The onslaught of USB has seen even cables with integrated logic in the connectors for several different port types.
For those with a miniDV camera with Firewire on it, you can use an available port but not many machines have an available IEEE 1394 port. USB cables with the mini 4-pin Firewire connector are inexpensive.
USB cables are the solution to copying video from a camera. Windows Vista can recognize the tape and it can import it to you hard disk for editing.
Of course PCI Express cards are available and Express Card for laptops are also available. These are more expensive but they do have the full IEEE 1394 capability to handle several devices including disks and cameras and more.
The low cost USB cable allows a user to import tapes as desired from the DV camera. Editing video on a hard disk is easier than with even non-linear frame accurate tape decks.
We have an old Canon ZR10 miniDV camera and importing video from the tape with Windows Vista is done directly with the Windows explorer. MiniDV tapes typically are 60 minutes so it can take a while to import the video.
If you need to store video back to the camera, you may fine a Firewire controller will work better than the USB cable. Software like Adobe Premiere is designed to use Firewire natively but it can use imported video easily. Avid is used professionally but that software is not widely used by consumers.
Given the USB cable has no power, make sure the camera battery is in good condition and fully charged, An extra battery is a wise idea as the USB cable is data only.
We have seen machines with IEEE 1394 on the front panel. Not many machines ever offered it due to the higher licensing costs.
MiniDV cameras only use the lower 100 megabit per second speed which is fast enough for HDTV.
For Windows 8 and above, download a driver for IEEE 1394. This driver will also work with Windows 10. Windows should be able to find a driver automatically on Windows update.