Difference Between Firewire and Thunderbolt

FireWire and Thunderbolt are two types of high-speed data transmission interfaces used to connect various electronic devices to computers, such as cameras, hard drives, and other peripherals. Thunderbolt provides faster data transfer rates, power delivery, and a shorter cable length than FireWire, but it is more expensive and not as widely available.

Read this article to find out more about Firewire and Thunderbolt and how they are different from each other.

What is Firewire?

FireWire uses a serial bus architecture, which means data is transmitted one bit at a time through a single cable. This allows for rapid and effective data transport as well as the ability to power connected devices.

FireWire connectors are classified into two types: 6-pin connectors and 4-pin connectors. The 6-pin connector is used for power-requiring devices such as external hard drives, whereas the 4-pin connector is used for non-power-requiring devices such as digital cameras.

FireWire can transport data at rates of up to 800 Mbps (megabits per second), which makes it faster than USB 2.0, another popular data transmission technology at the time. In addition, FireWire may support up to 63 devices on a single bus, allowing several devices to be connected to a single computer.

While FireWire was a popular technology at the time, it has now been mostly replaced by newer, faster data transmission technologies such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt. FireWire may, nevertheless, still be used in some older devices or systems.

What is Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt, like FireWire, uses a serial bus architecture that allows for rapid and efficient data transfer. Thunderbolt is much faster than FireWire, with data transfer rates of up to 40 Gbps (gigabits per second) in its most recent edition, Thunderbolt 4.

Thunderbolt can also supply power to connected devices up to a maximum of 100 watts. This means that devices such as external hard drives and displays can be powered directly from a computer's Thunderbolt connector, reducing the need for an additional power source.

Thunderbolt is also compatible with other technologies, such as USB-C. Thunderbolt 3, which was introduced in 2015, uses the USB-C connector, which has now become an industry standard across a wide range of devices.

In addition to its rapid data transfer speeds and power delivery capabilities, Thunderbolt supports various protocols such as PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) and DisplayPort. As a result, Thunderbolt can be used to connect a wide range of devices, including external hard drives, displays, and even high-end graphics cards.

Difference between Firewire and Thunderbolt

The following table highlights the major differences between Firewire and Thunderbolt −




Data Transfer Rate

Up to 800 Mbps

Up to 40 Gbps




Power Delivery




6-pin and 4-pin

USB-C (Thunderbolt 3 and 4)

Devices Supported

External hard drives, digital cameras, and audio interfaces

External hard drives, displays, graphics cards, audio interfaces, etc.

Integration with Other Technologies


Integrated with USB-C, PCIe, and DisplayPort

Developed by

It is developed by Apple Inc.

It is developed by Apple and Intel.


up to 63 devices

up to 6 devices


In conclusion, FireWire and Thunderbolt are both data transfer technologies used to connect devices to computers, although they differ significantly. FireWire is an older technology that may give electricity to connected devices as well as handle data transfer rates of up to 800 Mbps. Thunderbolt is a newer technology that offers data transfer rates of up to 40 Gbps, can power connected devices, and allows many devices to be daisy-chained.

Thunderbolt is also smaller and more compact than FireWire. While Thunderbolt is a faster and more versatile technology, certain older devices or systems may still use FireWire. Finally, the choice between FireWire and Thunderbolt will be based on the user's specific needs and requirements.

Updated on: 22-Aug-2023


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