IEEE 1394 (or FireWire) is an external computer interface, like USB or eSata, that allows connection between PCs and devices like cameras and hard drives. It was developed by Apple in 1995 and, at the time, provided the fastest external connection that was possible at speeds up to 3200Mbps. Since USB has proven itself to be more consumer friendly, it has become rare to find FireWire ports in newer desktop and laptop PCs. However if you find you’re in need of using FireWire to connect to a camera or external hard drive there are options for adding these ports to your computer.
Find out which kind of interface you need for your PC. You can purchase add-on cards that will provide you with 1 fo 3 FireWire ports. Decide how many ports you would like to have available, then pick the card that is most compatible with your PC. Cards come in two “flavors:” PCI and PCI Express. PCI is a typical connection slot that you will find inside your computer. PCI Express is a newer variation on PCI. The PCI Express slot used by a 1394 adapter card will be very small, almost one-third the length of the PCI slot. Open up your desktop PC before purchasing the adapter card to find out which slot you have.
Plug the adapter card into the PC. Line up the card with the correct slot and press down firmly (do not force). You will feel it catch and the front plate should line up with a screw hole or plastic catch that lines the side of your case. Once the card is secure, replace the cover over the desktop.
Turn your computer on and let it boot into your operating system. Your adapter card may or may not have come with a driver disc. Newer versions of operating systems should be able to automatically recognize the card. Make sure that your operating system hasn’t been able to identify the card before you attempt to install anything.
Check the connection with your device. If you were trying to connect a FireWire hard drive to your PC, plug it into one of the ports on the back of the desktop and make sure everything is working. It’s even a good idea to try each port on the back, just to make sure you didn’t purchase an adapter card that is having any issues.
Find out which kind of interface your laptop uses. Laptops use two different connections for add-on cards: PCMCIA (PC Card) and ExpressCard. The documentation that came with your laptop should be able to point you in the right direction, but a quicker way would be to look at the slot itself. If not expressly labeled, you can still tell by the width of the slot. PCMCIA will just over 2 inches wide, while the ExpressCard slot will be 1 1/3 inches.
Insert the adapter into the add-on card slot in your laptop. For PCMCIA slots, simply slide the adapter in until it stops. For ExpressCard, you will feel the card “catch” as it makes contact. Lightly pull against the ExpressCard adapter to make sure it is secured in the slot and will not slide out.
Boot up your laptop and see if your operating system automatically detects the new IEEE 1394 ports. If it does, you are good to go. If not, utilize whatever drivers came with your new adapter card.