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Extend Serial Computer Connections with Male-to-Female RS-232 Serial Cables

These types of cables link two computer-related devices that use the serial RS-232 communication standard. This standard was commonly used prior to the invention of USB connections, but it is still used today for personal and industrial computer systems that need durable, low-speed connections among a variety of components.

How are serial RS-232 male-to-female cables used?

They are used to connect and transfer signals between two devices, with one device having a male serial port and the other a female serial port. For example, they can be used to link a computer with a video card that has a DB9 female RS-232 serial output and a null modem with a DB9 male RS-232 serial input. These cables come in lengths of up to 15 feet, so they are also valuable for the way they extend existing connections between components.

When would you use a serial RS-232 connector or adapter?

They are used when your computer, peripheral (e.g., modem), or cable needs a change to complete a serial connection. Common examples include 9-pin male-to-female adapters, D-SUB connectors, and couplers. These units come in handy when you want to extend a serial connection but don't have the proper cable configuration handy.

Why not just use a USB cable?

Not all computer and telecommunications equipment requires the use of USB connections. USB connections communicate in a high-speed manner, whereas RS-232 devices exchange data at a much lower speed. RS-232 serial cables are much more durable and come in longer lengths than their USB counterparts. Many serial cables also come with a locking mechanism.

How do you care for RS-232 cables?

Most computer cables are made to be flexible and durable. RS-232 cables have several individual connectors grouped together in either a male or female configuration at each end. Each connector is attached to a wire that runs the entire length of the cable to the other end. Here are some tips to make your cables last longer:

  • Do not fold: If you fold this type of cable, it may cause a crease and possibly split one or more wires. This will cause an interruption with the serial link between your devices.
  • Avoid pulling it: When removing a computer cable, pull it from the protected ends. Pulling from any other place may disconnect the internal wires away from the connectors at either end.
  • Look before connecting: Before making a connection, double-check that the number and configuration of pins on the DB9 male end of the unit match what the female end of the connecting cable or device is designed to take.
  • Take your time connecting: If your DB9 male and female cable and device ends match, take your time joining both ends together. Align the cable and slowly push it directly into the device port, adapter, or cable extension.
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