14.4 Installing an SATA Hard Disk

Installing an SATA hard disk is much easier than installing a PATA model because there are no Master/Slave issues or DMA configuration steps to worry about. You simply secure the drive to the chassis and connect the signal and power cables. Most systems recognize an SATA drive and configure it automatically. If the system doesn't detect the drive automatically, you may need to use BIOS Setup to force detection. The following sections describe the steps necessary to install an SATA drive.

14.4.1 Physical Installation

In terms of physical installation, the only differences between PATA and SATA drives are that they use different cables and connectors, that you don't need to set Master/Slave jumpers on SATA drives, and that each SATA drive connects to a dedicated interface port. To install an SATA hard drive, take the following steps:

  1. If the motherboard does not include an embedded SATA controller, install a PCI SATA host adapter card, such as those made by Promise Technology, Inc. (http://www.promise.com) and SIIG, Inc. (http://www.siig.com).

    A PCI SATA host adapter may require driver software supplied with the card.

  2. Connect one end of the SATA data cable to the SATA connector on the motherboard or SATA host adapter. Remember that SATA uses a point-to-point topology, so each drive is connected to a dedicated interface connector using an individual data cable. The data cable connectors are identical on both ends, so it doesn't matter which end of the cable connects to the SATA interface. The data cable is keyed to make it impossible to attach incorrectly.

  3. Secure the drive to the chassis using four mounting screws of the proper size (usually UNC 6-32), driving the screws through the side or bottom mounting holes. If the screws were not supplied with the drive, make sure they are not too long. Excessively long mounting screws can damage the drive. If you're unsure, test the screws by screwing them into the mounting holes using only your fingers. If the screws seat fully without resistance, they are short enough to be safe.

  4. Connect the interface and power cables to the drive. The cable and drive connectors are both keyed to prevent installing the cable incorrectly. Depending on the physical arrangement of the drive and chassis, it may be easier to connect the cables to the drive before you secure the drive to the chassis.

The only problem you are likely to encounter when installing an SATA drive is that most power supplies do not have SATA power connectors. The solution is to use an SATA power adapter, one of which may be bundled with the SATA drive. If the drive did not come with an SATA power adapter, you can buy one at any well-stocked computer store or through an online vendor.

14.4.2 CMOS and OS Setup

After you physically install the SATA hard drive, restart the system and run BIOS Setup. If the SATA drive is not listed, use the BIOS Setup autodetect feature to force detection and restart the system again. Depending on the motherboard, the system may or may not recognize the new drive, as follows:

Motherboard without native SATA chipset support

Motherboards made before spring 2003 lack native (chipset-level) SATA support. Transition motherboards produced in late 2002 through July 2003?e.g., the Intel D845PEBT2 and the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe?use an embedded third-party controller chip such as the Sil 3112A to provide SATA support. Some systems add SATA support with a PCI SATA host adapter. Accessing the SATA drive on most such systems requires a driver.

For a new Windows 2000/XP system that is to boot from the SATA drive, insert the driver diskette when the operating system setup utility prompts you to install third-party storage drivers. For Windows 9X, follow the instructions provided by the motherboard or SATA interface manufacturer. If the SATA drive is a secondary drive on an existing system, use the OS driver update feature to load the SATA driver after the system boots to the original primary hard drive. If the SATA drive and interface don't appear on the list of IDE/ATA devices, which they probably won't, examine the list of SCSI devices.

Motherboard with native SATA chipset support

Recent motherboards, such as those that use Intel Springdale-family chipsets, recognize and use SATA interfaces and drives automatically. After you install the SATA drive, restart the system and run BIOS Setup. The new SATA drive should be listed as an installed device. If it is not, run autodetect, save the changes, and restart the system. The drive should then appear in the installed devices list unless the drive, cable, or interface is broken.

Some motherboards with embedded SATA interfaces offer SATA configuration options in BIOS Setup, and others do not. If you are adding an SATA drive to an existing system as a secondary drive, you should not have to alter BIOS settings. If you replace the boot drive, you may need to change boot order in BIOS Setup to allow the system to boot from the SATA drive. Depending on the BIOS, the boot order screen may list the SATA boot setting as SATA, the drive model number, or SCSI.

If the motherboard has embedded SATA interfaces, you are normally prompted to install any necessary drivers when you first start the system. If you didn't install these drivers during motherboard installation, you should be prompted for them during Plug-and-Play enumeration. Before you install an SATA motherboard, it is a good idea to visit the SATA controller manufacturer's web site to download the latest SATA drivers for that controller.

If a properly installed SATA drive is not recognized by the operating system, verify that BIOS Setup is configured properly and that you have loaded and enabled the latest driver for the SATA controller you are using.

14.4.3 Optimizing SATA Transfer Rate

Unlike PATA drives and interfaces, which may use various PIO and DMA modes, SATA drives and interfaces use only the 150 MB/s SATA transfer mode. You don't need to configure settings manually. If the SATA drive is running at all, you can be sure it's using optimum settings.