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Firewire Explained

What you need to know about Firewire

Firewire is a high-speed, hot-swappable peripheral interface that supports data transfer rates of up to 800 megabits/second. Firewire was originally developed by Apple Computer Corporation and it was adopted as an industry standard (IEEE 1394) in 1995.

Firewire specifications

The original implementation of Firewire operated at a speed of 400 megabits/second, but the latest version (Firewire 800 - IEEE 1394b) has doubled the data transer rate to a whopping 800 megabits/second. Firewire 800 also doubled the maximum length of a Firewire cable to 15 feet.

Firewire devices

The amazing speed of the Firewire bus and the ability to connect and disconnect Firewire devices while the computer is running has made Firewire the connection of choice for manufacturers of digital camcorders. Firewire is also supported in a number of hard drives and CD/DVD burners.

Advantages of Firewire over USB

  • Firewire is twice as fast as USB 2.0.
  • The Firewire bus can directly power devices up to 45 watts which means that many more
    Firewire devices can operate without a dedicated power supply than with USB.
  • When used with a Firewire 800 optical repeater, you can use Firewire devices up to 3300' away.
Disadvantages of Firewire
  • Not all PCs come factory equipped with Firewire ports.
  • Firewire devices are typically more expensive than USB devices.
Adding Firewire ports to your computer

You can add Firewire capability to virtually any PC that has an open PCI slot simply by purchasing and installing a Firewire adapter, and PCMCIA Firewire adapters are readily available for notebook computers.


There are more Firewire devices being put on the market every day, and the prices of existing Firewire devices continues to drop. If peak performance is your goal, you owe it to yourself to switch over to Firewire.

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