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- Serial ATA Expansion Card
November 30, 2005, 8:33 pm
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I am considering getting a Serial ATA expansion card, for my current IDE
only system, simply as a simple way to add loads more disk space to my
Does anyone have any experience in adding a card like this to an existing
Will the machine attempt to boot from the card, and not the IDE disk?
Will there be any performance issues?
Any other suggestions / problems and advice appreciated.
The system is 2.6GHz P4, currently running 2 ATA133 HDDs and 2 CD/DVD
drives - hence no more expansion space.
Re: Serial ATA Expansion Card
The system will only attempt to boot from the PCI add-on card if you tell it
to, via a BIOS change.
In what sense? Only issue is that data will traverse the PCI bus. If you
used the built-in SATA controller of a modern mobo, depending on model,
you'd probably be able to bypass the PCI bus, and thus leave more bandwidth
for other PCI devices. But of course this is a moot point given your
current mobo. But in general, installation and setup is very straight
Frankly, most SATA drives today are EXACTLY the same an their IDE
counteparts, only difference is the interface. They have the same
mechanics, same performance, etc. Only exception is the WD Raptor line,
which is a different design (10,000RPM), so it's a definite improvement over
IDE, but you pay dearly for it too ($$$). But except for the Raptor, it
just doesn't matter all that much, SATA or PATA (IDE). Personally, I buy
what's cheaper, which has been IDE, but SATA is definitely coming down
closer and closer to IDE every day. I use a Promise FastTrak100 TX2 to
support up to 4 IDE HDs, plus RAID, pretty cheap off eBay ($30-35 shipped).
If you don't need RAID, you can save a few bucks w/ a Promise Ultra100 TX2
instead ($10-20 shipped). Believe me, IDE is gonna be around for a
looooooong time to come.
But if you want SATA, using a SATA add-on card works fine. Only
"complication" I foresee is if you intend to use one of the attached SATA
drives as a boot drive. Yes, you can boot from it if your BIOS let's you
choose that option (most do), but the XP install does not provide for SATA
drivers. Just make sure you have a floppy HD during XP install, and when
prompted for additional mass storage devices, you provide the SATA drivers.
If you don't have a floppy, you'll need to slipstream XP and the SATA
drivers instead. Instructions on how to do slipstream are easily Googled.
Re: Serial ATA Expansion Card
If the SATA expansion card has an onboard BIOS, when the computer
boots, the card's INT 0x13 service will be registered. If your
computer has options to capture INT 0x13 service (which some
manuals might list in decimal format INT 19), then chances are
you will be able to boot from the SATA card.
For example, on a P4P800 Deluxe motherboard, you have this option:
"Interrupt 19 Capture [Disabled]
When set to [Enabled], this function allows the option ROMs
to trap Interrupt 19. Configuration options: [Disabled] [Enabled]"
On an older P3V4X motherboard
"Other Boot Device Select [INT18 Device (Network)]
Configuration options: [Disabled] [SCSI Boot Device]
[INT18 Device (Network)]"
Different generations of Award or AMI BIOS will present these
options in different ways.
Also, see the discussion here about "Option ROM". There are
frequently problems with boot options and the use of multiple
controller cards. The problem is caused by running out of
low memory space (down in 640K country). Apparently the Option
ROM on the video card eats up quite a bit of the space.
Changing PCI slots might make a difference if you had several
PCI controllers - putting the one you wanted to boot from in
PCI slot 1, could cause it to be enumerated first and "win".
If your motherboard has some magic F key that causes a boot
menu to appear on the BIOS screen, the new adapter card disks
may show up there for selection.
The SIL3112 cards should be dirt cheap, if you can still find
one. The price of these is so low, I expect anyone making them,
has given up. Enjoy these while they last.
You could, for example, buy two of those cards, and then
experiment with flashing one of them. The SIL3112 can be operated as
a RAID controller or as a vanilla IDE. I believe in RAID mode,
you can still install an IDE driver into the OS, to see the
controller. The other option would be to set the card up in
IDE mode (dunno what advantage there would be). In any case,
be sure to snag a copy of the bottom package listed here. The
flasher tool is in there. (No, I haven't tested it...) YMMV etc.