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What is a Firewire Port

What is a Firewire Port

In this article, I provide you with a brief introduction to Firewire or IEEE 1394 interface ports.
Omkar Phatak
Information technology revolves around data or information as the single most important entity. Every technology in this field either deals with usage of data, its manipulation or the transfer of data. A Firewire port or the IEEE 1394 interface is a technology created for the speedy transfer of data between various devices. Although, superseded by Universal Serial Bus (USB) technology, as the premier data transfer interface used in various devices, it offers high data transfer speeds, compared to USB 2.0.

Firewire ports are serial bus interfaces, developed by Apple, in collaboration with other companies and it has been the default data transfer interface on all Apple computers and devices like digital camcorders, for years. The standard reference name of this technology is IEEE 1394 interface, which has been branded as Firewire by Apple, i.Link by Sony, and Lynx by Texas instruments. It is used for high-speed isochronous data transfer between personal computers and their peripherals in real time.

The fact that it's a serial interface, means that data is transferred one bit at a time. Compared to earlier data interfaces like the parallel SCSI bus, this technology is cheaper and more cost-effective. Although, more expensive compared to USB ports, these ports offer substantially higher data transfer speeds. Firewire 400 offered up to 400 Mbit/sec of data transfer speed, while the newly launched Firewire 800 technology offers up to 800 Mbit/sec.

All Firewire 400 ports come with 4-pin and 6-pin connectors, while the newly launched Firewire 800 ports use 9-pin connectors. Both versions have the plug-and-play facility, which lets you connect devices like camcorders and video recorders directly with computers, without the need to shut down and restart the computer. Compared to USB 2.0, these ports are costlier to implement, which has stopped its widespread use in connecting devices like flash drives.

To achieve maximum data transfer speeds, Firewire 800 cables need to be used to connect devices with compatible technology. These ports are backward compatible and can be used with Firewire 400 devices, when connected with bilingual cables. These ports can provide power to connected devices like external hard drives for their functioning. The 6-pin and 9-pin ports can provide up to 45 watts of power to connected peripherals.


Considering the high data transfer rate offered by this technology, Firewire interfaces and ports were first primarily introduced with digital video camcorders. Its cables can transfer data for long distances, which has prompted their usage in studio recordings. They are the default interface used for data transfer in Apple computers, including the Mac desktops and MacBooks.

External hard drives, built with Firewire interface, can be connected with these ports for data transfer purposes. These ports are used to connect scanners and printers with a computer. Each port can support up to 63 devices simultaneously. It can connect devices in tree-chain topology and can facilitate peer-to-peer communication.

Although, not as widely used as USB 2.0, the newly introduced Firewire 800 interface offers data transfer speeds up to 800 Mbit per second. That makes it the best serial bus interface, in case of applications which require high data transfer rates like video camcorders. Wherever there is a need for high-speed data transmission over long distances, interfaces based on this technology are the default choice.