I use a couple of old machines as file servers. My criteria for them are cheapness and reliability. Speed is pretty irrelevant, as new drives will saturate even gigabit ethernet anyhow. PATA drives are never as cheap as SATA drives, so, I grabbed a couple of 640GB WD Caviar Black at Newegg for $45 each a while ago. (... after the Micro$oft Bing cashback.)
Then, the question was what converter to use. USB enclosures waste space and power and are generally a pain, and one of the machines doesn't even have USB. Similarly, one only has 2 PCI slots, so I don't want to waste one on another HDD controller. SATA/PATA converters are very cheap, but I couldn't find a single review of them anywhere! So, so I thought I'd try some. Here are my results so far. Each cost me about $2 on ebay:
A. Bi-directional converter. Marked FZX5003. Black. Square. Plugs into motherboard.
Appalling. Has one SATA connector for each direction, so wastes a whole IDE channel for one drive. Then the drive goes down to non-UDMA mode. While I said speed was pretty irrelevant, reducing drives to 1/20 their usual speed while increasing CPU use is just useless.
B. Marked HXSP-071218. Green. Plugs into HDD.
Flaky. Can work on some VIA IDE chipsets. Hangs whole PC at random when connected to Promise IDE chipsets. Is sometimes detected on boot, or not. Makes drive Master even if it's on the slave position on cable.
C. Based on Marvell 88SA8040. Red. Plugs into HDD.
Nice! Runs perfectly and gets 80MB/s sustained throughput. Master/Slave is jumpered, but it works. Only oddity is that it causes the controller (Promise Ulta100/TX2) to indicate disk activity permanently. There's one here, but I paid much less.
As a number of the commonly available converters are crap, I'd be interested in information on any others. ... Even better if this site would be a comprehensive review of them!