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How to prevent common problems in SATA drives

Problems in SATA drives generally stem from one of two causes. This tip will tell you how to prevent both.

What you will learn from this tip: The best ways to prevent problems in SATA drives due to BIOS incompatibilities or faulty cabling.

Serial ATA (SATA) drives are a popular, lower-cost alternative for less-demanding storage array applications. Although SATA is based on the well-known IDE specification, there are enough differences that a SATA drive can cause problems.

The most common problems with SATA drives come from BIOS incompatibilities. Lack of the proper BIOS often shows up by producing random blue screen errors when the system comes out of sleep mode. When installing SATA drives, make sure that the system has the latest version of its BIOS with SATA support. According to IBM, this is likely to happen with systems running Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP.

Cabling is the next most common source of trouble with SATA. SATA uses a cable to connect each individual drive to the controller. There is no master-slave relationship, as there is with IDE, and thus no need to set jumpers or terminators when installing an SATA drive. In fact, some SATA drives have jumper blocks or terminators near the interface connector. These are set in the factory, and should not be changed. Make sure the connectors are properly seated and making good contact.

IBM has an application note titled "Troubleshooting Serial ATA (SATA) issues -- Servers and IntelliStation" which covers the basics of installing and troubleshooting SATA drives. It is available at:

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About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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