SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachments) is the new standard for internal hard drives, and Apple has adopted it for use in all desktop Macs.
The main benefits in using SATA drives are that they offer much faster transfer speeds, hot plugability and are easy to set up. Before SATA drives, Apple used IDE (Parallel ATA) drives that required chunky ribbon connectors and supported up to two drives on each IDE chain. However, IDE drives have to be set up as Master or Slave devices by fitting each with a small, fiddly jumper pin.
So we've established that SATA drives are fast and easy to set up, but how do you fit them in a Mac that pre-dates the Power Mac G5? Apple SATA specialist FirmTek produces a SATA PCI adaptor card that can fit in a Power Mac.
This opens up an upgrade path to a whole range of ultra-fast, whisper-quiet hard drives. And because the FirmTek card supports 48-bit addressing, this means you can use hard drives that are larger than 137GB in Power Macs produced before the Dual MDD G4s. That means more storage space and easy installation.
The FirmTek card supports booting and is PCI-X-compatible for use with G5s, and it can address up to four devices at 1.5Gbits/sec. If you own a Graphite or Quicksilver G4, you can physically fit four drives into the bays and have up to 1TB of storage - including RAID.
You don't need special drivers for the FirmTek card - just a sixpin SATA cable to connect each drive and a spare power connector inside your Mac for powering each drive. Luckily, most Power Macs have a few spare power connectors or you can use a splitter to create an extra connection.
Our tests with the FirmTek confirmed that it does exactly what it says on the tin. Just fit the card, plug in the drives and off you go. It's a breeze to fit and could keep older Power Macs going for some time to come. Mark Sparrow