Explanation of IDE and SATA


IDE and ATA-1
Example of a 1992 80386 PC motherboard with nothing built in other than memory, keyboard, processor, cache, realtime clock, and slots. Such basic motherboards could have been outfitted with either the ST-506 or ATA interface, but usually not both. A single 2-drive ATA interface and a floppy interface was added to this system via the 16-bit ISA card.

The first version of what is now called the ATA/ATAPI interface was developed by Western Digital under the name Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE). Together with Control Data Corporation (the hard drive manufacturer) and Compaq Computer (the initial customer), they developed the connector, the signaling protocols and so on, with the goal of remaining software compatible with the existing ST-506 hard drive interface. The first such drives appeared in Compaq PCs in 1986.

The term Integrated Drive Electronics refers not just to the connector and interface definition, but also to the fact that the drive controller is integrated into the drive, as opposed to a separate controller on or connected to the motherboard. The interface cards used to connect a parallel ATA drive to, for example, a PCI slot are not drive controllers: they are merely bridges between the host bus and the ATA interface. Since the original ATA interface is essentially just a 16-bit ISA bus in disguise, the bridge was especially simple in case of an ATA connector being located on an ISA interface card. The integrated controller presented the drive to the host computer as an array of 512-byte blocks with a relatively simple command interface. This relieved the mainboard and interface cards in the host computer of the chores of stepping the disk head arm, moving the head arm in and out, and so on, as had to be done with earlier ST-506 and ESDI hard drives. All of these low-level details of the mechanical operation of the drive were now handled by the controller on the drive itself. This also eliminated the need to design a single controller that could handle many different types of drives, since the controller could be unique for the drive. The host need only to ask for a particular sector, or block, to be read or written, and either accept the data from the drive or send the data to it.



SATA was announced in 2000 in order to provide several advantages over the earlier PATA interface such as reduced cable size and cost (seven conductors instead of 40 or 80), native hot swapping, faster data transfer through higher signaling rates, and more efficient transfer through an (optional) I/O queuing protocol.

Serial ATA industry compatibility specifications originate from the Serial ATA International Organization (SATA-IO). The SATA-IO group collaboratively creates, reviews, ratifies, and publishes the interoperability specifications, the test cases and plugfests. As with many other industry compatibility standards, the SATA content ownership is transferred to other industry bodies: primarily the INCITS T13 subcommittee AT Attachment, the INCITS T10 subcommittee (SCSI), a subgroup of T10 responsible for Serial Attached SCSI (SAS). The remainder of this article strives to use the SATA-IO terminology and specifications.

Before SATA's introduction in 2000, PATA was simply known as ATA. The "AT Attachment" (ATA) name originated after the 1984 release of the IBM Personal Computer AT, more commonly known as the IBM AT. The IBM AT’s controller interface became a de facto industry interface for the inclusion of hard disks. "AT" was IBM's abbreviation for "Advanced Technology"; thus, many companies and organizations indicate SATA is an abbreviation of "Serial Advanced Technology Attachment". However, the ATA specifications simply use the name "AT Attachment", to avoid possible trademark issues with IBM.

SATA host adapters and devices communicate via a high-speed serial cable over two pairs of conductors. In contrast, parallel ATA (the redesignation for the legacy ATA specifications) uses a 16-bit wide data bus with many additional support and control signals, all operating at a much lower frequency. To ensure backward compatibility with legacy ATA software and applications, SATA uses the same basic ATA and ATAPI command sets as legacy ATA devices.

SATA has replaced parallel ATA in consumer desktop and laptop computers; SATA's market share in the desktop PC market was 99% in 2008. PATA has mostly been replaced by SATA for any use; with PATA in declining use in industrial and embedded applications that use CompactFlash (CF) storage, which was designed around the legacy PATA standard. A 2008 standard, CFast to replace CompactFlash is based on SATA.