FireWire is a High Performance Serial Bus for connecting your external devices to the personal computers described by IEEE 1394 standard. They provide you a single plug-and-socket connection on which up to 63 devices can be connected and has the data transfer rates up to 400 Mbps (Megabits per second) to 800 Mbps. The pathway or the serial bus connection between the devices and the computer’s microprocessor is recommended by this IEEE 1394 standard. FireWire can be used on devices such as disk drives, MIDI and audio adaptors, MP3 player, audio interfaces, DV camcorders, external hard drives, and professional scanners and printers etc. which require very fast sustained data transfer rates.

In order to achieve FireWire connection, just plug your FireWire cables into the FireWire ports on computer and the peripherals. The peripherals or devices that are connected should also meet the standards of IEEE 1394. There are three FireWire interface types, but currently only two FireWire interfaces are found, they are: The original FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 (IEEE 1394b) and the third 4-pin connector which are rarely found on newer devices.

FireWire Interface Types:

  • 4-pin connector: It is in rectangular in shape, which has a small notch on the bottom of the connection shell. A 4-pin connector only carries data, and no power, so it is often found on devices that have their own power supplies like cam coders. This connector type is also commonly found on laptop computers.
  • FireWire 400 (6-pin connector): FireWire 400 uses a 6-pin connector and supports data transfer rates of up to 400 Mbps. It is larger than the 4-pin one and has flattened contacts so that it can withstand the effects of repeatedly connecting and disconnecting the device. A 6-pin interface provides DC power in addition to the data signals. These interfaces are often found on devices that can provide power, such as a desktop computer.
  • FireWire 800 (9-pin connector): FireWire 800 uses a 9-pin connector and provides data transfer rates up to 800 Mbps also capable of supporting cable distances of up to 100 meters. It has 5 pin contacts on one side, and 4 pin contacts on the other. This new connector type can be adapted to the older 4-pin and 6-pin connector i.e. it is backwards compatible with FireWire 400 devices using an adapter. However, when adapted, the maximum transfer rate will be 400 Mbps. This type of connector is commonly found on Mac OS X machines.

Both FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 interfaces support daisy chaining and can provide up to 30 volts of power to connected devices.

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Advantages of FireWires:

  • Increased data transfer rate compared to other interfaces like USB interface
  • Able to connect to more than 60 devices
  • Hot-pluggable ability with ease of use
  • Provision of power through the cable
  • Provides you the Plug-and-play performance
  • Implementation and cabling cost is very less
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