Firewire is Apple’s name for the IEEE 1394 Interface, an interface similar to the USB cable interface. Like USB cables, firewire cables allow users to connect peripheral devices like external hard drives, memory card readers, and digital camcorders to their computers.
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Firewire comes in two speeds, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800, which are significantly faster than USB. Although most Windows-based PCs don’t ship with firewire ports standard, Apple computers tend to have firewire ports. Newer Apple computers ship with both Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 ports.
What Does a Firewire Cable Look Like?
The two firewire cables don’t actually look alike.
- Firewire 400 cable connectors are are not as thick as 800 cables, and one side is not square.
- Firewire 800 cable connectors look like a big USB connector.
There are also two kinds of Firewire 400 connectors, 6-pin, and 4-pin connectors.
- 6-pin connectors are featured in Firewire 400 ports in computers themselves.
- 4-pin connectors are featured in Firewire 400 devices.
Most Firewire 400 cables feature a 6-pin connector on one end and a 4-pin connector on the other end.
There is one type of Firewire 800 cable. This is a 9-pin connector and is the most recent improvement in firewire technology.
- 9-pin connectors are have squared off corners, with 5-pin contacts on one side and 4-pin contacts on the other. This connector can be adapted to the 4 and 6 pins.
Firewire 400 Cables
6 Pin Firewire 400 Cable
4 Pin Firewaire 400 Cable
Firewire 800 Cables
In contrast, Firewire 800 ports and cables feature 9-pin connectors. These 9-pin connectors, pictured below, sit on both ends of the cable, and the connections on computers and devices are almost identical.
Firewire 400 And Firewire 800 Differences
- Speed – Firewire 800 ports and cables can communicate up to about twice the speed of Firewire 400 ports and cables.
- Compatible – Firewire 800 ports are backwards compatible with Firewire 400 devices, meaning that Firewire 400 devices can be used with Firewire 800 ports. However, Firewire 800 ports feature a different, 9-pin connector, meaning that a special “bilingual cable” must be used to connect Firewire 400 devices to Firewire 800 ports.
- Differentiate – It’s easy to differentiate between Firewire 400 and 800 ports and cables. Firewire 400 ports and cables feature 6-pin and 4-pin connectors, pictured top right, while Firewire 800 cables and ports feature 9-pin connectors, pictured right.
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