XHCI Hand-Off: Enabling vs. Disabling – What’s the Difference?

June 16, 2023 0 By tech

XHCI (eXtensible Host Controller Interface) is a standard for computer software to communicate with USB ports. Developed by Intel, it was designed to be a replacement for the older standards, EHCI (Enhanced Host Controller Interface) for USB 2.0 and OHCI/UHCI for USB 1.1.

Let’s imagine for a moment that your computer is a big, busy city. XHCI (eXtensible Host Controller Interface) is like the traffic controller for USB ports, which are like the city’s entrances and exits. It helps manage all the devices connected through the USB ports, like your keyboard, mouse, or flash drive.

The ‘hand-off’ part of XHCI Hand-Off is like passing the baton in a relay race. It’s about deciding who gets to control the USB ports — the computer’s built-in system (called BIOS) or the operating system (like Windows, macOS, or Linux).

Should You Enable XHCI Hand-Off?

Benefits of Enabling XHCI Hand-Off

When XHCI Hand-Off is enabled, the control of the USB ports is passed from the BIOS to the operating system as soon as the computer starts up. This is like letting an experienced driver take over the car as soon as it starts moving. This hand-off is essential if your operating system supports XHCI and you want it to manage your USB devices instead of the BIOS.

In general, enabling XHCI Hand-Off can lead to:

  1. Better compatibility with USB devices: When your OS, which is often updated and more capable, controls your USB devices, it usually leads to improved compatibility.
  2. Improved performance: With the OS handling your USB devices, you may experience faster data transfer rates and better overall performance.

When Should You Disable XHCI Hand-Off

When you disable XHCI Hand-Off, the BIOS maintains control of the USB devices during the boot process. This might be necessary in certain cases, such as:

  1. When your USB devices aren’t working right: If your keyboard, mouse, or flash drive isn’t working like it should, changing the XHCI Hand-Off setting might help.
  2. When you’re using a really old operating system: Older systems might not know how to work with XHCI, so you might need to turn off the hand-off.
  3. When you’re doing something special in the BIOS: Sometimes, you need to do certain tasks where the BIOS has to control the USB devices.

Here’s a quick comparison of enabling and disabling XHCI Hand-Off:

Enabling XHCI Hand-OffDisabling XHCI Hand-Off
Control of USB DevicesBy the Operating SystemBy the BIOS
CompatibilityHigher with modern devicesPotentially better with older OS and during specific tasks
PerformanceUsually better performanceStandard or reduced

Here’s a simple table to summarize when to consider enabling or disabling XHCI Hand-Off:

Better compatibility with USB devicesEnable XHCI Hand-Off
Improved performance of USB devicesEnable XHCI Hand-Off
Using an older operating systemDisable XHCI Hand-Off
Performing tasks that require BIOS controlDisable XHCI Hand-Off

How to Enable or Disable XHCI Hand-Off

Enabling or disabling XHCI Hand-Off in the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) depends on the specific motherboard manufacturer and the BIOS version you have.

Xhci Mode

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Enable or Disable XHCI Hand-Off

If you decide you want to turn on (or enable) XHCI Hand-Off, here’s how you do it:

  1. Restart your computer:
  2. Enter BIOS: You might need to press a button (like F2, F10, or Del) as it starts up to go into the BIOS.
  3. Look for xHCI settings: Every BIOS is a bit different, but usually, you’ll want to look for a tab or menu called ‘Advanced’, ‘Peripherals’, or something similar.
  4. Find ‘XHCI Mode‘, ‘USB Configuration’ or ‘USB Settings’: Again, the exact name might vary.
  5. Find ‘XHCI Hand-Off’ or ‘XHCI Mode’: In the USB settings, look for an option called ‘XHCI Hand-Off’.
  6. Enable or Disable XHCI Hand-Off: There should be an option to enable or disable it.
  7. Save and Exit: Usually, you’ll press F10 to save your changes and restart your computer.

How to Access XHCI Hand-Off in BIOS?

When you turn on your computer, you need to press a specific key (or keys) to enter the BIOS. The key varies depending on the motherboard’s manufacturer. Below is a handy table to guide you:

AcerF2 or DEL
DellF2 or F12
LenovoF1 or F2

What are XHCI and EHCI?

First, we need to understand what XHCI and EHCI stand for. XHCI stands for eXtensible Host Controller Interface, and EHCI stands for Enhanced Host Controller Interface. They are both standards or “languages” that your computer uses to communicate with the devices you connect to it, like your mouse, keyboard, or a USB flash drive.

To put it simply, XHCI and EHCI are like the “translators” between your computer and the devices you plug into it. They make sure your computer and devices understand each other and work together smoothly.

The Differences: XHCI vs EHCI

While XHCI and EHCI have similar roles, they are different in some key ways. Here are the main differences:


EHCI, or Enhanced Host Controller Interface, was developed for USB 2.0 devices. USB 2.0 is an older standard of USB, but it’s still widely used.

When you plug in a USB 2.0 device, like an older flash drive or printer, your computer uses EHCI to talk to that device. So you can think of EHCI like an older, but still reliable, translator for your computer and devices【11†source】.


On the other hand, XHCI, or eXtensible Host Controller Interface, was developed for USB 3.0 devices but is also compatible with USB 2.0 devices.

