FireWire 800 under Windows XP SP2
Prior to the release of new hardware, RME carry out extensive tests not only of the hardware itself, but also of its compatibility to other hardware. When testing the Fireface 800, we found hardware errors of several manufacturers. More information is found in the Tech Info FireWire 800 Hardware - Compatibility Problems.
FireWire 800 under Windows XP SP2
Windows XP SP1 did not support FireWire800 (1394b). Nevertheless, it worked, although the full
performance of FireWire 800 wasn't achieved in some cases. With the release of Service Pack 2,
Microsoft decided to no longer 'ignore' FireWire 800, but to treat it correctly according to the
current OHCI specifications (Open Host Controller Interface). For Microsoft, at this time
'correctly' means switching to the slowest transfer mode S100, equalling 100 Mbit per second,
for reasons of safety and compatibility.
Saving the Fireface
This case once again proves the great advantages of a freely configurable hardware. RME has been using FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) for years. These can be turned into completely different circuitries by simple flash updates. A combined update of firmware and driver made the Fireface 800 compatible to SP2. For now, the device shows the following behaviour:
This behaviour is introduced with firmware 1.38 and driver version 1.1. The fix will be successful for most users, since FireWire 800 is still relatively rare at the moment. If, however, an external FireWire 800 harddisk is to be used successfully alongside the Fireface, FireWire 800 becomes a necessity. This of course can already create a problem, since our fix only works for the Fireface. An external harddisk would therefore still be operated with S100* under SP2.
*Under SP1, the typical transfer rate of external FireWire 800 harddisks is almost
the same as when using PCI, and when using an internal IDE controller. Our test
drive, a somewhat older IBM, reaches 39 Mbyte/s. With SP2, the value drops to 10
Special adaptations from other manufacturers are possible as well. For example, LaCie already provides a firmware update for their FireWire 800 harddisks, which brings full performance under SP2. At a closer look, this 'firmware update' seems to install a FireWire filter driver, which knocks out Microsofts S800 detection. Since October, Macpower also provides an update. Although all external FireWire 800 drives use the same Oxford chip (922), a fix like this is limited to products of one company. Therefore, owners of no-name PCI cards and no-name drive cases will probably never get an update or fix...
Back to SP1?
So is it necessary to uninstall SP2 to get back the previously achieved performance? No. It is sufficient to install the operating system's old FireWire driver. In fact it is already enough to exchange two files . Here's how to do it:
Before updating to SP2:
If you already updated to SP2: the old ohci1394.sys and 1394bus.sys are found in Windows\Driver
Copy the files from this archive into the directory \1394_fix.
These files are the ones from SP2. There is no need to reinstall all old FireWire drivers. Some
of them haven't changed, others are for network use only.
This is necessary, as Windows includes a nice security mechanism, which prevents worst-case-users from accidentally overwriting important driver files with older versions, or even worse, deleting them completely. So if you try to install the mix of driver files in \1394_fix, Windows will automatically install the newer files found in its sp2.cab!
That's it. You can now go to Driver Details, and verify that all driver files are from SP2
except the ohci1394.sys and 1394bus.sys, which are from SP1. Next reboot, switch on the
Fireface, and check that the Fireface can perform record/playback.
 In the first version of this Tech Info, only the file ohci1394.sys had been exchanged. With this, the throughput rises to good S400. But exchanging the 1394bus.sys as well will activate full 800 Mbit/s.
More information on this topichttp://www.lacie.com/download/drivers/ReadMeFW800SP2.pdf
Last update: 10/12/2004
On December 17, 2004, Microsoft published a Knowledge Base article about the FW800 slowdown
problem under SP2, confirming the behaviour to be a problem of SP2. At the same time MS released
a file update, which has to be installed manually. The article says this update will not be
included in later updates and hotfixes, so it must be installed manually whenever needed. The
link to the article:
Quote: After you install Windows XP Service Pack 2, some 1394 devices (such as digital cameras that use S400 speed) may not perform as expected. Install this update to help prevent this issue.
So does it fix the Firewire 800 problems?
What does this all mean?
Last update: 01/31/2005
Copyright © Matthias Carstens.
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