Understanding USB Passthrough on Keyboards

Last Updated: June 5, 2023By
Mechanical keyboard turned on

In this interconnected ecosystem, certain features and functionalities may go unnoticed, despite their vital role in enhancing our digital experience. One such function is the USB Passthrough feature found in keyboards.

USB, an acronym for Universal Serial Bus, has been an industry standard for connecting, communicating, and supplying electric power to devices since its inception in the mid-90s. Among the myriad of devices that utilize USB, the keyboard stands as a fundamental component for data input in computing devices.

From simple typing tasks to complex gaming commands, keyboards remain indispensable.

USB Passthrough on a keyboard is a feature that may not be instantly recognized by many. Despite its obscurity, its practicality and functionality hold high importance for users who demand greater accessibility and convenience.

What is USB Passthrough?

USB Passthrough is a term used to describe a situation where a device, in this case a keyboard, allows other USB devices to connect to it and pass data through it to the computer. Essentially, a keyboard with USB Passthrough has one or more extra USB ports that you can use to connect other devices directly to your keyboard, rather than having to connect them separately to your computer.

When you connect a device to the keyboard’s USB Passthrough port, it acts as a kind of intermediary, forwarding the data from the connected device to the computer. This is done seamlessly, and to the user, it feels as if the connected device (such as a mouse or a flash drive) is directly linked to the computer.

To enable this function, the keyboard itself needs to be connected to the computer via two USB plugs — one for the keyboard’s primary function (i.e., inputting keystrokes), and another for the Passthrough feature. However, more advanced keyboards may offer USB Passthrough functionality with only a single USB connection, by using a technology known as USB Hub functionality.

Role and Importance of USB Passthrough in Keyboards

The USB Passthrough feature in keyboards serves a practical and essential role, enhancing convenience, functionality, and improving the overall user experience. Let’s dissect its role and significance in more detail.

Enhancing Convenience and Accessibility

With USB Passthrough, your keyboard acts as a mini USB hub, enabling you to plug in peripheral devices directly into your keyboard. This arrangement can be especially beneficial when your desktop PC is tucked away under your desk or the USB ports are hard to reach. Instead of stretching or bending to plug in a device, you can do so comfortably from your keyboard.

Expanding Functionality

A keyboard with USB Passthrough essentially extends the functionality of your computer. It allows additional devices such as a mouse, flash drive, webcam, or a charging cable for your phone to be connected directly to the keyboard.

This capability can be particularly helpful when all the USB ports on your computer are occupied, or when you need to quickly swap out devices.

Gaming and Multimedia Applications

For gaming enthusiasts, a keyboard with USB Passthrough can be a game-changer. It allows gamers to connect their gaming mouse, headset, or even a USB controller directly to their keyboard, resulting in a more convenient and clutter-free gaming environment.

Some multimedia keyboards also use the Passthrough feature for audio output and microphone input, further enhancing the multimedia experience.

Boosting Productivity

For professionals, a USB Passthrough keyboard can improve workflow efficiency. You can connect a flash drive to quickly transfer files, or connect a digital drawing tablet if you are into graphic design.

With all your devices within arm’s reach, it saves time and eliminates the need to constantly move to connect and disconnect devices.

Power Supply

USB Passthrough can also supply power to connected devices, which can be useful for charging small devices like wireless mice, headphones, or even your smartphone, depending on the power output of the Passthrough port.

Reducing Cable Clutter

By using the Passthrough feature, you can minimize cable clutter on your desk. With devices connected directly to the keyboard, there’s no need for additional cables running from your PC, thus maintaining a cleaner workspace.

Types of Devices that can be Connected via USB Passthrough

Mechanical keyboard on carpet

USB Passthrough on a keyboard is a highly versatile feature, capable of accommodating a wide array of devices. This connectivity expands the functionality of your keyboard, transforming it into a centralized hub for your peripherals.

Below, we dive into the types of devices that can be connected via USB Passthrough.


