I've had my MacBook since 2006 and, on the odd occasion, I've used the FireWire 400 port for connecting an HDD caddy or for networking between two Macs. I've always hot-swapped devices without a worry. I've always assumed that's what FireWire was designed to do.

However, recently I purchased an M-Audio ProFire 610 - it's a multi-channel digital audio interface - and plastered all over its documentation (and the website) are warnings that you MUST turn the device off before plugging or unplugging. I was quite surprised by this, and wondered if it had anything to do with the device being dodgy.


Apparently then, this is not an issue with M-Audio devices, but with ALL FW400 devices... Although it's the first I've ever heard about it, which I find a bit odd... If there really is such a fundamental flaw in FW400, why wouldn't I have heard people complaining on Mac forums about fried FireWire controller chips?

Is it dangerous in general, or do you think that perhaps M-Audio are trying to cover-up for shoddy manufacturing? Like I said I've never had any problems hot-plugging FW devices before and now I'm really paranoid, turning the computer off every time, which is really frustrating.

Not only that, but supposedly the issue is power arcing onto the data pin... But if you power down any Mac device (MacBooks included), they still deliver power to the FW device. So how safe does powering it down really make it anyway?

2 Answers 2


It's probably M-Audio covering for shoddy manufacturing. FireWire is designed to be hot-pluggable. You should be able to plug and unplug at any time with no issues.

And regarding the thread: not yanking cables at an angle is general good advice, whether they carry power or not.

  • They insist that their products adhere to the full FireWire standards, so I'm guessing they're probably covering their backs. I just hope that the issues most people had were with their older products and not the one I have! I just wish I could find stats on which products caused the FireWire controller chips to fry.
    – Jowie
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 11:15
  • @Joe It could be crappy cables, too, come to think of it.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 15:12
  • Put another way - if plugging a cable hot happened when a port dies - it probably was going to go anyhow next time signal passed. Also - if you have a faulty device on the other end - that's to blame and not the cable that carried the problem to the port.
    – bmike
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 15:48
  • Also - Cajun - are you in for apple.stackexchange.com/election moderating here?
    – bmike
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 15:49
  • @bmike I wasn't going to nominate myself, as I'm uncertain about the time commitment and if I can keep it up. Of course, I'm not certain what the moderation commitment entails.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 16:50

The issue is not with M-Audio or with the firewire standard, but with a oxford bridge controller design flaw which makes the controller susceptible to power spikes.

The flawed chip was in a lot of computers in the late 2000s, which means that it was a good call for m-audio to issue the warning. It wasn't their own butts they were covering, but it did mean a lot of down time and troubleshooting for their customers.

I learned this the hard way, as the firewire 400 port on my old macbook was fried by hot-swapping the pro-fire 2626.

  • Interesting... I assumed that the dodgy controller chips would be on cheap PCs, not MacBooks! Fortunately it is no longer an issue for me as I have upgraded from 1st gen MacBook to MacBook Pro Retina, so I'm going from Thunderbolt to FW800 to FW400... I guess that should avoid hot-swapping issues!
    – Jowie
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 9:50

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