Kremmen

SATA HDD to PATA IDE motherboard converters

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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!

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Sadly I think the day and age for these products is largely past, but it is good to know. :)

For those at the leading edge, sure. For those who just want to add more space on an old machine, or have a drive fail, they're more and more appealing the more SATA drives come down in price and improve in performance. (... given that PATA drives are generally around US$80 for 500GB as WD is about the only game in town.) The 2000 listings on ebay for SATA converters (some of which will be for connecting IDE disks to SATA motherboards, though) demonstrates how much market there is.

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heh, the last of my P3's are hitting the recycling center right now, and just about everything newer has SATA onboard, even if it's off of a nasty Silicon Image chip. :)

If you want any low-end P4's with SATA, you're welcome to dig in my scrap heap.

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If you want any low-end P4's with SATA, you're welcome to dig in my scrap heap.

How long before that P4 chews through more power than the $2 converter costs? ... A week? :)

(... Not to mention that a tualatin P3 is better than a low-end P4 and doesn't need a fan the size of a mountain.)

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Well, Tualy' P3's weren't exactly common. I have a ton of Coppermines I'm tossing, but not so many Tualatins or even Tualer-ons. :P

The fact that you have some is pretty awesome. :)

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Well, Tualy' P3's weren't exactly common. I have a ton of Coppermines I'm tossing, but not so many Tualatins or even Tualer-ons. :P

The fact that you have some is pretty awesome. :)

Partly lucky. I've got one machine that I bought second hand, running a 1GHz coppermine P3. A couple of years ago, I checked the motherboard specs and saw it was designed to take P3-S chips too, so I grabbed a 1.4GHz P3-S for a buck or two from China. Funny enough, they are more expensive on ebay now! Runs really well. (... even though all the caps have burst.)

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I'm using two myself to convert pata drives to sata connectors

Abit Serillel II

Syba bi-directional

The abit one has worked perfectly since I got it 2 or 3yrs ago with a motherboard purchase (Abit is no longer selling them)

The Syba one works perfect also (had it for 5 months), but I had to re-solder the cable to a molex because it was annoying and stuck out too far

I thought I fried my motherboard the first time I installed the Syba one. I had started it up with the switch in the wrong direction, and even after reversing the switch the system refused to boot for an hour or so ... be careful there! Have not tried it with a sata drive in an older motherboard yet.

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I'm using two myself to convert pata drives to sata connectors

What's the throughput like? The thing that amazes me is that converters (when they work) are much faster than SATA controllers. e.g. For the drive I mentioned above, 80MB/s with a converter, 63MB/s on a Sil3114-based 4-port controller and 60MB/s on a VT6421A-based SATA/IDE controller. (measured by hdparm under Linux)

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I'd guess that the IDE controller built into the motherboard chipset had more bandwidth available to the northbridge and CPU/RAM than the early SATA controllers (even the ones soldered to the motherboard) that would have shared the PCI bus with every other external chip and PCI device.

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Yes, Spod's right. The Sil3114 and VT6421A you mentioned are both PCI controllers so they'll not only share the PCI bus bandwidth (~100MB/sec) between all devices on the controller, but also between everything else on your system as well. IDE/PATA controllers have been integrated into the chipset for a decade so they'll communicate directly over the FSB which is much faster than PCI.

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Kremmen writes:

>> The thing that amazes me is that converters (when they work) are

>> much faster than SATA controllers. e.g. For the drive I mentioned

>> above, 80MB/s with a converter, 63MB/s on a Sil3114-based 4-port

>> controller and 60MB/s on a VT6421A-based SATA/IDE controller.

>> (measured by hdparm under Linux)

Spod writes:

> I'd guess that the IDE controller built into the motherboard chipset

> had more bandwidth available to the northbridge and CPU/RAM than the

> early SATA controllers (even the ones soldered to the motherboard)

> that would have shared the PCI bus with every other external chip and

> PCI device.

The bandwidth available is one potential bottleneck, but is not

the only one. Some controllers are just slow. The Sil3114 is

first generation and is known to be slow. The second generation

(3124, 3132) is faster.

Reading from the disk's RAM buffer:

121 MB/s (SiI 3132 PCIe-x1)

164 MB/s (JMB 363 PCIe-x1)

253 MB/s (nforce4-ultra chipset)

If the PCIe-x1 connection were the only bottleneck, the

SiI 3132 and JMB 363 should achieve approx 250 MB/s.

And the nforce chipset should be able to achieve approx 300 MB/s.

(In fairness, it might be the drive's limit rather than the nforce.)

Source code for the test program I used is here:

Real world transfer rates are of course lower than these numbers,

I wanted to see what the limits were.

--------

When I had a PATA-SATA bridge installed, it connected at 100, and read fine at 100,

but got write errors. I had to downgrade the speed from 100 to 66 to get rid of

the write errors. Yes I had the correct length 80 wire cable.

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Spod writes:

> I'd guess that the IDE controller built into the motherboard chipset

> had more bandwidth available to the northbridge and CPU/RAM than the

> early SATA controllers (even the ones soldered to the motherboard)

> that would have shared the PCI bus with every other external chip and

> PCI device.

The bandwidth available is one potential bottleneck, but is not

the only one. Some controllers are just slow.

Quite right. I should have mentioned explicitly: The 80MB/s I get off a converter is when connected to a Promise PCI IDE card, so the PCI bandwidth restriction is identical.

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Old topic, I know, but this saved me from buying a crap ebay adapter, which I was literally one click away from doing. First, I wanted to say Thanks for the review. Second, I looked around, and the Marvel based adapters can be had HERE for about $7+S&H. I paid $17 for two. It's not the $2.50 ebay ones from HK, but you get what you pay for. ;)

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