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Sata 101

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Drunken Master JNCIE Senior
Mar 16, 2004

Since it's cold and outside and I am unable to go to work, I am going to make this thread for information pertaining to SATA, as well as answer a few basic questions about SATA and its setup and speed.

SATA Information

SATA - Definition:
SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.
It is a newer computer bus to connect hard drives as well as some DVD Burners to the motherboard of a machine. Currently there are two specs for SATA – SATA I and SATA II – more on that later!

Predecessors to SATA:
The previous specification was called Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA).
PATA could only run up to speeds of 133 MB/s. This was because at higher frequencies, the data between the drive and the controller would start a phenomenon called crosstalk. This crosstalk would mess up data integrity meaning data would become easily corrupted. SATA is easily scalable from 150 MB/s (SATA I specs) up to 600 MB/s and was designed to replace PATA.

Differences between SATA and PATA:
SATA is a bit different compared to PATA.

Here is a list of some changes:
  1. SATA Cables are much thinner compared to PATA Cables - better airflow and easier to hide compared to PATA cables.
    [*]Cable length can be as twice as long as PATA - the cable can be up to a meter in length before losing signal strength.
    [*]SATA Cables and Power Connectors are different from PATA connections. The data cable has only 8 pins (compared to 80 pins of PATA) and can be inserted only one way into an SATA slot. The power connection has 17 pins (instead of a 4 pin molex).
    [*]Hot-Swapping, or removing a drive while the PC is still on, is an additional feature to SATA because of the design of the connectors.
    [*]Loss of jumpers - no more setting Slave/Master Configurations!
Revisions of SATA (SATA I and SATA II):
Another revision of SATA, called SATA II, is already available to the public. SATA II has the same features as SATA I (thinner and longer cable, hot-swapping, no slave/master jumper), as well as some extra features. However, you must have a SATA II Hard Drive and SATA II Motherboard or Controller Card to get the full benefits of SATA II.

Extra features of SATA II:
  1. Native Command Queuing (NCQ):

    • Allows the hard drive to optimize/prioritize its workload.
    • Allows for more data thoroughput and higher speeds - and has been shown to be faster than SATA I Raptors!

    • With the aid of a little device called a port multiplier, you can connect several drives to one SATA Port.
    • Important: this does not allow for chaining of drives, like USB or Firewire Drives.

In short:


PATA.............133 MB/s.........Thicker, shorter cable; no hot-swapping
SATA I...........150 MB/s.........Thinner, longer cable; has hot-swapping features
SATA II..........300 MB/s.........Same as SATA I, plus port replication and NCQ


Q1. Now what are the requirements for SATA?

A1. It is not much different from a regular PATA Drive.

All you need is:
  1. A SATA Drive
    [*]A SATA Cable.
    [*]An available SATA power connection on your power supply or a molex converter.
    [*]An available SATA port on your motherboard or controller card.
Most newer motherboards come with SATA connections. All you simply do is connect the drive cable to the port on your motherboard or controller card, then the other end to the hard drive, and finally connect the power connector on the hard drive.

Q2. Now what about the extra features of SATA II? How do I get those?

A2. You need a motherboard or controller card that supports the SATA II specifications. The NFORCE 4 Board as well as newer Intel boards (915 chipset?) supports these.

Q3. Now how do I install and format one of these drives in Windows XP or 2000?

A3. If you have an Operating System already installed, then simply connect the drive like mentioned above and format the thing.

To format the drive:

  1. Right Click on: My Computer > Manage.
    [*]In the Left Pane of the Console select: Storage > Disk Management
    [*]You should see your new drive. Right Click on it and select Format.

CAUTION: Formatting a drive erases its contents entirely. Make sure you are formatting your new drive and not one of your other drives!

Q4. Hey, I can only see a portion of my hard drive and not all 200+ gigs!!! What gives?

David said:
Recently a lot of people have been asking why their drive does not appear to have as much space as it was advertised as having. This can often mean drives are showing up a few gigabytes smaller than advertised. There are two possible reasons for this.

