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What Are the Different Types of FireWire® Storage?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

The different types of FireWire® storage include both hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs), and make use a number of different versions of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 1394 standard. FireWire® storage devices that utilize traditional HDDs are typically available with different rotational speeds, such as 5,400 revolutions per minute (RPM) for normal use, and 10,000 RPM or more for video editing applications. SSD FireWire® drives are typically more expensive, but offer additional shock resistance and fast read times. Smaller flash drives that use a FireWire® connection are often available as well. The speed at which an external drive operates is also dictated by the transfer rate of the FireWire® version it uses, such as FireWire® 400 or 800.

FireWire® storage comes in many different configurations due to the wide variety of available storage media. One common type of storage often used with an external FireWire® enclosure is the traditional HDD. Data is stored magnetically on spinning platters, so it is important to not subject these drives to shock or strong magnetic fields. This type of storage can be suitable for general use, or more demanding applications such as video editing. For video editing applications, a FireWire® storage drive that operates at 10,000 RPM or more is typically called for.

A FireWire® port.
A FireWire® port.

Another type of FireWire® storage uses solid state drives. These are similar to HDD FireWire® drives; they tend to have read and write speeds that are very fast, offer less storage space, and can be very expensive. Instead of moving magnetic platters, this type of storage uses microchips to store data in a non-volatile manner. Another similar type of FireWire® storage uses flash memory. These memory sticks look a lot like universal serial bus (USB) thumb drives, though they are designed to plug into four, six, or eight contact IEEE 1394 ports.

The different types of FireWire® storage also use a various versions of the IEEE 1394 standard. These versions are typically represented by the word FireWire® followed by a number, such as 400 or 800. The number indicates the transfer speed, so higher numbers are associated with external storage drives that can move data back and forth more quickly. These standards also use differently shaped plugs and jacks, though the newer versions are typically backward compatible with older versions. In order to use a FireWire® 800 storage device with a FireWire® 400 port, an adapter is necessary.

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    • A FireWire® port.
      By: Timur Anikin
      A FireWire® port.