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USB and IEEE-1394 (FireWire) Overview

This document provides a brief description of Universal Serial Bus (USB) and IEEE-1394 (FireWire) connections. It also provides general specifications, comparisons, and troubleshooting information.
Your computer might become more susceptible to damage caused by electrostatic discharge (ESD) when connecting USB devices directly into the ports on the computer. To help prevent damage by ESD, connect USB devices into an external USB hub or connect devices to the computer while the computer is off.
Description of USB and FireWire
USB and IEEE-1394 (FireWire) are low-cost, high-speed connections for computer peripherals. These connections allow you to connect a computer to such devices as printers, portable storage devices, joysticks, keyboards, mouse devices, scanners, modems, digital speakers, removable drives, and many other devices. USB or FireWire peripherals connect directly into ports on the computer, into a hub, or into an extra port on another USB or FireWire device. Windows Plug and Play technology automatically detects and installs most USB and FireWire devices.
USB and FireWire specifications
See the documentation for your computer to determine if it has USB 1.0, USB 1.1, or USB 2.0 ports.
Click the heading or the accompanying plus (+) sign to expand the information.
Comparing USB, FireWire, and Parallel connections
The following table lists comparisons between USB, FireWire, and ECP Parallel connection types.
Parallel ECP
USB 1.0/1.1
FireWire 400
USB 2.0
FireWire 800
Highest speed (in megabits per seconds - Mbps)
100 to 800 (Higher speeds are possible with special optical cables.)
Maximum recommended cable length
10 meters for one non-ECP parallel device. Three meters for an ECP device or more than one device on the same port.
Five meters
4.5 meters between each device
4.5 meters between each device. Up to 100 meters with special optical cable.
Maximum number of attached devices
Four (only one is recommended to avoid conflicts)
127 devices including hubs
63 devices including hubs
127 devices including hubs
63 devices including hubs
Determining if your computer supports USB or FireWire
Windows Vista supports both USB 2.0 and Firewire.
Windows XP supports USB 1.0/1.1 and Firewire 400 (IEEEa). Windows XP Service Pack 2 adds support for USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 (IEEEb).
Windows 98 Second Edition supports USB 1.0/1.1 and FireWire 400.
Previous versions of Windows do not natively support USB or Firewire.
Checking USB and FireWire for problems
By default, USB and Firewire are automatically enabled by the operating system. If you suspect that USB or Firewire might be disabled, you can enable FireWire or USB using the following steps that match your operating system.


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