... works on XP, Vista, 7 and 8

USBPcap Capture limitations

On this page the limitations of USBPcap are presented and some terms are clarified. Prior knowledge of USB specification is higly recommended.

Formatting conventions

There are conflicting terminologies between USBPcap/Windows and USB specification. For that reason USB specification terms are written in boldface and USBPcap/Wireshark/Windows terms are written in italics.

USBPcap captures data from USB Requests Blocks (URBs) that are being carried inside I/O Request Packets (IRP). Wireshark presents the packets as frames. You should be aware that USBPcap's packet is not exactly the same as USB specification's packet and Wireshark's frame is definitely something different than USB frame.

What you won't see using USBPcap

As USBPcap captures URBs passed between functional device object (FDO) and physical device object (PDO) there are some USB communications elements that you will notice only in hardware USB sniffer. These are:

  • Bus states (Suspended, Power ON, Power OFF, Reset, High Speed Detection Handshake)
  • Packet ID (PID)
  • Split transactions (CSPLIT, SSPLIT)
  • Duration of bus state and time used to transfer packet over the wire
  • Transfer speed (Low Speed, Full Speed, High Speed)
Moreover, you won't see complete USB enumeration. You will only see the USB control transfer send to device after the device has been assigned its address.

A closer look at USB transfer types

Following sections shows what parts of USB communication happening on the wire gets captured by USBPcap.

Control transfers

There are three stages for control transfers:

  • SETUP stage
  • DATA stage (optional)
  • STATUS stage

SETUP stage consists of three packets: SETUP, DATA (USB uses the DATA0/DATA1 toggling mechanism which is omitted here due to concentration on the logical layer of communication) and ACK. USBPcap packet related to SETUP stage contains only data from the DATA packet.

Optional DATA stage consists of IN transaction or OUT transcation depending on the transmission direction (IN means from device to host, OUT means from host to device). In these transactions there are following packets: IN or OUT, DATA (one or more), ACK. USBPcap packet related to DATA stage contains combined data from every DATA packet from the transaction.

STATUS stage consists of IN transaction or OUT transaction depending on the transmission direction in DATA stage. In these transactions there is empty DATA packet being sent. USBPcap packet related to STATUS stage does not contain any data.

In USB system the lack of ACK packet is considered as negative acknowledge NAK. With USBPcap you won't get any idea about the amount of NAK'ed transactions on the wire.

Isochronous transfers

Isochronous transactions in USB consist of two packets: IN or OUT and DATA. There is no ACK associated with isochronous transfer because these transfers have no data integrity guarantee. Single IRP often carries more than one isochronous packet. Each of the isochronous packets contains data from DATA packet. For every IRP there are two USBPcap packets. First one contains data captured when the IRP went from FDO to PDO, second one contains data from the other way round.

In case of OUT transfers the first USBPcap packet contains complete data and the second one contains information about completion status of the transactions. In case of IN transfers the first USBPcap packet contains only information about allocated buffer to receive the data and the second packet contains received data.

Interrupt transfers

Interrupt transactions that weren't NAK'ed are made up of three packets: IN or OUT, DATA and ACK. USBPcap packet related to interrupt transfer contains data from DATA packet.

Bulk transfers

Bulk transactions consists of three packets: IN or OUT, DATA and ACK. Bulk transfer can be made out of one or more bulk transactions. Every bulk transfer results in one USBPcap packet containing combined data from all DATA packets from all transactions belonging to given transfer.

USB Mass Storage

USB pendrives uses USB Mass Storage class driver. These devices can support different industry standard command sets although most drives only use the SCSI transparent command set. During every data exchange with USB Mass Storage device there are three transports involved: Command Transport, Data Transport and Status Transport. Every transport is being done as single bulk transfer. Hence every data exchange with USB Mass Storage device results in three USBPcap packets where the first one contains Command, second contains Data and the last one contains Status.