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Firewire vs. Thunderbolt — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on May 7, 2024
FireWire is an older high-speed data transfer technology used primarily for video, while Thunderbolt is a newer, faster standard for data, video, and power transmission, supporting various devices through one port.
Firewire vs. Thunderbolt — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Firewire and Thunderbolt


Key Differences

FireWire, developed in the late 1990s, was once a popular interface for connecting digital video equipment to computers. Thunderbolt, introduced in 2011, has since replaced it, offering faster data transfer speeds and the ability to connect multiple peripherals.
FireWire's maximum speed is 800 Mbps, suitable for connecting digital camcorders or external drives. Thunderbolt, on the other hand, can transfer data at speeds up to 40 Gbps, accommodating high-resolution video, fast storage, and even networking.
FireWire ports were specific to their devices, providing straightforward but limited connectivity. Thunderbolt is highly versatile, combining data, video, and power in one port, allowing connections to monitors, external drives, and other peripherals through daisy-chaining.
Both FireWire and Thunderbolt support daisy-chaining devices to minimize cable clutter. However, Thunderbolt can connect more devices and integrate different types (e.g., USB, DisplayPort), whereas FireWire only links compatible FireWire devices.
FireWire has largely become obsolete due to technological advancements. Thunderbolt remains widely used and continues evolving with newer iterations, supporting backward compatibility.

Comparison Chart


Developed in the 1990s
Introduced in 2011

Max Speed

800 Mbps
Up to 40 Gbps

Main Use

Video transfer, storage
Data, video, networking, power


Limited to FireWire devices
Compatible with USB, DisplayPort

Current Usage

Actively evolving

Compare with Definitions


A data transfer technology developed by Apple.
The older camcorder uses a FireWire port to connect to the computer.


A high-speed data transfer protocol developed by Intel and Apple.
Modern laptops often come equipped with Thunderbolt ports.


An interface standard for connecting devices like camcorders and external drives.
External hard drives used to rely heavily on FireWire for data transfer.


An interface that can transfer data, video, and power through one port.
Thunderbolt simplifies cable management by combining multiple functions.


A cable standard supporting daisy-chaining up to 63 devices.
Multiple devices can be linked through a single FireWire port.


Allows daisy-chaining multiple peripherals through a single connection.
His laptop connected to both monitors via a Thunderbolt dock.


Also known as IEEE 1394, providing up to 800 Mbps speed.
FireWire 800 was a popular choice for video professionals.


The latest version supports speeds up to 40 Gbps.
Thunderbolt 4 maintains backward compatibility with older versions.


A predecessor of modern high-speed data transfer protocols.
FireWire was replaced by faster interfaces like USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.


Compatible with other standards like USB and DisplayPort.
Thunderbolt ports can also function as USB ports with the right adapter.


A high-speed digital link standard covered by the IEEE 1394-1995 standard.


A thunderbolt or lightning bolt is a symbolic representation of lightning when accompanied by a loud thunderclap. In Indo-European mythology, the thunderbolt was identified with the 'Sky Father'; this association is also found in later Hellenic representations of Zeus and Vedic descriptions of the vajra wielded by the god Indra.


A system of wires or tubes designed to detect fire and trigger automatic fire-extinguishers in an aircraft engine compartment for example.


A discharge of lightning accompanied by thunder.


A flash of lightning conceived as a bolt or dart hurled from the heavens.


A startling, forceful action
"Every political campaign manager saves a thunderbolt for the last week before Election Day" (Art Buchwald).


A flash of lightning accompanied by a crash of thunder.


(figuratively) An event that is terrible, horrific or unexpected.
News of the actress’s death came as a thunderbolt to her fans.


Vehement threatening or censure; especially, ecclesiastical denunciation; fulmination.


(soccer) A very powerful shot.


(paleontology) A belemnite, or thunderstone.


(heraldry) A charge in the form of two joined bundles with four rays of lightning emerging from them, resembling the thunderbolt of Jupiter.


A daring or irresistible hero.


A shaft of lightning; a brilliant stream of electricity passing from one part of the heavens to another, or from the clouds to the earth.


Something resembling lightning in suddenness and effectiveness.
The Scipios' worth, those thunderbolts of war.


Vehement threatening or censure; especially, ecclesiastical denunciation; fulmination.
He severely threatens such with the thunderbolt of excommunication.


A belemnite, or thunderstone.


A discharge of lightning accompanied by thunder


A shocking surprise;
News of the attack came like a bombshell

Common Curiosities

Can Thunderbolt be used for video output?

Yes, Thunderbolt can output video and is compatible with DisplayPort and HDMI standards.

What is the difference between FireWire 400 and FireWire 800?

FireWire 400 supports speeds up to 400 Mbps, while FireWire 800 can reach up to 800 Mbps.

What replaced FireWire?

USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt largely replaced FireWire due to faster speeds and wider compatibility.

Does Thunderbolt work with USB devices?

Yes, Thunderbolt ports are compatible with USB devices using appropriate adapters.

What version of Thunderbolt is the fastest?

Thunderbolt 4 is the latest and fastest, offering up to 40 Gbps speeds.

How many devices can be daisy-chained with Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt allows up to six devices in a daisy chain.

Does Thunderbolt supply power to connected devices?

Yes, Thunderbolt can provide power for charging compatible devices.

Is FireWire still used today?

It is mostly obsolete, though some older devices still rely on FireWire.

What are the common uses of Thunderbolt ports?

Thunderbolt ports are used for connecting external monitors, storage devices, and high-speed networking.

Is FireWire compatible with USB?

No, FireWire requires specific ports and isn't directly compatible with USB.

Is Thunderbolt compatible with older devices?

Thunderbolt can connect with older standards like USB, provided appropriate adapters or docks are used.

Is Thunderbolt backward-compatible with older versions?

Yes, newer Thunderbolt versions are generally backward-compatible.

Can FireWire ports be converted to Thunderbolt?

No, they use different technologies, so a direct conversion isn't possible.

Can FireWire and Thunderbolt coexist on the same computer?

Yes, but they require separate ports and adapters.

Is there a difference between Thunderbolt and USB-C?

Thunderbolt uses USB-C connectors but has additional capabilities like higher speeds and video output.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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