Author Topic: eSATA  (Read 982 times)

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« on: October 26, 2013, 04:07:09 PM »

At the October PCCC meeting, we discussed the eSATA connector that comes on most modern computers. Unfortunately, no one actually had any experience and all of our commentary was conjecture. So, I did some research and actually experienced an eSATA connection.

SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) is the connection that almost all modern computers use to connect to their drives. While SATA optical (ie: CD) drives are common, it is not unusual to find a middle-age computer that uses a SATA hard drive while the DVD is connected with the older 40- or 80-conductor PATA (parallel ATA) standard. Except for the data transfer standards and cables, SATA drives are functionally equivalent to PATA with a theoretically higher data transfer speed. Manufacturers might sell the same model in both versions with the only apparent distinction being the connectors. Conveniently, with SATA the cables and connections for 89 mm (standard 3.5 inch) and 64 mm (laptop 2.5 inch) drives are now the same.

So, what’s the deal on eSATA?

For a decade and a half all computers have come with an array of narrow slot-type jacks for connecting peripherals. Most of that time, these were standard USB 1.1 (1.5 Mbs or 12 Mbs) connections for mice, keyboards, and 256 MB flashdrives. Although USB 2.0 (280 Mbs) was released in 2000, Windows regularly told me “this device could run faster if you had a USB 2.0 port” through the mid-decade.

Now on the same plate with three to seven USB jacks may be other similarly sized slots. One might be labeled eSATA implying you could connect your hard drive to it. (Others might be labeled USB 3, HDMI, or have the interlocking “D” and “P” Display Port logo. Those are topics for another time.)

So, I got out my SATA drive and SATA cable and … I couldn’t connect it. Even though it looks very similar, the eSATA connector is slightly different from the internal connector. A flashlight and magnifying glass revealed that they are keyed slightly differently. While the internal connector has a right-angle notch, eSATA is keyed with extensions on either side of the connector. (Fig 1) Fortunately I had an eSATA cable that I had included on an order once when I was buying various other cables.

Fig 1.
wikimedia commons by Smial

Unfortunately all we’ve got is just a data cable and your connected drive isn’t spinning. Now I had to cobble together my AC hard drive power supply and a 4-pin molex-(1985-vintage power plug)-to-SATA 15-pin adaptor. Voila! My 3.5” bare desktop hard drive is connected at high speed as an external accessory to my laptop.

For all that effort, what do we have? A high-speed temporary connection on a newer computer for a drive that really needs to be in a case.

You can get a USB 3 to SATA adapter kit that includes the power supply for less than $50. This will transfer data just as fast as my setup with less fuss. And, it’s backward compatible and can be used with any computer. If you’re just trying to get a boodle of data out of your computer, for a little more money you can pick up a USB powered portable 1 TB drive that gives you the whole package about the size of a cell phone. (The portable drive is just a 64mm laptop drive in a case with a USB-SATA adapter. Crack it open, add cables, and you connect your own drive to the interface although it probably won’t power an older drive or an 89 mm drive.)

Bill Barnes

References: Thanks to Wikipedia for reliably providing details to all things technical. Send them $3 today and they’ll be set for the year.

Image credits: (
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« Last Edit: October 26, 2013, 04:21:07 PM by BillB »