The Difference Between the Male & Female Connectors on a Computer

by Michael Cox

    When professionals discuss connector plugs and jacks, you may hear them refer to male and female connectors. While the references may seem obvious, connector genders are not always simple to identify. The gender of connectors common to modern computers is relatively straightforward, with a few exceptions.

    Determining Gender

    The gender of a plug and that of a jack or port is usually determined by the designer of the connectors. Usually the male connector includes the pins and the female includes the holes into which the pins fit. Most jacks or ports are considered female, and most plugs are male. However, some ports, such as some types of video connectors, may feature pins, making them male.

    Common Connectors

    Unfortunately, there's no unified resource listing connector gender, which may be why most people refer to connectors as plugs, jacks and ports rather than risk confusion over gender. However, the connections likely to be on your computer are almost all female: USB, Ethernet and Firewire ports, as well as mini audio jacks, are all given the feminine attribute. The two places you may see male ports are VGA video and power connections, where the port contains one or more visible pins, whether or not the plug fits inside the port.

    Genderless Connectors

    Connectors are considered genderless if they feature both pins and sockets. Genderless computer connectors are uncommon, usually used for either internal connections such as stackable daughterboards or advanced connections including IBM data connectors, which were made to connect with each other.

    Changing Genders

    Most common interface cables use male plugs at each end. On occasion you may need to convert a male connector into a female connector to connect to a device. Male-to-female or female-to-male adapters, also known as gender changers, are readily available for this purpose.

    About the Author

    Michael Cox writes about lifestyle issues, popular culture, sports and technology. In a career spanning more than 10 years, he has contributed to dozens of magazines, books and websites, including MSN.com and "Adobe Magazine." Cox holds a professional certificate in technical communications from the University of Washington.

    Photo Credits

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