IDE vs SATA Hard Drive Review


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IDE vs SATA Hard Drive Review

IDE vs SATA- Serial Advanced Technology Attachment vs Integrated Drive Electronics

New kid on the block for hard drives, SATA, What is it? SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.

Before I get to SATA we need to understand what IDE is and why SATA is better.

On with the IDE vs SATA review ...

Integrated Drive Electronics, IDE, was introduced in the early 1990's as a way to get around the built in drive tables in the BIOS for computers; tables that every pc had.

There is a limitation on the drive size built into the tables, the limitation is calculated on:

  • The number of heads
  • The number of cylinders
  • The number of tracks physically contained within the drive.
  • The maximum of all these parameters can only be 1024.

There had to be a way to fool the bios when the drive is larger than 30 Mega Bytes.

IDE does this by telling the controller that the drive is only 30 MB. This worked for a while, then when Intel introduced the 486 processor the bios was rewritten to remove the drive tables from the bios and add the IDE controller as a function.

This removed the 1024 limitation and opened the door for larger drives.

The IDE function is split into two distinct parts; the IDE interface, and the IDE controller component. The interface is just that, a way to connect the drive to the computer motherboard.

The controller is part of the drive, all functions but one are integrated into the electronics of the drive.

The one function that is not built into the IDE controller is the drive selection. That originally was a manual function, then became a part of the bios function.

The selections were master or slave, then came cable select.

Cable select is by which connector on the IDE cable the drive is connected to. By removing one wire from the cable to the last connector the bios knows which drive is master and which drive is slave.

As with all devices when they are new or just introduced they are the wiz bang of the day. The speed of the IDE drives was phenomenal at the time, SCSI was struggling to just keep up.

Through put had quadrupled over night. Drive size will reach beyond 200Giga Bytes. Reliability will reach a all time high of over 200,000 hours between failures. This means that the average hard drive will operate beyond the lifetime of the computer.

Your IDE drive is still a viable device, I would not throw away a perfectly good drive just to have the latest and greatest. If the drive has failed or is to small then by all means upgrade.


SATA, what is it? Why do I need it? Is it expensive?

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or SATA:


"SATA uses the IDE controller concept on the hard drive to control the drives functions. Using two pairs of signal wires the data-connection is unidirectional. Utilizing Low Voltage Differential Signaling (LVDS) to increase the signal rate to a higher capacity of 1.5 to 3.0 gigabit per second. The 8B/10B encoding is 80% higher in efficiency than the traditional parallel transfer encoding of the IDE interface." (That is a lot of geek, just think of it as a faster drive with a larger capacity).

There is some good news and bad news on the SATA front.

Good news: The newer SATA II and III are faster and have a larger capacity over the older SATA version.

Bad news: The new SATA II and III use the pure USB specifications, that is there isn't any backward compatibility to IDE as the first version of SATA had. The new SATA II and III hard drives and SSD's use the ICH specification to communicate with the drive interface on the motherboard.

If your motherboard doesn't have the capability to switch from AICH or OICH to "Legacy" or "IDE" in the BIOS for the mass storage option you will have problems communicating with an older SATA drive. There are some work arounds but they are kludges, if you have an older SATA drive and need/want to use it I suggest you find an older SATA add on card. When you are looking for the card insure it is SATA 1.0 (not SATA I or II, or III - these cards will not help because they use the USB specification not the IDE you need).

The 8B/10B encoding is also used in the newer Ethernet, Fiber Channel, PCI Express, and other devices. With the correct controller you can use a raid array to protect your data.


Only one device can be attached to a cable. This means each device requires an interface connection and a cable. (Since this article has been written the manufactures have been busy, you can now get an interface that will support 16 32 devices!)

With that said you will still need one cable per interface, one drive one cable, 32 drives 32 cables! If you have this many drive cables bundle them up and tie them together, this will make them round and help with the air flow in the computer case!

IDE vs SATA Rating:

I give the SATA device a rating of 9 out of 10, the reason is that each device needs it's own cable and interface, when the manufactures get around to creating a way to chain more than one device on a cable I will give it a 10 over all.

When technology moves forward you gain in functionality. With the SATA device you gain an enormous speed in through put for your data, couple this with the ever increasing capacity of hard drives and you are getting even more for your hard earned dollar.

IDE vs SATA if you have an older mother board you will have to purchase a SATA controller card to go with the drive, the newer motherboards have interface connectors built into them, along with the External SATA connectors for external devices. At this time the manufactures have perfected the 6 gigabyte per second devices (GBPS).

However if you buy a newer SATA III drive that has the 6 GBPS specification and do NOT have a newer controller it will fall back to 3 GBPS transfer speed, as of Nov, 2013 only a few motherboard manufactures were producing motherboards with the new 6GBPS interface connections.


Contrary to popular practices the SATA devices are cheaper than the older devices, normally new technology devices cost twice to four times as much as older technology. Such as a SATA drive that has twice the capacity of an IDE drive at the same price.

This is truly a more bang for your buck deal.

Update: 07/27/12: IDE vs SATA - after a search of online computer stores an IDE interface drive is truly hard to find, and the highest capacity I found was 500 GB, although the cost was fair when compared to a comparable SATA drive. If you need a new IDE drive I suggest you check the web site called

Update 04/13/13: IDE vs SATA - Is IDE dead? No but it is looking rather grim for those that still have them, do a search for a replacement IDE drive... not much there.

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