Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Adding Firewire to your machine

Adding new capability to your PC is called “upgrading”, and today I am going to tell you how easy it is to upgrade your machine to include Firewire capability. This “transfer technology” is faster than USB and can be a real benefit to those of you who own digital camcorders, or are thinking of transferring your VHS video tapes onto DVDs, or are otherwise working with digital video.

First of all, what is Firewire (aka 1394)? Firewire is, in essence, a wire (cable, actually). It looks and feels and acts very much like your quite familiar USB cabling– it is so similar looking that they changed the shape of the plug so you can tell them apart. The USB is rectangular, and the Firewire has an angular extension on one end.
  
The main difference between the two data transfer technologies is speed: the original USB speed is 12 Mbps and the original Firewire is 400 Mbps, the newer “2.0” standards (which you really should have by now) is 480 and 800 million bits per second, respectively.
So, if you have large data blocks to transfer — such as video — from one device to another, Firewire 800 is the way to go.

Tip of the day:If your machine did not come with a Firewire port, or if it did but it is the older Firewire 400 type, upgrade your system by adding a PCI expansion card to your PC.

The photo above shows a two-port Firewire PCI card. These expansion cards come in a variety of flavors; some offer more ports, or “combo” ports like 2 USB + 2 Firewire. They are very affordable: the simple 2 port shown above can be found for $18.

Installing an expansion card is not difficult but if you’re not inclined to try it yourself, a Tech Support and/or Repair person (like myself) will not charge you much to put it in for you. It is a simple matter of inserting it into a white slot on the motherboard.
1) Load the device drivers: It may seem counter-intuitive to run the Install CD before the device is actually in the PC, but this is the usual method. Insert the CD that came with your card and follow the wizard. This will install the Plug-and-Play device drivers for your new device.

2) Prepare your PC: The next step is to completely power-down, and unplug your computer from the wall outlet. Now open your computer’s case; typically there’s two small screws holding your side panel in place.
Lay your PC on its side so that the motherboard is down at the bottom, and you can see all the slots and components.
[Attention: Do not reach inside the case unless you are wearing an antistatic wristband, or until you have touched a bare metal section of the case's frame. A very, very small dose of static electricity can ruin electrical components inside a computer.]
Find an open (white) PCI slot, and remove the corresponding metal tab from the back of the case. This will open up an outlet for the faceplate of the expansion card.

3) Install the card: Gently, but firmly, insert the card into the open slot. You want to use enough force to fully “seat” the card into the slot.

4) Validate your install: Plug your PC back into the electrical outlet and power up your machine. Windows will launch, and it will detect your new hardware. A small dialogue window will open down by your clock that tells you that Windows is installing your New Hardware.

Unless there is some glitch, you are done. You can start using your new device. If Windows does NOT detect the new card, insert the Install CD and go through the wizard again.
If this still fails to install your new card, it is likely that the card itself is not fully inserted into the slot — power-down and really push it in this time. Repeat step 4. If this fails (and this is unlikely), read my troubleshooting article here.

Laptop owners: For those of you who want to add this capability to your notebook PCs, the steps are very similar — except you won’t be using a PCI expansion card. You will want to purchase a Firewire PCMCIA card, such as the one shown here.

Today’s free link: Teen Chat Decoder. From site: “This free Teen Chat Acronym Decoder lets you ‘Crack The Secret Code’ your teen uses online, in Chat Rooms, online chats, Instant Messages, & Text Messages. This is an awesome software for parents because it gives you an inside look into your teenagers online life.”

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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September 25, 2007 - Posted by | add device, advice, computers, device drivers, hardware, how to, kids and the Internet, PC, Plug and Play, tech, Vista, Windows, XP

21 Comments »

  1. Folks–
    I accidently deleted a comment from a reader named Don. In the comment he specified the technical standard 1394, and pointed out that “Firewire” is an Apple name.

    To view the essence of his comment, please see the Wikipedia definition here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firewire

    Comment by techpaul | March 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’m having latency issues on my laptop using Ableton Live. I’ve tried everything as far config and buffering. I’m becoming more and more convinced that I’m going to have to buy an ieee 1394 or another inexpensive desktop computer and that has enough ram and throw an inexpensive firewire pci lot in there. Suggestions?

    Comment by Mooney Starr | August 19, 2009 | Reply

    • Mooney Starr,
      from the information you provided (more accurately, didn’t provide) I am not sure what advice to give you, except that Ableton has a pretty good FAQ (http://www.ableton.com/faq), offers tech support, and has a user “community”, where you could post such a question as this.

      Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. merhaba.bu ürün fiyatı ne kadar ?firewire 1394

    Comment by eren | March 16, 2010 | Reply

    • eren,
      I’m sorry, but I’m somewhat handicapped — I really only understand English…

      Comment by techpaul | March 16, 2010 | Reply

  4. I need to upgrade my computer with a firewire port.
    But i have one pcie x16 and one pcie x1 and I am NOT sure that i can install one firewire to this.

    anyway, any help it will be really appreciate it.

    thx.

