Switching to SATA is an easy installation, if you know what to do. Unfortunately, I didn't. So what took me a week of hard work should only take you a few hours—most of which can be spent away from the computer because once you start the data transfers, you don't need to supervise them.
Mistakes I made:
- Using an early version of Debian Etch OS installer disk with an SATA driver that didn't work. If it won't install to your SATA drive, get a later version of your Linux OS. The right driver version may be in it.
- Using the wrong switches on rsync for data transfer between drives; specifically, I should have used -aHlv, not -aHlvu. As a result, the data that I wanted to overwrite the minimum installation of Debian wasn't overwriting, and I didn't know it. If you're writing over a just-installed filesystem to restore your original system configuration, you'll need to replace a fair number of configuration files to something other than system defaults.
The combination of these two errors meant a week of troubleshooting. Once I correctly did the procedure described here, my computer reverted to its predictable, boring self as soon as I rebooted after the old-to-new drive transfer.