How do you connect a device to your computer? Through ports, of course. Just plug your device in to the port, and... wait a minute, the plug will not fit into the port! This might happen, if you are trying to connect a device with a FireWire plug, to your computer's USB port. So what is a FireWire port, and what is the difference between it and a USB port? Once you are savvy with the real deal, the most obvious question is whether you can you convert FireWire to USB! To find out the answers to these questions, read on for an in-depth look at these two port specifications.
What is a Firewire Connection?
The official classification name for FireWire is IEEE 1394 interface. A FireWire connection has the same purpose as a USB connection: it connects 1 device to another, and allows for real-time data transfer. As a standard, 1394 was developed in 1986 by Apple, who gave it the brand name "FireWire". Other companies such as Sony and Texas Instruments have their own brand of the 1394 interface, named i.Link and Lynx respectively.
What is a USB Connection?
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It is a standard used to connect peripherals to a computer. The concept of plug-and-play is due to the USB specification. USB ports provide power to the device connected to them, so an external power supply is not needed to power the device, while it is being used. The USB standard has nearly wiped out the need for serial and parallel ports.
Can You Convert FireWire to USB?
The answer is largely no, for the following reasons:
☛ Both methods use not only different hardware, but different software as well. USBs work on an ACK/NAK protocol, while FireWire uses a DMA transfer protocol. Long story short, FireWire works at a constant (and fast) rate, while USB sends data in bursts. FireWire needs a processor on both sides of the data transfer.
☛ USB is slower compared to FireWire. The only way the data transfer could work is if you're using USB 2 or 3, for the relavite FireWire port. If, let's say, you're trying to send data from a FireWire port to a USB port, the difference in speeds will result in loss of data. In case of videos, it will cause loss of frames.
☛ Power consumption of both ports will be different. Therefore, one port will run at a lower power than the other, causing failed or incorrect use.
☛ And of course, the way the pins are built. You simply cannot try to fit a Firewire cable into a USB port or vice versa.
Getting Data From FireWire to USB
There are only two legit ways to do it. One is to actually install a PCI card with FireWire ports on your computer. The other is to use a device that simply accepts multiple inputs from different devices and gives the output through a USB cable.
Installing a PCI Card:
The PCI card can be inserted into a laptop or PC and installed. So your computer will have FireWire ports, and the high-speed advantage is also present. Some models are:
- HDE 7 Port USB Squid Hub ($6)
- Sonnet Technologies USB/FireWire Expresscard 34 ($50)
- IOGEAR Universal Hub GUH420 ($30)
- StarTech 2 Port ExpressCard Laptop 1394a ($45)
- Belkin FireWire 6-Port Hub ($40)
Using Video Editing Hardware:
I'm talking of something on the lines of a Pinnacle Studio Moviebox Plus USB. What it does is way more than what this article wants it to do, but it can solve our problem effectively. The device basically acts as the mediator between the two data ports, the USB that goes to the computer, and the FireWire that comes to the device from your camera. Both analog and digital video types can be converted to the USB 2 format at a claimed loss-free rate. The only thing that may stop you is the price, which is actually moderate for all the things that you can do with it. Consider this a final alternative, in case you do not have an extra slot to install a PCI card in.
The solutions are fewer, compared to the predicament. That's because there are too many obstacles between the two data transfer methods. USB devices are the most common for most types of data, except HD video. If you want a loss-free data transfer from your HD camcorder to your computer, just make sure you buy a computer that already has a FireWire port built in, or at least make sure there's a free slot to put one in.