Help & Support

Should I use USB or Ethernet?


There are two methods of connecting a Virgin Media Broadband cable modem or Set Top Box to a PC:

 * USB (Universal Serial Bus)
 * Ethernet (Network Card)

Virgin Media recommends using an Ethernet connection instead of USB as there are many benefits including:

 * Faster downloads
 * Quick and easy to set up
 * Recognised to be a proven and dedicated connection method
 * Reliable
 * Better PC performance
 * Compatible with Home Network equipment

Background information

USB is used as a connection method for many different devices, including joysticks, printers, scanners, mice, etc.

Network cards (also known as Ethernet cards, or NIC's) have been on the market since 1982, whereas USB is relatively new, from 1995 onwards.

Whereas USB can be used to connect many different devices to your computer, Ethernet is designed specifically for connecting to a network, and has proven to be far more reliable than a USB connection.

Understanding and Resolving USB Problems

USB Broadband connections are less reliable than Ethernet connections, due to the increased load on the PC's processor.

If you have several USB devices in use on your home computer e.g. mouse, keyboard or scanner, then you are even more likely to experience problems with your USB Broadband connection.

These problems include:

 * slow downloads
 * intermittent connections
 * system crashes
 * difficulties with installing/re-installing USB drivers
 * conflicts with other USB devices

Due to restrictions with the technology of USB 1.0, PC's connecting to Broadband devices via USB will only be able to receive a maximum possible connection speed of (up to) 5Mb

Resolving USB problems

A simple resolution for USB connection or speed problems would be to use the alternative method, an Ethernet connection.

Most new PC's today come with an Ethernet card already installed. It therefore makes sense to use this as the preferred Broadband connection method.

An Ethernet cable was provided free of charge by Virgin Media with your Broadband installation package that will allow you to connect your home computer to your Broadband device.

Learn how to change today to benefit from Virgin Media's award winning super-fast Broadband services!

Changing from USB to Ethernet

You can look for an existing Ethernet port on the rear or side of your home computer.

Illustration of Ethernet (left) and USB connections

If you are unable to locate this type of port on your computer, it is possible that you don't have an ethernet card installed as part of your PC.

It's quite straightforward to fit an ethernet card into your PC, but if you are not confident in doing so yourself...

 * ask a PC literate friend
 * or contact your local computer supplier
 ...who will install one for you.

How to Swap

The following steps illustrate how to easy it is to swap to Ethernet from USB.

 * Step One: To swap from a USB connection to Ethernet, first make sure that
   your PC is shut down.
 * Step Two: Next, turn off the power to your Broadband connection device
   (Cable Modem or Set Top Box) by switching it off at the mains.
 * Step Three: Disconnect the USB lead from both your Broadband
   connection device and your PC.

Illustration of USB connection

 * Step Four: Connect your Broadband connection device to your PC using
   your Ethernet lead (this should have been supplied with your Broadband
   connection device when it was installed).

The lead should fit securely, without forcing, into both your Broadband connection device and your PC's Ethernet port.

If you don't have an Ethernet lead, you can purchase one from your local PC supplier (e.g. PC World, Dixons, Comet, etc) for a minimal cost.

Illustration of Ethernet connection

 * Step Five: Switch your Broadband connection device back on at the mains.
   Wait for a minute, or until the lights indicate a connection.
 * Step Six: Finally, power up your PC.
 * Confirmation: Once your PC has powered up, you should be connected
   successfully via Ethernet.
 * Set Top Box users - you should be aware that you need to register your
   change of connection method using the registration site.

You will need your PID and password details to hand to complete this process.


Network cards (also known as Ethernet cards, or NIC's) are fitted to a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) slot on the computer's motherboard while the computer is turned off.

It's quite straightforward to fit an ethernet card into your PC, but if you are not confident in doing so yourself...

 * ask a PC literate friend,
   or contact your local computer supplier.


There is usually a small LED on the Network card itself and this should light up if installed properly when the computer is turned on.

If the LED doesn't illuminate then there is a problem with the physical installation or card itself.

Hardware Wizard

When the computer is turned on, the network card will be detected by the system and the New Hardware wizard will run automatically.

This will only happen the first time you install the network card or are reinstalling the drivers.

If the network card and drivers have already been installed you will not see the New Hardware wizard.

Select Location

Clicking next on the Wizard will provide the location from where you want to install the drivers.

Some network cards come supplied with a driver disk, whilst others will rely on finding a suitable driver within the operating system (this is only likely to happen with Windows XP).

At this point select the location that holds the drivers, if you have a disk, or allow the computer to install as recommended.

System Properties

Checking that the drivers have installed correctly can be achieved via the Hardware tab within the 'System Properties' window. To access the system properties hold down the 'Windows' key and press the 'Pause Break' key.

Device Manager

Within the 'System Properties' window, (1) Select the Hardware tab and (2) Click the 'Device Manager' button.

Look down the list within Device manager and look for (3) 'Network Adapters'.

Network Adaptors

 * Click on the plus next to 'Network Adapters'.
 * You should see a reference to your network card (4).
 * Right click on this reference and select 'Properties' (5).
 * You should get a window telling you that 'This device is working properly.' (6)

Checking installation

Problems with installation can be spotted via:

 * Warning symbol next to the Ethernet card
 * Can't locate 'Network Adapters' in the list
 * The term 'Other devices' appear instead of Network adapters


In the event of a 'warning symbol', you can attempt to re-install the drivers.

Only attempt this if you are sure that you have the right drivers available.

Right click on adapter with a problem and select 'Uninstall' (1).
Then click on 'Action' and then 'Scan for Hardware changes' (2).
Follow the course of action shown in the 'Hardware Wizard' section found earlier in this tutorial.