Definition of FireWire in The Network Encyclopedia.

Sponsor: The only proven system that really works! Winning Sports Picks & Predictions

What is FireWire?

Also known as the IEEE 1394 High Performance Serial Bus, a serial transmission specification proposed by Apple for connecting high-speed peripherals to computers at speeds of up to 393 Mbps.

FireWire supports hot-swapping of peripherals with up to 63 peripherals connected to a single IEEE 1394 bus. In addition, up to 1023 IEEE 1394 buses can be interconnected to form a vast array of peripherals using FireWire.

FireWire features simple plug-in connectors using thin serial cables that can be hot-plugged without interfering with your system’s operation. FireWire connectors are based on the Nintendo Game Boy connector.

What is FireWire?

FireWire as defined in IEEE 1394 uses 64-bit device addresses. FireWire cables use two twisted-pair wires for data transmission and two wires for power. FireWire includes two different serial interfaces:

  • A backplane interface:
    Runs at speeds between 12.5 and 50 Mbps for bus connections within a computer system


  • A point-to-point interface:
    Runs at speeds of 98.304 Mbps (S100 specification), 196.608 Mbps (S200), and 393.216 Mbps (S400) for connecting devices to computers using serial cables


The topology of a typical FireWire implementation can be complex, but it is typically a hierarchical or tree topology consisting of various IEEE 1394 components. More complex topologies, including several computers sharing portions of the peripheral network, are also possible. The illustration shows how you can use FireWire. The four types of components you can use in a FireWire implementation are

  • Devices:
    Typically have 3 ports but can have up to 27 ports and can be daisy-chained up to 16 devices


  • Splitters:
    Provide extra IEEE 1394 ports if needed to accommodate the number and arrangement of devices used


  • Repeaters:
    Overcome distance limitations in IEEE 1394 cables


  • Bridges:
    Isolate traffic within a specific portion of an IEEE 1394 bus


FireWire connections have a maximum distance of 4.5 meters, but up to 16 components can be daisy-chained to a maximum distance of 72 meters without using repeaters.

FireWire is supported by the Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows 2000 operating systems, along with the universal serial bus (USB) specification.


Windows 98 resets the FireWire bus and assigns new physical addresses to IEEE 1394 devices when:

  • Devices are added or removed from the bus
  • The system is rebooted

Graphic F-16. FireWire.

Web references: