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SATA or Serial ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) is the next
generation drive interface, following the traditional Parallel ATA (PATA).
Anyone who has looked into a computer is familiar with the flat, 40-wire parallel cables that connect the hard drive, CDROM and other devices to their controllers. PATA has been the standard and has served well, but it has also had shortcomings. Cables length limited to 18 inches (46 cm)often made connections difficult and also clogged cases blocking airflow, while cooling has become essential. Though rounded cables became available, the most advanced PATA drives (Ultra ATA/133) hit the maximum parallel transfer rate of 133 MB/ps. With the speed of CPUs, RAM and system buses improving, designers saw PATA would soon be slowing advanced drive efficiency in system architecture.
Serial ATA has definite key advantages over PATA. Cables are very thin with small 7-pin connectors. They can be up to 3 feet (1 meter), and are easily organized and help airflow inside the case. SATA also has a far lower power requirement of just 250 mV compared to PATA's 5-volt requirement, and with chip core voltages declining, this speaks well of SATA's future. Setup is greatly simplified, and the technology even allows drives to be removed or added while the computer is running.
One major advantage of SATA compared with IDE(PATA) is the available capacity of the hard drive. This capacity, or "density," is based on the number of sectors that can be placed on the spinning disks inside the hard drive. The maximum capacity of these drives has not increased in several years as the development for the older IDE technology has stopped.
In contrast, as hardware developers have shifted their focus to SATA drives, the capacity of this format has increased. It is common to find SATA hard drives with space measured in terabytes, or 1,012 gigabytes. These high capacities cannot be easily achieved using IDE technology.
Another advantage for SATA, and disadvantage for IDE, is hard drive speed. Depends on the speed, drive can read data slower or faster. A device may have massive storage capacity, but if it cannot be accessed in a timely manner, the data is useless.
SATA technology was developed with speed as a primary focus. The first version of SATA had a maximum speed of 150 megabytes per second, which was later increased to 300 megabytes per second. For comparison, IDE hard drives have a speed of only 130 megabytes per second, which is less than half the amount.
For basic computing tasks such as word processing, hard drive speed is not as important. However, for high-demand applications such as video editing and gaming, the speed becomes more critical. The speed SATA drives allows makes them valuable for more demanding users even with a higher prices.
Compatibility is another consideration for hard drives. This indicates the ability of a drive to work with different devices. When it comes to compatibility, neither IDE nor SATA has the complete advantage. Instead, each has advantages for different kinds of compatibility.
For users looking to stay on the cutting edge in the future, however, SATA has better compatibility. This format is used more often in newer systems. In fact, almost all newly manufactured computers will not work with the older IDE format. Using SATA ensures new devices and upgrades will work well for years to come.
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