1) Manufacturers say "Gigabyte" when they mean 1,000,000,000 (10^9) bytes. When your operating system says "Gigabytes" it means 1,073,741,824 (2^30) bytes. This means in your OS the drive appears smaller.

For example, Samsung 120GB hard drive = 120,000,000,000 bytes.
120,000,000,000 bytes = 111.76 Gigabytes, 8GB less than advertised.

2) Windows XP, without Service Pack 1 or a suitable modification, will not see more than 137GB on one drive. If your drive is more than 137GB in size and is showing as 137GB then this is probably your problem. This is a limitation in Windows XP that is fixed in service pack 1.

To fix this problem:
See this article

From the linked article:
Windows XP SP1 includes 48-bit LBA support for ATAPI disk drives. With this support, you can use hard disks that are larger than the current 137 GB limit. By default, support is enabled in SP1. To determine if you are running SP1, right-click My Computer and then click Properties. On the General tab, Service Pack 1 will be listed under "System."

And if you dont want to install SP1:
redduc900 said:
You'll need to enable "Large Drive Support" by editing the Registry. Expand the following branch...

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | SYSTEM | CurrentControlSet | Services | atapi | Parameters

In the RH pane, you'll need to add a new DWORD called...

EnableBigLba...with a DWORD Value of 1
Note: If you have installed Windows XP which has only seen a 137GB drive, created a 137GB partition and installed windows in that partition, you will need to create a new partition to use the newly available space.
For example, you have a 200GB drive. You created a 137GB partition and installed WindowsXP on it. You apply the fix/install SP1. To use the extra space you now have made available, go to Control Panel -> Admin Tools -> Computer Management -> Storage -> Disk Management section, and create a partition in the space now available.

Q5. I need to install my drive without an Operating system. Windows XP does not see the drive in Setup… what gives?

A5. You must add some drivers to the XP Setup so that the Setup can find the drive.

Here's how to do it!

  1. Download the latest drivers from your manufacturer’s website for their SATA controller and put them on the floppy.
    [*]Run setup from the XP CD
    [*]At the bottome of the screen you should see a prompt to press F6
    [*]Press F6 and have that floppy ready
    [*]Wait a few moments and Setup will help you load the set of drivers
Setup will now see your drive!

Q6. Can I use my original PATA drive with a SATA drive?

A6. Yes!

Q7. What about PATA to SATA Adaptors? What are they, and are they a smart choice for my system?

A7. These small converters that use a controller chip to convert parallel signals (from the PATA hard drive) to a serial signal. In fact, many of the first SATA drives were no more than PATA drives with a built-in SATA converter!

  1. Use of a thinner cable
    [*]No need to upgrade a driver or mess with the OS
  1. The converters only allow for roughly about half the SATA I spec of 150 MB/s available for the drive.

Q8. Now everyone is talking about this Western Digital Raptor. Why does everyone like it?

A8. Currently, it is one of the best drives for price, storage, and performance. It runs at 10,000 RPM, unlike 7200 RPM of most drives. This increase of rotational speed allows for more data to transfer at a faster rate. However, with a SATA-II controller, SATA II drives will be able to be as fast as a SATA I Raptor.

Q9. How do I switch SATA RAID Controllers?

A9. Thanks goes to Super Nade for this one :D
In this example we will switch from a VIA RAID Controller to a Promise RAID Controller.

Using the PROMISE controller or switching from VIA to PROMISE:
A lot of people have questions on how to activate the PROMISE controller or switch over from the VIA controller without reformatting their HDD. This is how it's done: (You need to have your XP install CD)
  1. Copy the PROMISE SATA drivers to a floppy.
  2. Turn off your computer and switch your HDD to the PROMISE controller
  3. Turn on goto the BIOS; Advanced > OnBoard Devices Configuration > Onboard Promise Controller [Enabled] > Operating Mode [IDE]
  4. In the BIOSchange Boot priority to CD and exit BIOS
  5. Pop in your XP CD and press F6 (look carefully for the message at the bottom of the screen)
  6. Pop in your Floppy and let XP copy the PROMISE Drivers.
  7. Exit install when asked for.
  8. We are done!
[*] If the above method doesn't work, follow the same steps only let XP repair the existing installation. You should not lose any data.

