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What Is a FireWire® Converter?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 16, 2024
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A FireWire® converter is a device used to connect a FireWire® device to a different type of port or vice versa. The converters can also be used to convert FireWire® 400 connections to 800 ones. Different converters come as adapter hubs, cables, and cards inserted into the user’s computer. A FireWire® converter is needed because different types of cables cannot be used with the same port because of their differing shapes. Like universal serial bus (USB) connections, FireWire® is a method for devices to communicate with computers at high speeds.

Different types of FireWire® converters exist, but they all perform the same basic job. Cable converters have one type of connection on one end and another type of connection on the other end. Hub adapter style converters are boxes featuring an array of ports on one side and one type of connector on the other side. A FireWire® converter can also come as a card with several ports which inserts directly into the computer.

Many different conversions can be made by a FireWire® converter. The most common need is the conversion between FireWire® and USB, or vice versa. Different generations of FireWire®, such as 400 and 800, have different connections. Converters can be found which enable users to use the old wires with the new ports. Most of these converters can be found in cable, adapter, and card form.

Converters are needed because different cables do not fit into ports designed for other cables. For example, a USB port and cable are perfectly rectangular in shape, but a FireWire® port and cable have one slightly tapered end. The maximum speed of the connections also differs, which would make using them interchangeably difficult. Users with a FireWire® connection on a digital camera but no matching port on their computer would be unable to transfer data without the help of a FireWire® converter.

FireWire® connections function in the same way as the more popular USB connections. Most computer users need something to help different devices communicate with each other. USB and FireWire® both aim to fulfill this need by providing simple connections between computers and external devices such as cameras and external hard drives. For the majority of the two connections’ history, FireWire® has had a superior transfer rate, with USB 2.0 providing 480 megabytes per second and FireWire® 800 providing 800 megabytes per second. The next generation of USB connection, USB 3.0, is even faster, with a theoretical file transfer limit of 5 gigabytes per second.

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