What are PS/2 Ports and Connectors?

PS/2 Definition

Photo of a USB-PS/2 adapter cable
USB-PS/2 Adapter Cable. © Manhattan Products

What is PS/2?

PS/2 is a now-defunct, standard type of connection used to connect keyboards, mice, and other input devices to a computer.

Generally, it refers to the types of cables (PS/2 cable), ports (PS/2 port), and other connectors used with these types of keyboards and mice.

PS/2 ports are round and consist of 6 pins. In most cases, purple PS/2 ports are inteded to be used by keyboards while green PS/2 ports are to be used by mice.

The PS/2 standard had been completely replaced by the much faster, and more flexible, USB standard in consumer machines. PS/2 was officially declared as a legacy port in the year 2000, paving the way for USB's complete takeover.

Is There Any Use for PS/2 Anymore?

For the most part, no, PS/2 really is gone. There aren't piles of PS/2 devices sitting around with nowhere to go. Computers and their peripherals migrated to USB at roughly the same time.

There was a time during the transition, however, where you might buy a new computer that only had USB ports but you wanted to use your trusty, PS/2-based keyboard and mouse. In those situations, a PS/2-to-USB converter might come in handy (more on that below) and might be a reason you'll still find the occasional PS/2 device at home.

PS/2 does tend to work better than USB in a "switching" environment, where one keyboard, mouse, and monitor operates a number of different computers.

This sort of setup is common in data centers, albeit older ones.

Remote access software is now more commonly used in the business and enterprise environments, allowing anyone with access to connect to an unlimited number of other computers remotely, negating the need for PS/2 switching devices altogether.

Do PS/2 to USB Converters Work?

PS/2-to-USB converters, like the one pictured on this page, provide a way to connect older PS/2-based devices to a computer that only supports USB.

Unfortunately, these converter cables are notoriously buggy and often only support certain types of PS/2 keyboards and mice. This is less of a problem as time goes on and these lesser products are removed from the market, but it's something to keep in mind as you shop.

Like all computer hardware, if you're in the market for a PS/2-to-USB converter, do some research and read product reviews. No doubt a highly rated converter will do the job.

What Do You Do When a PS/2 Keyboard or Mouse Locks Up?

There are lots of reasons why a computer might lock up, sometimes called freezing, but when you know it's just the keyboard or mouse, and they're PS/2-based devices, the solution is usually pretty simple.

Typically this happens when a PS/2-based mouse or keyboard comes loose just enough to loose connection with your computer. Unfortunately, just pushing the PS/2 port into the receptacle again isn't enough.

Unlike the newer USB standard, PS/2 is not hot-swappable, meaning you can not unplug and plug-back-in a PS/2 device and expect it to work.

Your computer must be restarted once a firm connection is reestablished.

Add this to the long list of reasons why USB is an improvement on PS/2.