One of the most common devices connected via USB Passthrough is the mouse. This configuration is particularly beneficial to users who prefer a tidier workspace, as it eliminates the need for extra cables stretching across the desk to the computer.

Flash Drives

Flash drives, or USB sticks, can also be connected via USB Passthrough. This allows for quick and convenient file transfers, especially beneficial when the computer’s USB ports are hard to reach or already occupied.

Gaming Peripherals

For gamers, USB Passthrough can be utilized to connect a variety of gaming peripherals. This could include gaming mice, joysticks, or even specialized game controllers. Some gaming headsets can also be connected through USB Passthrough.

Wireless Devices

Wireless devices that use a USB dongle for connection, such as wireless mice, keyboards, or headsets, can also be connected via the keyboard’s USB Passthrough port. This is a convenient feature when the wireless device needs to be close to the user to function optimally.

Charging Cables

USB Passthrough can also be used to connect charging cables for devices like smartphones, tablets, or wireless headphones. However, it’s important to note that the power output from a keyboard’s USB Passthrough port may not be sufficient to charge larger devices quickly.

Other USB Devices

In theory, any device that uses a USB for connectivity can be plugged into a USB Passthrough port, including devices like webcams, printers, or even external hard drives. However, the functionality may depend on the power requirements of the device and the power output of the keyboard’s USB port.

It’s important to note that not all devices may function correctly when connected via USB Passthrough, particularly those with high power requirements or those that need a direct connection to the computer for data transfer. It’s always advisable to check the device’s compatibility with the keyboard’s manufacturer.

Pros and Cons of USB Passthrough on Keyboards

Like any feature or technology, USB Passthrough on keyboards comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. In this section, we will explore the pros and cons of this feature, helping you make an informed decision about whether a keyboard with USB Passthrough is right for your needs.

Pros of USB Passthrough on Keyboards

Enhanced Convenience: USB Passthrough offers additional convenience, especially when the USB ports on your computer are hard to reach or fully occupied. Connecting devices becomes easier and quicker.

Reduced Cable Clutter: By connecting devices directly to your keyboard, you can eliminate unnecessary cables running across your desk, leading to a neater workspace.

Extended Functionality: Keyboards with USB Passthrough effectively act as a mini USB hub, enabling the connection of various peripherals directly to your keyboard.

Gaming Advantage: For gamers, USB Passthrough is a beneficial feature. Connecting gaming peripherals directly to the keyboard can streamline the gaming setup and potentially reduce input latency.

Cons of USB Passthrough on Keyboards

Increased Cost: Keyboards with USB Passthrough tend to be more expensive than those without, mainly due to the added hardware and functionality.

Limited Power Supply: The power output of a keyboard’s USB Passthrough port may not be sufficient for devices with high power requirements, such as external hard drives or fast charging of smartphones.

Potential Incompatibility: Not all devices may work correctly when connected via USB Passthrough. Some devices may require a direct connection to the computer to function optimally.

Extra Space Requirement: Keyboards with USB Passthrough typically require two USB ports on the computer — one for the keyboard itself and one for the Passthrough function. This could potentially occupy valuable USB real estate on your computer.


USB Passthrough on keyboards is a feature that, despite being lesser-known, brings a considerable level of convenience, functionality, and efficiency to your computer setup. This feature essentially transforms your keyboard into a mini USB hub, facilitating easy connection of various peripherals directly to your keyboard.

This can greatly enhance your digital experience, whether you’re a gamer, a productivity-focused professional, or a tech enthusiast.

From reducing desk clutter to enabling quicker device swapping, the benefits of USB Passthrough are undeniable. However, it’s also important to consider the potential drawbacks, such as the higher cost of keyboards with this feature, potential power limitations for certain devices, and the need for extra USB ports on your computer.

Ultimately, whether a keyboard with USB Passthrough is the right choice for you depends on your individual needs, preferences, and the specifics of your computer setup.

By considering the information provided in this blog, we hope you can make an informed decision that will enhance your digital interaction and productivity. After all, technology should serve as an enabling tool, providing seamless convenience and improved functionality in our digital experiences.