Intro S-ATA

SATA (Serial ATA) is the new standard in which to connect Hard Drives and soon, Optical drives (DVDRWs, DVDROMS, CDRWS etc) to motherboards. SATA improves on the old IDE interface by offering faster transfer rates, neater cabling, and future-proofing (IDE will begin to be phased out in a few years). Although most SATA drives at the moment aren't any faster than standard IDE drives, new drives are emerging that offer faster transfer rates than IDE limits us to.

As SATA is a new standard there is some confusion over compatibility. Some PSUs (Power Supply Units) need adaptors to connect to SATA drives and older Motherboards don't have SATA support at all. To add to the confusion, when Windows XP was developed SATA wasn't yet a recognised standard so XP doesn't detect SATA drives when you are installing for the first time.

Here is a guide on how to get started with SATA and how to install XP on your new SATA drive:

Before you buy

If you are planning on getting a SATA drive first make sure your Motherboard supports SATA. If your Motherboard doesn't support SATA you can always get an SATA controller card but my advice is to avoid these.

What you need

SATA data cables

SATA drives use the new SATA interface and so don't connect to the Motherboard using normal IDE cables used by IDE HDs and optical drives. However, most Motherboard's come with 1 or 2 SATA data cables in the box and if they are not included you can purchase them separately.

SATA power cables

SATA drives also use a new type of power connecter rather than the standard 4-pin Molex connectors used by IDE HDs and optical drives. Most newly developed PSUs include the SATA power cables but if your PSU does not you will need an SATA power adaptor which can be found cheaply and easily.

Installing Windows

Once you have the drive(s) connected you are ready to start installing XP.

Master and Slave

Remeber since it's serial you can only have one device per SATA port/cable so SATA drives don't have jumpers. On the Motherboard SATA1 Port is for the primary device, SATA2 port is for the secondary device etc.

SATA controller driver

Your Motherboard or SATA controller card requires a driver to work properly. If you did not get a Floppy Disk with the SATA driver included with your Motherboard you will have to make one. The SATA drivers can be located on the installation CD that came with your Motherboard or preferably, download the latest SATA controller drivers from the manufacturers site. Once you have located the drivers copy them to a formatted floppy disk. Make sure they are in the root directory i.e. not contained within any folders.

BIOS settings

When you turn on the PC hit the Delete key when prompted and you will enter the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). Here you set the first boot device to be the CDROM drive, the option is usually found under the Advanced Options section but this depends on your BIOS and you may have to look around for it. Once you have done this save and exit.

Installing the SATA controller driver

Once you have set the PC to boot from the CD make sure the XP CD is in the CD drive and start the installation as per usual. Within the first minute or so of the installation Windows will prompt you to press F6 to install RAID or SCSI drivers, do this. Windows will continue to install then ask you to locate the driver. now with the floppy disk created earlier in drive A: select the driver and hit Enter.

With the SATA drivers installed you can now continue the Windows installation as usual.

BIOS settings revisited

Once Windows has finished installing you will need to make sure the PC is set to boot from the SATA drive. To do this make the first boot device SATA if the option is available. If not you have two options: HD0 - If there are no IDE HDs present, or SCSI if you do plan on running an IDE HD as a secondary device.


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