USB 3.0 is a newer standard of USB that’s faster and more powerful than USB 2.0. When you plug in a USB 3.0 device, like a newer flash drive or external hard drive, your computer uses XHCI to talk to that device. So XHCI is like a newer, faster, and more powerful translator that can speak both the new and old “languages” of your devices.

Here’s a table that summarizes the differences:

InterfaceDeveloped forCompatibility
EHCIUSB 2.0USB 2.0 only
XHCIUSB 3.0USB 3.0 and USB 2.0

Choosing Between XHCI and EHCI

Now, you might be wondering: “Which one should I use? XHCI or EHCI?” Well, the answer depends on your situation.

If you’re using modern devices that support USB 3.0, then XHCI is the better choice. It’s faster and more powerful, and it can still work with your older USB 2.0 devices.

But if you’re using an older operating system that doesn’t support XHCI, or if you’re only using USB 2.0 devices, then EHCI will work just fine.

And remember, you don’t usually have to make this choice yourself. Your computer automatically uses the right one for each device you plug in.

Why Does XHCI Matter for Gaming?

Now, you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with gaming?” Well, the answer is pretty simple. Enabling XHCI Hand-Off can lead to a smoother gaming experience. Here’s how:

  1. Better USB Performance & Power for Devices: USB 2.0 can provide power up to 500mA at 5V, or 2.5 Watts. In contrast, USB 3.0 (and later versions), managed by XHCI, can provide up to 900mA at 5V, or 4.5 Watts. This increased power provision is essential for supporting higher-performance devices that need more power to operate effectively. This can be really useful for devices that need a lot of energy to work well. For example, some gaming headsets with cool LED lights might need that extra power!
  2. Faster Boot Times: Enabling XHCI Hand-Off can lead to faster boot times, particularly if your OS has the necessary USB 3.0 drivers installed​.
  3. Faster Data Transfer: The USB 3.0 standard and later (managed by XHCI) offer significantly higher data transfer speeds compared to older USB standards. This is particularly important for gaming peripherals, such as high-quality gaming headsets, keyboards, mice, and even VR equipment, which require high-speed data transfer to function optimally.
  4. Improved Latency: Lower latency is essential for a better gaming experience, and XHCI can contribute to this. The high-speed data transfer allows for quicker response times from your peripherals, leading to a potentially better and more immersive gaming experience.
  5. Better Power Management: XHCI supports improved power management capabilities, reducing the power consumption of idle USB devices. This can extend the battery life of wireless gaming peripherals, such as headsets or gamepads.
  6. Backward Compatibility: XHCI is also backward-compatible with older USB devices. This means it can manage both new and old devices, making it easier for you to use any peripheral you choose without worrying about compatibility issues.
  7. Support for More Devices: XHCI can support a greater number of devices connected to a single controller, up to 127 devices. This opens up opportunities for multi-device gaming setups.
  8. Hot-Swapping Capability: The ability to plug and unplug devices without needing to restart the computer is crucial for gamers who use multiple peripherals or need to switch devices frequently. XHCI supports hot-swapping, making it seamless for gamers.
  9. Driver Support: Modern operating systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux come with built-in drivers for XHCI, which ensures that any gaming device you plug in will be automatically recognized and ready for use.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the BIOS setting ‘XHCI Pre-Boot Mode’ do?

The “XHCI Pre-Boot Mode” is a BIOS setting that manages how your computer supports USB 3.0 before your operating system starts up.
This setting usually provides two options:
Smart Auto: When set to Smart Auto, your system intelligently decides whether to use the older EHCI (USB 2.0) or the newer XHCI (USB 3.0) controller, based on the type of USB device plugged into each port. If you plug in a USB 2.0 device, the system will use EHCI for that specific port, but if you plug in a USB 3.0 device, it will switch to XHCI.
Auto/Enabled: With this mode, the XHCI controller is employed for all USB ports, regardless of whether the connected devices are USB 3.0 or older versions. This setting can improve boot times and compatibility with some USB 3.0 devices during the boot process. However, there’s a chance that some older USB devices may not function correctly during boot, as they might be expecting the older EHCI controller.

Does Windows 10 Have XHCI Hand-Off?

Yes, Windows 10 does support XHCI Hand-Off. The eXtensible Host Controller Interface (XHCI) Hand-Off is actually a feature found in your computer’s BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) settings rather than within the operating system itself. It pertains to how control of USB ports is handed from the BIOS to the operating system during boot-up.

Recap of the importance and functionality of XHCI Hand-Off

XHCI Hand-Off is a cool feature in your computer’s BIOS settings, which is like the ‘brain’ that controls your computer before your operating system (like Windows or macOS) wakes up. XHCI Hand-Off deals with how your USB ports work when you start your computer.

Enabling XHCI Hand-Off means that the control of USB ports gets handed over from the BIOS to the operating system once your computer starts up. This is really important because it helps a lot of USB devices, especially the newer ones, work better with your computer.

So, understanding XHCI Hand-Off can help you fix certain problems like your USB ports not working or data moving slowly between your computer and USB device. It’s like a hidden lever that can make your computer run smoother!

Last Words on Handling XHCI Hand-Off

Managing XHCI Hand-Off is like tuning a guitar to make it sound better. It’s a slightly advanced setting but knowing about it can help you solve some tricky computer issues.

As with any setting on your computer, you should be sure about what it does before you change it. Always check your computer’s manual, or ask someone who knows a lot about computers if you’re not sure.