Hooking up Drive Data Cables

This one should be relatively easy.  There are two types of data cables for connection to storage devices, such as: solid state drives, hard drives, and DVD drives.

The first is the old version which is called IDE or EIDE, or ATA.  This is a 16 bit wide bus that transfers data from anywhere between 16 Mb per second to 133 Mb per second depending on which version your using.  Each IDE connector on the motherboard can hook to two IDE storage devices, a master and a slave.  Remember when we installed the DVD drives, we put a jumper wire over two of six pins to designate master or slave drive.  IDE stands for Integrated Drive Electronics, just a little tidbit.

IDE cable

IDE cable

IDE cables look like flat ribbons 2" wide with three connectors attached to the ribbon.  The cable is normally 18" long, but you can get round cables that go up to 36".  Round cables are nice, because they do not get in the way of other cables in the case, are more flexible, and do not redirect or impede air flow.

The three connectors on the IDE cable are spaced two close together and one at the othe end of the ribbon.  The stand-alone connector at the end goes to your motherboard.  The other two cables go to the master and slave drive.  There are 40 holes in the connector consisting of 2 rows of 20 holes.  One of the holes in the middle is blocked to let you know which way to insert the cable into the socket.  So do it.  Put the cable in the motherboard and the other end in your DVD drive.  If you do not have a 2 rows of 20 pins to put the cable into, then you probably have a SATA drive.  Read on.

SATA data cable

SATA data cable

Starting in 2007 a new horse rode into town for both power and data cables, called serial ATA, or SATA.  This is gradually replacing all the IDE ribbon cables, as you can get SATA DVD drives now.  SATA cables transfer data anywhere from 1.3 Gb per second (first generation) to 3.0 Gb per second (second generation) to 6.0 Gb per second (thrid generation), with the most common SATA hard disk drives transferring at 3.0 GB per second, at present.  Almost 22 times faster than an IDE cable, you can see why they are replacing the old technology.

SATA cables are much smaller than the IDE cable, although they are a little stiff.  The data connectors have only 7 pins with an L like notch on one end, so the connector will only go into the interface one way.  There is a slightly different SATA power connector which will talk about when we get to power cables.

SATA connector showing notch

SATA connector showing notch

Let's hook up the data cables.  There should be one SATA cable per drive to one socket in the motherboard.  Go back to your motherboard diagram and look for your SATA connectors.  They should be labeled SATA1, SATA2, SATA3, etc.  Your main drive, the one with the operating system should be connected to SATA1 and so on.  Go for it.

You should now have the data cables to all your drives attached to your motherboard.  Now that wasn't so bad.  Now all we have to do is get power to the system, something we haven't written about yet and the topic of our next post.

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