85. What Is the Difference between SATA and ATA (PATA) Hard Drives?

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We are all living in a computer era and it always pays you in many ways to know more about these wonder machines that have completely changed our lives. Hard drives are an integral part of your computer and they may be either SATA hard drives or PATA or IDE hard drives. If you have an older system you will be having PATA or IDE hard drives and if you have purchased one recently it will be of SATA type. Do not get baffled by these technical jargons they are nothing but the interface with which your hard drive is connected to the computer.


SATA and PATA refer to the interface that is used for connecting the hard drive to your computer’s motherboard and as an ordinary computer user these does not make much significance as both work well. Apart from this you must be aware that your computer will use one of these and when you are about to change your Hard drive or Motherboard you have to take care to buy the one that matches with the other.


By interface we mean, the way in which components are connected to your computer and simply mean the electrical connections that are used in connecting the hard drive and your computer. The computers of the present days will have either a 3.5 inch SATA or 3.5 inch PATA hard drives working in your computer.
Here see the two types of interfaces that are in use today

3.5 inch SATA (left) and PATA/IDE (right) drives


From the picture above you can see the physical difference between a SATA drive and PATA drive.

SATA drive has a pair of flat connectors one for the power and the smaller one for making data connections.
But the PATA drive uses one larger connector with many pins for data transfer and the old four pin power connector.  This is the main physical difference that structurally differentiates between a SATA and PATA hard drive. Due to this major design difference the interfaces are completely different and cannot be made compatible and hence you cannot mix and match between them.


Performance wise both are equally good with very little difference that can be felt by an ordinary computer user. But SATA is preferred over PATA for certain basic performance enhancing parameters and for this you have to know how each one of these function.  SATA stands for Serial ATA and this implies that in hard drives using this interface the data is sent to and received from the computer serially one bit at a time through a single connection that works in each direction. In a SATA drive you have a separate connection for data going into and out of the drive and the computer.


Whereas, PATA stands for Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment and often called as Parallel ATA. In this interface data is sent in 16 bit pockets at a time using a 16 bit connection that takes the data in both directions.
While it may seem PATA is faster in data transfer, but in practice, SATA transfers more data in the range of 150, 300, or 600 mega bytes of data per second as per the version of the interface being used. PATA drives can transfer only up to 133 megabytes per second and due to this SATA drives are more in use today as the storage capacity and the amount of data transfer required are becoming large.


Here are the main differentiating factors between the older disappearing PATA and the new emerging SATA hard drives.

When you are replacing your hard drive or related equipment or trying to move your existing hard drive into an external hard drive enclosure, you have to be careful in getting the interface that matches with the available interface as you cannot make these interfaces compatible with each other.

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