I cannot simply know where to use "port" and "interface", because these two words translate into one same word in my native language. So, I wanna figure out the difference between "port" and "interface", and when and where to use which.

In my understanding (please correct me if I were wrong), the physical things, such as the holes on the side of laptop into which you plug the power cable are called "ports", whereas the visual holes inside the laptop, such as the signals transmission connection are called "interface"?

  • These are technical terms, unknown to most people in this sense, and certainly the distinction is not widely understood.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 8 at 16:35
  • 2
    The distinction is not well-defined, even among computer nerds.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 8 at 16:47
  • The power input socket on a laptop is definitely not a "port". Ports are geek-speak terminology for places where data signals pass from one electronic device / component to another, not power supplies. But you can call them all (including USB and HDMI ports) "plug-holes". Aug 8 at 18:08
  • 1
    Whatever a port may be, an interface is usually not physical, but a conceptual thing. Aug 8 at 18:27
  • My audio interfaces are very much physical things. The concepts of HUI/GUI (Human/Graphical User Interface) are not always, of course, but mice, keyboards etc are collectively known as HIDs [Human Interface Devices]
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 8 at 19:01

1 Answer 1


A port describes something you can connect to. Physical ports are where you plug in cables, like an HDMI port or USB port. There are also virtual ports which are used for internet traffic and represent virtual areas for other computers to connect to.

An interface describes where two different things interact. In the realm of computers, it's commonly used in the context of the user interface, which is the means by which a person interacts with the computer, and might consist of the display, keyboard, mouse, and software. I wouldn't generally call a physical connection between computers an interface, although it might not be strictly wrong to do so. Without further context, though, a computer interface is almost certainly referring to the way a person interacts with the computer.

  • I would say the holes on the side of a computer are 'sockets'. Port is more usually a networking term.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 8 at 16:46
  • 3
    @Tetsujin I've been in the computing field over a decade and have rarely, if ever, heard a connection point called a socket. Google ngrams agrees, "HDMI port" and "USB port" are overwhelmingly preferred to "HDMI socket" and "USB socket" by 20:1 or more. "Port" does have a virtual networking usage, but it is absolutely applied to physical connections as well. Aug 8 at 16:54
  • Strictly, the port is 'what it does' [the port sits on a bus], the socket is the physical 'hole' the plug goes in. In the last decade or two these have been more & more confused, as more & more consumers join in what was once an expert field. I'm pretty sure NGRAMs cannot differentiate for usage. I'm also pretty sure people will keep calling them ports, so much so it's probably no longer worth arguing over ;) {btw, I'm just approaching my 40th year in computing & yes, things have changed a lot -& amusingly, NGRAMs reports some usage of USB port in the mid 80s… a decade before it was invented}
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 8 at 17:08

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