All About FireWire USB Hubs
On a computer, the USB (or universal serial bus) port is a standard component used to connect peripheral devices to the computer. These peripherals can include everything from keyboards to mp3 players. The closest connections to the computer are the USB root hubs; these ports are located on a computer's motherboard or on an expansion card. Devices may need to be connected with the assistance of a USB hub driver, which recognizes and controls connections to all devices, no matter how many additional USB hubs they pass through. Windows XP, Vista, Linux 2.5.2 and Mac OSX all support USBs natively; earlier operating systems will need a USB hub driver.
USB Hub Designs
The USB standard allows for up to 127 devices to be connected to the USB root hub. A USB network hub expands the number of slots available and can make access easier. A 4-port USB combo hub is the most common size. This device plugs into one of the USB root hub slots to connect to the computer. A larger 7-port USB combo hub will sometimes require an external power source; energy-intensive applications, such as device recharging, will not be able to pump enough current to power seven devices at once from a single connection the root hub.
FireWire is a system for connecting devices that is similar to the USB model, except it uses a differently shaped connector and can transfer data at almost twice the speed of USB. This is commonly used on devices that need to move a lot of data, like portable hard drives and digital video recorders. FireWire USB hubs will have two connectors, as they need to be connected to both a USB slot and a FireWire slot on the host computer; there is no such thing as a FireWire-to-USB converter because the technologies are incompatible.
USB Hub Options
There is a wide variety of stand-alone hubs on the market, and they're available in varying sizes and with different connector positions. Some peripherals, like computer monitors and keyboards, come with built-in USB hubs, allowing easy access; this is a good option if the CPU is inaccessible.
Larger hubs will often include mini USB connectors; these are identical to other USBs, except they use smaller plugs. They are commonly used on portable electronic devices, like digital cameras and smart phones. A FireWire USB combo hub stores both technologies in a single device for added convenience. FireWire tends to be used with high-power devices, so it is important that larger hubs have an external power source.