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What Is a FireWire® Hub?

FireWire Hubs often have a number of USB ports.
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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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A FireWire® hub is a computer peripheral that can increase the number of IEEE 1394 interface devices that may be attached to a computer. Many FireWire® hubs also include universal serial bus (USB) ports, which can allow even more devices to be connected. It is often possible for a FireWire® hub to function as a repeater, allowing many hubs or other devices to be daisy chained together. Another function that these hubs may provide is to facilitate network connections, since it is often possible to create a local area network (LAN) over FireWire®.

The IEEE 1394 standard was introduced in 1995, and is commonly known by brand name such as FireWire®, i.LINK™ and Lynx™. These brand names all typically represent the same underlying technology, connectors and transfer protocols. A FireWire® hub will typically allow any IEEE 1394 device with the correct plug to be connected or chained together. There are different types of IEEE 1394 though, including 1394a-2000 and 1394b-2002. Some FireWire® plugs use six circuit connectors, while others use four or nine.

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Many computers have only one IEEE 1394 port, while others have none at all. A FireWire® hub typically requires at least one IEEE 1394 port to function. Hubs that have both FireWire® and USB connections will typically require one of each to be plugged into the computer. If a computer lacks an IEEE 1394 port, the solution is typically to install an expansion card that includes the functionality. A FireWire® hub may then be used to expand the number of IEEE 1394 devices that can be connected to the computer.

One feature that is common among FireWire® devices is the ability to daisy chain. There is a maximum limit of how long a FireWire® cable can be, though many devices, repeaters, or hubs can be chained together to increase this length. Multiple hubs can increase the physical distance of a device from the computer it is connected to. In the same way, multiple hubs may often be chained together to greatly increase the number of devices that can be connected at once.

FireWire® is typically capable of creating network connections without the use of any external router hardware. This can usually be accomplished by simply connecting one computer to another using IEEE 1394 ports, depending on the capabilities of the operating system (OS). A FireWire® hub may be used to increase the number of computers that can be connected to such a network.

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miriam98
Post 4

@allenJo - This is a good article. I never knew that you could build a network around Firewire connections alone. This is a very attractive idea indeed.

I don’t need a wireless network in my house but I have two computers in fairly close proximity in adjacent rooms. I had been planning on setting them up using a router (a wired router, not wireless) but after reading this article I think I might give Firewire a try. It certainly sounds a lot easier.

allenJo
Post 3

@everetra - I have worked with Mac computers and they all had the FireWire technology built in from the start, in keeping with Mac’s simplicity of design and plug-and-play technology.

I think you still need the hub though if you want to hook up a bunch of peripherals. When you look for a hub, see if they have power down features. Some of them will limit their power usage based on how you configure them, so that they don’t drain a lot of juice from your battery, assuming that you’re using it with your laptop.

everetra
Post 2

@Mammmood - I was introduced to Firewire back in the late 1990s. You are right; everything is USB nowadays, but back then Firewire was the de facto standard for downloading video. I don’t think USB was fast enough to get the job done at the time.

The computer I had was a Pentium II with 256 megabytes of RAM. Believe it or not, I was still able to do video editing on that ancient piece of equipment. I was surprised at how quickly the footage downloaded to the computer, in virtual real time.

The editing took a long time, but the actual download was a snap. I had to use an extension card for my Firewire, like the article says, but my latest computer has that technology built in. It doesn’t matter; it’s the same either way. I have only one camera so I have no need for a hub.

Mammmood
Post 1

I love the Firewire technology. I realize that some people think that it’s old, that everything is supposed to be USB nowadays, but I still use Firewire for my video production stuff.

My original digital video camcorder has a Firewire plug and I also have a much smaller handheld digital camcorder that uses the Firewire technology as well.

I have a simple hub port which allows me to plug both camcorders into the hub and gives me easier access to download the videos. Before, I used to have to connect one camera at a time, which is a hassle as you can imagine.

Firewire is fast. I don’t think it’s as fast us the latest USB, but it’s still plenty fast for video, and I almost never skip frames when I download the footage.

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