is similar to the USB port. They are mostly used for video digital camera cables for data transfer. They were created under the standard IEEE 1394. They transmit data at a very high speed, plug, and play

Computer port symbols


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