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I have a Galaxy S2 and a Linux Mint laptop. For a while I was using a long USB cable, maybe 1 metre in length, to connect my Android device to my laptop. It worked fine, but the extra length was unnecessary and sometimes got in the way. So I went to my local electronic store and bought a 20 centimetre USB cable.

With the shorter cable, it would recharge my phone, but I could not connect to the file system on the phone in any way. No USB related activities, such as connecting to the device from Eclipse or transferring music files from within Banshee would work.

I thought maybe I was just unlucky and got a bad cable. So I went and bought a second 20 centimetre cable, and it was the exact same situation.

Bad cables are rare enough that it seems unlikely that I got two in a row. In any case, I'm a little hesitant to just go and buy another until I know what's going on. My 1 metre cable still works, so I assume there is nothing about the system that is failing.

Why would the 20 centimetre cables behave any differently from a longer cable? Is there a type of cable I need to be getting? Is there something else I need to know when buying cables?

This is what my 20 centimetre cable looks like:

20 cm USB cable

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It's possible that the USB cable is designed for charging only (i.e. not a data cable), or is of poor quality.

Off-topic: Although not a USB cable, I have encountered OTG cables that could not detect a USB drive. In this case, it was a poor (or defective) OTG cable; other cables were able to detect the USB drive.

Related posts (external):

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    The screenshot in this answer might help you understand the first sentence: the cable might just have wired contacts 1+4, while leaving 2+3 (data) "empty". – Izzy Sep 23 '13 at 6:23
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    Turns out the cables I had were indeed for charging only. Once I understood the extent of the difference, I looked more carefully in my local electronics store, and discovered that there was a whole different rack of data cables on a different floor. – Questioner Sep 26 '13 at 5:30
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I had faced such situations. I am assuming that the second cable you bought is exactly the same as the first one. I think you should try a cable of a different brand. Hope this helps

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