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Upgrading and Repairing PCs Tip #7: An Overview of the Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) Interface

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In this excerpt from the 22nd edition of Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs, Scott covers the IDE interface, including definitions of ATA and SATA.

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From the book

The interface used to connect disk drives to a PC is typically called Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE); however, the official name of this interface is AT Attachment (ATA). The ATA designation refers to the fact that this interface was originally designed to connect a combined drive and controller directly to the 16-bit bus found in the 1984 vintage IBM PC-AT (Advanced Technology) and compatible computers. The AT bus is otherwise known as the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus. Although ATA is the official name of the interface, IDE is a marketing term originated by some of the drive manufacturers to describe the drive/controller combination used in drives with the ATA interface. Integrated Drive Electronics refers to the fact that the interface electronics or controller is built into the drive and is not a separate board, as it was with earlier drive interfaces. Although the correct name for the particular IDE interface we most commonly use is technically ATA, many persist in using the IDE designation today. If you are being picky, you could say that IDE refers generically to any drive interface in which the controller is built in to the drive, whereas ATA refers to the specific implementation of IDE that is used in most PCs.

ATA was originally a 16-bit parallel interface, meaning that 16 bits are transmitted simultaneously down the interface cable. A newer interface that has almost completely replaced this 16-bit parallel interface is called Serial ATA (SATA). SATA was officially introduced in late 2000 and was adopted in desktop systems starting in 2003 and in laptops starting in late 2005. SATA sends one bit down the cable at a time, enabling thinner and smaller cables to be used, as well as providing higher performance due to the higher cycling speeds it enables. Although SATA is a completely different physical interface design, it is backward compatible on the software level with Parallel ATA (PATA). Throughout this book, ATA refers to both the parallel and serial versions. PATA refers specifically to the parallel version, and SATA refers specifically to the serial version.

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