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Troubleshooting the iSight: FireWire conflicts

Troubleshooting the iSight: FireWire conflicts

We continue to receive reports of FireWire issues that appear to be caused by having an iSight camera connected. Yesterday we described a number of different issue with iPods, FireWire hard drives, and FireWire optical drives. We've also received reports of issues with FireWire video cameras and FireWire scanners. Reader Matt Carter notes a camera problem:

"With iMovie 4 on my 800mHz flat panel G4 iMac, I cannot get video input from my Canon DV camcorder if the iSight is connected. I can send play, FF, RW and other operational commands to the camera, and it will respond, but no video appears on my screen or is recorded to my hard disk. Removing the iSight restores the video feed."

And Morris Tsai explains an issue with a FireWire scanner:

"I have a Firewire external HD, an Epson 3000 Photo Scanner- Firewire, and an iSight. When I plug in the iSight, the external HD dismounts and the scanner can not be used. The drive and the scanner work together without the iSight, when the iSight is added the problems begin. I was able to duplicate the problem on a Dual 2GHZ G5 and an 800 DVI Powerbook G4. I called Apple Support about this on Monday and they escalated this problem to level two and asked if I would run Capture Data program to capture the state of the computer before I plugged in the iSight and after the iSight is plugged in. I also forwarded yesterday's article to the support person who in turn forwarded to the engineers. So, Apple should be aware of this problem."

Solution suggestions We noted yesterday that power issues appear to be at the heart of these problems, and we covered several workarounds that appear to work for some users; specifically, using a powered FireWire hub or, at the very least, giving the iSight its own FireWire port without "chaining" any other devices on that port. We've since received a number reports of success from users who have tried these solutions, along with confirmations from users who were already using these techniques.

On the other hand, we've also received emails from users who are still having FireWire problems that appear to be caused by the iSight, even when using a powered FireWire hub. Unfortunately, readers often forget to include their system specs in such emails, so it's difficult for us to put together any type of correlation between problems and particular Mac models. If you email us about such issues, please include details of your setup.

We've also received two other suggested remedies. MacFixIt reader Warwick Josephson notes that using a better FireWire cable may help:

"I have an iSight camera and a external Maxtor 60GB drive. I had trouble in the past with my drive not mounting on the desktop and sometimes just disappearing from a desktop view. I have been able to overcome the problem buy using a heavier (greater shielding) FireWire cable between the camera and the computer. The cable I now use is a Belkin Firewire 6pin cable. A small trimming of the end that fits the clear plastic camera mount was all that was necessary. I have had no trouble with my hard drive since changing to this new cable."

Finally, Bernhard Nahrgang writes, "The iSight only makes trouble when the lid is open (camera turned on) but not in use for a period of time! With the lid properly closed after use I didn't have disappearing FireWire drives anymore."

iSight/FireWire issues or solutions? Drop us an email at

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