Q10. How long can a SATA cable be?

A10. The SATA cable can be up to 1 meter in length before the SATA signals start losing strength.

Q11. Can a SATA drive really acheive constant 150 MB/s?

A11. Simply put, no. However, the extra bandwith is useful for when drives can hit those speeds as well as for RAID Setups.

Q12. Are SATA II Mobos compatible with SATA I hard drives? And can SATA II hard drives work on a SATA I motherboard?

A12. Yes, SATA II motherboards are fully compatible with SATA I hard drives. And SATA I motherboards can use SATA II hard drives, but they will not have access to NCQ and port replication. (Special Thanks goes to CarRamrod for pointing this out to me!)

Useful Links/Sources

Useful Links:
SATA Controller Reviews
Official SATA Specifications
StorageReview.com SATA Drive Comparisons
Integrating Silicon 3112 Drivers to your Windows XP CD
nLite - A Utility To Integrate Drivers (Including SATA Drivers)

PCWorld Article on SATA II
WikiPedia Definition: SATA
WikiPedia Definition: NCQ
TechRepublic:A Closer Look at SATA

Well, that’s about it for now. I may add a basic troubleshooting section later... keep your eyes peeled! I's also like to thank people who have given me advice (and added some question I forgot) and also another big thanks goes to Super Nade for helping me make it look pretty...
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Drunken Master JNCIE Senior
Mar 16, 2004
Airbornederekc said:
nicely done. if u got any information on the use and the pros and cons of the pata to sata adapters that might be usefull to this thread too

I just added those. Thanks for the tip!


Drunken Master JNCIE Senior
Mar 16, 2004
Of course... especially when your car is buried underneath the snow and you cannot go anywhere...


Drunken Master JNCIE Senior
Mar 16, 2004
Ok, I added a few more things and cleared it up a little bit... let's see how this goes...



Jan 5, 2004
Denver, CO
Nice guide!

One question, you say you can use SATA cables up to 1m?! Is there any signal loss as you go? I see some 39" ones on Newegg, and i could really use the added length, but not at the cost of performance. Do you know anything about this? Thanks.


Feb 26, 2003
^^^ if that is the cse you coudl make your own external harddrive case :D get a SATA card and have 4 cable running out - keep your case even cooler. - mmmmmmmmmmmm


Drunken Master JNCIE Senior
Mar 16, 2004
Sucka said:
Nice guide!

One question, you say you can use SATA cables up to 1m?! Is there any signal loss as you go? I see some 39" ones on Newegg, and i could really use the added length, but not at the cost of performance. Do you know anything about this? Thanks.

Nope. No signal loss at any range from 1cm to 1m. PAst that, you can have data integrity issues.

Super Nade said:
N00b Additions requested:

//begin Noob

You can't get an IDE HDD to work in SATA mode. AFAIK nobody has. No adaptors exist nor will they be of ony use.

//end N00b :D

For ppl with 2 SATA controolers follow this procedure if you want to swap controllers.

Scroll down to Point #16.

Good Guide, dark_15!

Thanks for the addition! Do you mind if I add that to the top post?
Last edited:


Jan 5, 2004
Denver, CO
dark_15 said:
Nope. No signal loss at any range from 1cm to 1m.

Awsome, thanks. The default ones look to be around 18" so we're talking almost double the length here, can't wait to wire them up and not have to look at them anymore :p

Super Nade

† SU(3) Moderator  †
Aug 30, 2004
Santa Barbara, CA
Sure! Please do!
You may need to do a bit of formatting and coloring :)
pm me and I'll send Jigpu's super cool format I used.
I vote sticky!

Uploaded format.


  • template.txt
    3.6 KB · Views: 359
Last edited:


Drunken Master JNCIE Senior
Mar 16, 2004
i did a little bit of formatting... how does it look?


Jul 30, 2004
Another sticky vote here.

I also have a question. Are you really gaining much by choosing to go SATA because most drives can't sustain a transfer rate greater then 100mb/s anyways due to disc speed etc. Am I way off here?