Serial ATA

All my IDE channels are full (2 hard drives, a zip drive, and a dvd burner). I want to add another hard drive and another CD Rom.

Both Hard drives are “ultra ATA-100” 7200 rpm 8mb cache (WD Caviar). I assume this means I can get a serial ATA controller card, and get a performance boost? Can I boot from a drive on the ATA card, and free up my IDE channels? Is the cable the same as an IDE ribbon cable?

How much real world speed benefits will there be? Noticable?

PC is an Athlon XP 2400+ w/512mb DDR PC2100.

Serial ATA (SATA) and ATA-100 (parallell ATA, with the wide connectors) use similar technology but different connectors and cables (the SATA cables are much thinner than IDE ribbons). If you purchase a new SATA controller card, it won’t connect directly to any of your existing equipment. You will need to acquire adapters for each ATA device you want to use. Some manufacturers provided adapters with the addin cards, but I do not know if any still do so. The adapters look/looked like a little circuit board with a wide ATA100 connector on one end and the small SATA connector on the other.

If you connect an ATA100 drive to an SATA controller, you shouldn’t see much difference in drive performance, unless you now use poor quality cables or a weak ATA100 chipset, but you could fix either of these problems without using SATA. While current SATA drives can transfer data at up to 150MBps, your drives will not operate at this speed as their controller chips will transfer data at their original rate. Of course wire transfers probably aren’t slowing your drive operation down at the moment, as I don’t know of any platter-based drive that can perform sustained transfers of 100MBps.

Most BIOSes produced in recent years will let you boot off a PCI controller card (whether ATA, SATA, or SCSI) but that depends on your specific motherboard and BIOS. I doubt that you will see any improvement in speed, certainly none that you couldn’t get by moving to an equally high-quality PCI ATA card, but the SATA card will let you use SATA only hard drives, like the Western Digital Raptor 10k.

/threadkiller strikes again