Onerous Drives: ATA versus SATA

The efficiency of laptop programs has been steadily rising as sooner processors, reminiscence, and video playing cards are constantly being developed. The one key part that’s typically uncared for when taking a look at bettering the efficiency of a pc system is the arduous drive. Onerous drive producers have been continuously evolving the fundamental arduous drive utilized in trendy laptop programs for the final 25 years, and the previous couple of years have seen some thrilling developments from sooner spindle speeds, bigger caches, higher reliability, and elevated knowledge transmission speeds.

The drive kind used most in shopper grade computer systems is the hearty ATA kind drive (generally referred to as an IDE drive). The ATA commonplace dates again to 1986 and relies on a 16-bit parallel interface has undergone many evolutions since its introduction to extend the velocity and measurement of the drives that it might help. The newest commonplace is ATA-7 (first launched in 2001 by the T13 Technical Committee (the group chargeable for the ATA commonplace)) which helps knowledge switch charges as much as 133MB/sec. That is anticipated to be the final replace for the parallel ATA commonplace.

As way back as 2000 it was seen that the parallel ATA commonplace was maxing out its limitations as to what it may deal with. With knowledge charges hitting the 133MB/sec mark on a parallel cable, you might be inviting all types of issues due to sign timing, EMI (electromagnetic interference) and different knowledge integrity points; thus trade leaders received collectively and got here up with a brand new commonplace referred to as Serial ATA (SATA). SATA has solely been round just a few years, however is destined to change into “the usual” attributable to a number of advantages to be addressed on this Tech Tip.

The 2 applied sciences that we’ll be taking a look at are:

ATA (Superior Know-how Attachment) – a 16-bit parallel interface used for controlling laptop drives. Launched in 1986, it has undergone many evolutions within the final 18+ years, with the most recent model being referred to as ATA-7. Wherever an merchandise is known as being an ATA machine, it’s generally a Parallel ATA machine. ATA gadgets are additionally generally referred to as IDE, EIDE, Extremely-ATA, Extremely-DMA, ATAPI, PATA, and so forth. (every of those acronyms truly do discuss with very particular objects, however are generally interchanged)

SATA (Serial Superior Know-how Attachment) – a 1-bit serial evolution of the Parallel ATA bodily storage interface.

Primary Options & Connections

SATA drives are straightforward to differentiate from their ATA cousins by the totally different knowledge and energy connections discovered on the again of the drives. A side-by-side comparability of the 2 interfaces could be seen on this PDF from Maxtor, and the next covers lots of the variations…

Commonplace ATA drives, corresponding to this 200GB Western Digital mannequin, have considerably cumbersome, two inch huge ribbon cable with 40-pin knowledge connections and obtain the 5V essential to energy them from the acquainted 4-pin connection. The essential knowledge cables for these drives have appeared the identical for years. A change was made with the introduction of the ATA-5 commonplace to raised enhance the sign high quality by making an 80 wire cable used on the 40-pin connector (these are generally referred to as 40-pin/80-wire cables). To enhance airflow throughout the laptop system some producers resorted to actually folding over the ribbon cable and taping it into that place. One other latest bodily change additionally got here with the arrival of rounded cables. The efficiency of the rounded cables is the same as that of the flat ribbon, however many favor the improved system air move afforded, ease of wire administration, and cooler look that include them.

SATA drives, corresponding to this 120GB Western Digital mannequin, have a half inch huge, 7 “blade and beam” knowledge connection, which ends up in a a lot thinner and simpler to handle knowledge cable. These cables take the comfort of the ATA rounded cables to the subsequent degree by being even narrower, extra versatile and able to being longer with out concern of information loss. SATA cables have a most size of 1 meter (39.37 inches), which is far better than the beneficial 18 inch cable for ATA drives. The lowered footprint of SATA knowledge connections frees up area on motherboards, doubtlessly permitting for extra handy layouts and room for extra onboard options!

A 15-pin energy connection delivers the 250mV of obligatory energy to SATA drives. 15-pins for a SATA machine appears like it will require a a lot bigger energy cable than a 4-pin ATA machine, however in actuality the 2 energy connectors are nearly the identical peak. In the interim, many SATA drives are additionally coming with a legacy 4-pin energy connector for comfort.

Many trendy motherboards, corresponding to this Chaintech motherboard, include SATA drive connections onboard (many additionally together with the ATA connectors as properly for legacy drive compatibility), and new energy provides, corresponding to this Extremely X-Join, usually function just a few of the required 15-pin energy connections, making it straightforward to make use of these drives on new programs. Older programs can simply be upgraded to help SATA drives by use of adapters, corresponding to this PCI slot SATA controller and this 4-pin to 15-pin SATA energy adapter.

Optical drives are additionally changing into extra available with SATA connections. Drives such because the Plextor PX-712SA reap the benefits of the brand new interface, though the efficiency won’t be any better than a comparable optical drive with an ATA connection.


Along with being extra handy to put in and drawing much less energy, SATA drives have efficiency advantages that actually set them other than ATA drives.

Probably the most attention-grabbing efficiency function of SATA is the utmost bandwidth doable. As we now have famous, the evolution of ATA drives has seen the info switch charge attain its most at 133 MB/second, the place the present SATA commonplace supplies knowledge transfers of as much as 150 MB/second. The general efficiency improve of SATA over ATA can at the moment be anticipated to be as much as 5% (in line with Seagate), however enhancements in SATA expertise will certainly enhance on that.

The way forward for SATA holds nice issues for these wanting much more velocity, as drives with 300 MB/second switch charges (SATA II) can be available in 2005, and by 2008 speeds of as much as 600 MB/second could be anticipated. These speeds are unimaginable, and are arduous to think about at this level.

One other efficiency profit discovered on SATA drives is their built-in hot-swap capabilities. SATA drives could be introduced on and offline with out shutting down the pc system, offering a critical profit to those that cannot afford downtime, or who need to transfer drives out and in of operation shortly. The upper variety of wires within the energy connection is partially defined by this, as six of the fifteen wires are devoted to permitting the hot-swap function.


Evaluating ATA drives to SATA drives could be tough given the entire variables, however usually it’s the case that SATA drives will nonetheless price only a bit greater than a comparable ATA drive. The hole is closing quickly although, and as SATA drives achieve in reputation and availability a definite shift in costs could be anticipated. Contemplating the advantages of SATA over ATA, the potential distinction of some {dollars} can simply be justified when contemplating an improve. Laptop Geeks at the moment has a restricted number of SATA drives, however a number of technical websites, corresponding to The Tech Zone and The Tech Lounge, provide actual time value guides to see how comparable drives stack up.

Remaining Phrases

The present SATA commonplace supplies important advantages over ATA when it comes to comfort, energy consumption and, most significantly, efficiency. The primary factor ATA has going for it proper now’s historical past, because it has been the usual for thus lengthy that it’s going to not going disappear any time quickly. The way forward for SATA can be much more attention-grabbing as velocity will increase will assist arduous drive improvement maintain tempo with different key system elements.


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