Charging via firewire on a PC laptop

Q: I have a 3G iPod that still works great! I love it, but noticed something odd a couple weeks ago. When I hooked it up to my girlfriend’s Gateway laptop, it recognized the device and allowed me to access it, but it wasn’t charging the battery. I noticed the same thing on my mom’s Gateway laptop, too. When I connect the iPod to my PC desktop, however, it charges just fine. Is there some “power save” feature enabled on the laptops that is preventing the battery to charge? What’s going on?

– Adam

A: You’ve discovered the major unfortunate drawback to using Firewire-charging iPods with PC laptops. Standard, full-size Firewire plugs have 6-pins. Most PC laptops, however, use a small, 4-pin Firewire port, which by design does not have the capability (namely the missing two pin connections) to provide power. Even the few PC portables with 6-pin Firewire ports rarely power them. Even more disappointing is that many PC laptops unequipped with built-in Firewire do not provide sufficient power to the PCMCIA slot to allow add-on 6-pin Firewire ports to charge the iPod. It’s a shame, really.

Our suggestion? If you had a 4G or iPod mini, we’d suggest you switch to USB 2.0. Since the 3G iPod can’t charge via USB, however, that won’t work for you. Instead, use a “power injector” device like SiK’s FireJuice product or Apple’s old “USB2.0+Firewire cable” to keep your iPod powered for long, battery-taxing data transfer sessions. If you don’t anticipate such heavy connection sessions, simply keep your iPod charged using the standard AC adaptor included with your 3G iPod.

Jerrod H. is an iLounge Contributing Editor, with frequent contributions to our iPod 101 and 201 tutorials, plus occasional hardware and software product reviews.
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