USB Cards for PowerBooks with CardBus

1999: Getting kinda antsy waiting for USB connectivity for your WallStreet PowerBook? I know I am. There were supposed to be USB CardBus adapters for Macs shipping months ago. Originally the delay was reported to be the release date of Mac OS 8.6, but that came and went, and we’re almost ready for OS 9’s rollout. The holdup seems to be a USB CardBus driver from Apple that has not yet materialized.

Currently, there are no full-fledged Mac USB PC Cards available, but a selection of Windows cards are available that can be made to work by using Apple’s Mac OS USB DDK v1.3f9, which is officially for developers only and not supported for consumers. However, there are many reports of it working fine with various Windows USB PC Cards, with a little ResEdit tweaking.

Note that all USB PC Cards require CardBus, which was introduced on PowerBooks with the WallStreet release, so the original PowerBook G3 (Kanga, 3500), the 3400c, and earlier PowerBooks are not upgradeable to USB.

Here’s a rundown of what’s available now:

ADS Technology

ADS Technology says that its forthcoming USB Port for PowerBooks product is not shipping yet, despite an advertisement in the June issue of Macworld magazine that might have mislead you into thinking that it would be ready by now. ADS says emphatically that it’s not, and a shipping date is still “to be determined”. You can sign up to be notified by email when the ADS Macintosh USB card is finally ready by emailing this address:

The Windows version of the ADS card has been shipping since June 1998 and could probably be made to work with Apple’s USB DDK.

When it ships, the Mac version will include:

  • USB PC Card
  • ADB power cable
  • USB installer disk
  • manual

System Requirements

  • G3 Series PowerBook
  • CardBus enabled PC Card slot
  • Mac OS 8.6

Latest details on the ADS site: USB CardBus Information.


The Mac version of Ariston’s iConnect Series 004 CardBus to USB adapter isn’t shipping yet either. This PC Card features:

  • 2 standard USB ports
  • True plug and play and USB compliant
  • Supports all USB compliant devices

Technical Specs:

  • 12 Mbps data transfer rate
  • 500 mA supplied to each USB port
  • 5 Volt DC
  • External power cable to keyboard connector
  • Auxiliary power jack for 5V power transformer

The “Download Driver Mac” link on Ariston’s Website simply says “Not Available.” No word on a shipping date. Windows version probably can be made to work with Apple’s USB DDK.


Macally lists both a Part Number (UH276) and an estimated MSRP ($99) for its Mac CardBus to USB Adapter, but says only that it is “Coming Soon.”

The Macally unit will Feature:

  • Compatible with Mac OS 8.6 or later.
  • Support 32-bit CardBus I/F with Type II Slot.
  • Provides two USB Type A ports.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS 8.6 or later.
  • Any G3 PowerBooks with available PCMCIA slot.
  • USB for CardBus driver from Apple.

Once again, a Windows version of the Macally Card is available, and reportedly can be made to work well with the Apple USB DDK driver.

USB Cable

USB Cable is offering their PCMCIA USB Adapter with a specific link to Apple’s Mac OS USB DDK v1.3f9 driver download for Mac OS support.

The USB Cable PC Card features:

  • Supports 32-bit CardBus with PC Card (PCMCIA) Type II slot (3.3 volts)
  • Fully compatible with USB OHCI specification, Rev. 1.0a
  • Full compliance with USB Specifications, Rev. 1.1
  • Provides 2 USB ports
  • Plug & Play
  • Supports both 12 Mbps USB devices and 1.5 Mbps USB devices
  • Apple PowerBook Compatible with correct driver – Mac OS USB DDK v1.3b3

The MSRP for USB Cable’s CardBus adapter is a modest $89.95, discounted to $84.95 on USB Cable’s website.


A PowerBook Zone reader reports that he purchased a Hi-Val USB PC Card Adapter for $69.99 less a $20 mail-in rebate (rebate ended 9/25). He says that his WallStreet 300 running the USB DDK 1.3f9 recognized a LaCie USB drive with no problems. Reportedly, the Hi-Val card looks very much like pictures of Macally’s forthcoming Mac card, so it may be a “badge-engineered” version of the same card.

Alchemy Technology

Another PowerBook Zone reader reported recently about success with a $79.95 Alchemy Technology Inc.’s Global Paragon CardBus to USB card purchased from using Apple’s developmental Mac OS USB DDK v1.3f9 driver.

The reader said he had to “tweak” the creator and resource IDs using ResEdit, but once that was done, plug & play worked great with no glitches. The PowerBook recognizes the card as soon as it is plugged in. The reader recommends that anyone with a pre-USB PowerBook that supports CardBus and would like to use USB devices should get this card.

Mac OS USB DDK v1.3f9 driver

Apple notes that the Mac OS USB DDK v1.3f9 driver “is for developmental purposes and will support USB PCI cards from other vendors.” “The software requires a modification as documented in the readme file. There are no step-by-step instructions provided to make this modification. This software is not directly supported by Apple, nor is it intended for end-users. End-user customers are advised to purchase a PCI USB card that includes licensed software and support.”

Which is their way of saying that you’re on your own support-wise.