Building in a Serial
ATA Drive"> Of course, before you can benchmark a drive, you actually have to install it and get it running. That proved to be more of a chore than we expected. Using a Serial ATA drive in your system can be somewhat problematic. If you want to simply add an S-ATA drive as a secondary or tertiary drive, its fairly simple to bring up -- attach the drive, boot up, install the driver into the OS and off you go. Oops, not quite. There is the issue of the power connector.
If you examine the picture closely, youll note that the power connector isnt the familiar 4-pin, Molex 12 volt connector weve all wrestled with. Instead, its an edge connector, that looks a bit like a wider version of the S-ATA data connector. While many motherboards now ship with motherboard down Serial ATA support, and even supply you with data cables, almost none of them supply you with power adapter cables. No off-the-shelf power supply currently has connectors for S-ATA power plugs either. We did find two Gigabyte motherboards with adapters for using the drive external to the PC, but this is somewhat limiting. What you need is a Molex 12V to Serial ATA power converter cable.
These are not widely available in your local clone shop yet, though now that S-ATA drives are shipping, you should be able to find them soon. However, SIIG, who manufactures a line of S-ATA PCI adapter cards, kindly supplied us with several. The SIIG S-ATA host adapter kit ships with one inside the box.
Once you get power and data to the hard drive, the next step is to connect it to the motherboard. The edge connector is keyed, so you cant install it the wrong way. If you examine the motherboard connector, youll see the L-shaped key on one side of the connector.
Plugging the connector into the motherboard is literally a snap -- certainly easier than trying to line up and push down that pesky parallel ATA cable. Once in, the connector and cable take up very little room.
When installing Windows XP, we had to do a clean install -- simply copying over a partition wouldnt work, due to the dreaded "Stop 0x0000007" error. This particular error usually indicates that the mass storage device isnt recognized properly by Windows. So you have to install from scratch, making sure you have a floppy with the proper Serial ATA host adapter drivers handy. Its much like installing a SCSI host adapter.
As Serial ATA becomes more commonplace, its likely to be built into the operating system. There are currently three major suppliers of S-ATA chipsets: Silicon Image, Promise and Marvell (though the Marvell chip is really a parallel-to-SATA bridge chip). Once the standard is built into the core logic, an update to the OS will likely be needed.
Serial ATA support for Linux is well under way. Last August, driver source was released for the SiL 3112. Theres no word yet on Linux support for the Promise S-ATA controller. You can check out support for the SiL chip at the Linux IDE project.