    Comment by alberto | June 27, 2010 | Reply

    • alberto,
      I just used the search term “firewire pci express card” (that is the x1) and many makes and models, and places to but them.

      Comment by techpaul | June 27, 2010 | Reply

  5. when i try to down load video from my camera it freezes.so what can be the problem

    Comment by ndaba | July 11, 2010 | Reply

  6. I am working on HP mL 110 G6 server which I am using as a workstation. The problem is I can’t find the PCI slot that corresponds to my agere firewire. The expansion card looks bigger than the slot and one slot is too small for it.

    Comment by Wonder | September 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Wonder,
      From the datasheet…
      Expansion Slots:
      * Slot 1: PCI-e Gen 1, x1 (x4 connector) Full-height & Half-length
      * Slot 2: PCI 32-bit/33 MHz at 3.3V Full-height & Full-length
      * Slot 3: PCI-e Gen 1, x4 (x8 connector) Full-height & Full-length
      * Slot 4: PCI-e Gen 2, x16 (x16 connector) Full-height & Full-length

      I believe slots 2, 3, and 4 (or, at least 2 and 4) would accept a PCI expansion card.. Of course, the whole idea (upgrading) is predicated on the premise that there is an open (available) slot on the motherboard.. or that an existing card can/will be removed to make room.

      Servers are geared for lots of RAM and lots of hard drives (usually in a RAID array) and not for multimedia or gaming, so your not finding a slot is not unusual.

      A tech could look inside and tell you if a slot can be freed. Perhaps one has a 56K modem card which can go?

      Comment by techpaul | September 23, 2010 | Reply

  7. i am adding a 1349 port my PC but it is not capture videos pkes give my answer

    Comment by pradeep mishra | February 4, 2011 | Reply

  8. pradeep mishra,
    Please see question/answer #5 (above).

    Comment by techpaul | February 4, 2011 | Reply

  9. HAVE NEW HP P7-1036B DESKTOP CAN A FIREWIRE CARD BE INSTALLED IN THIS MODEL. IF SO WHAT KIND?

    Comment by CONRAD WYGANT | December 1, 2011 | Reply

    • CONRAD WYGANT,
      Your unit has 4 PCI Express slots.. and I have to assume at least one is open (available) — hopefully the one PCI Express x16 slot, as that is the faster type.

      So.. any PCI Express card should work, but you would want a newer one — one that is rated either Vista, or preferably Windows 7, “compatible”.

      Comment by techpaul | December 1, 2011 | Reply

  10. I have an HP Pavilion P6340f. I need to install a firewire card and the one I purchased yesterday at Bestbuy, (3-Port IEEE 1394 PCI Host Adapter), doesn’t fit. Will my machine allow for installation and if so which card do I need. Thank you. Vic

    Comment by Victor Brackin | March 6, 2012 | Reply

    • Victor Brackin,
      The P6340f is newer and PCI is old. You want an expansion card that is a PCI-e x1 (express) form factor.

      You can click here and view the motherboard. The PCIe x1 slots are the short (black) ones next to the CMOS battery.

      Also.. I think the card you bought is the old Firewire. I think you’ll want a Firewire 800 card.

      Comment by techpaul | March 6, 2012 | Reply

  11. does it work with any mother board?

    Comment by Anonymous | June 23, 2012 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms,
      Yes and no. But mostly yes.

      It would work on any motherboard of recent vintage which had an open (not already being used) “expansion slot”, and the Firewire card’s “form” matched that slot’s “form”. (You could not stick a PCIe ["express"] card in a regular PCI slot, for example.)

      And by “recent vintage”, I mean something built within the last 5 – 7 years. If the machine is older than 5 years, I seriously advise replacing the whole machine instead of trying to upgrade it.

      Comment by techpaul | June 23, 2012 | Reply

  12. Hi, I have an HP Pavilion dv6-3052nr, and I don’t think it has a card slot. Is there any other way to add firewire capability to my laptop?

    Comment by Jacquelyn Weitz | July 24, 2012 | Reply

    • Jacquelyn Weitz,
      Adding expansion cards is by and large a “for Desktops” type of thing. And with with very few exceptions, different methods are used for adding abilities to laptops (if even possible).

      Specific to the dv6-3052nr, the fastest port available is the eSATA (which in certain cases of external storage devices, is twice as fast as Firewire 800) so I would use that if possible. If you cannot use the eSATA ‘port’, you can get a Firewire to USB converter cable, or plug (called a “dongle”), for under $10. That will not give you true Firewire speed, but it will allow you to plug in a Firewire device.

      (Firewire is basically Apple’s proprietary version of USB.)

      Comment by techpaul | July 24, 2012 | Reply


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