The Difference Between the Male & Female Connectors on a Computer
By Aaron Parson
Updated September 19, 2017
Electronic cables, ports and plugs, including for computers, end in one of two categories of connector: male or female. In general, ports built into computers and other electronics use female connectors -- monitor ports, USB ports, audio ports and Ethernet ports are all female. Conversely, both ends of most cables, other than extension cables, have male connectors.
Picking a Cable
If you're looking to buy a connector to attach a peripheral, such as a cable to plug a music player into an audio system, you'll usually need a male-to-male (M/M) cable, which connects to the female ports on both devices. Extension cables, on the other hand, are always male-to-female (M/F): one end of the cord has a female port, allowing you to link a second cable.
Some types of non-extension cables are also male-to-female, such as desktop PC power cords. The end of the cord that connects to the power outlet ends in prongs, and the end that connects to the computer has sockets. In cases where the terminology isn't clear, look at pictures of the cable in question before buying one.
A gender adapter -- also called a gender changer or gender converter -- enables two male or two female connectors to link together. In standard day-to-day use, however, such adapters are not called for. Devices and cables with male connectors are designed to plug in to female connectors, so linking two male connectors together via an adapter often won't produce a working result and may be hazardous to the devices being connected. For example, connecting two iPhones with two USB cables and an adapter is physically possible, but the link would be ineffective and inadvisable.
Aaron Parson has been writing about electronics, software and games since 2006, contributing to several technology websites and working with NewsHour Productions. Parson holds a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.