Internal SATA & External IDE Connected as SATA to P4PE

Discussion in 'Asus' started by ray_woodcock, Aug 12, 2005.

  1. ray_woodcock

    ray_woodcock Guest

    I have several internal IDE drives connected to an ASUS P4PE
    motherboard. I also have an internal SATA drive connected to the first
    of the two SATA connectors on that mobo. This arrangement continues to
    work just fine.

    As I dimly recall, it was something of a hassle to get the internal
    SATA drive working properly. I ultimately set it up as a FastTrack
    array of one drive. That seems to have taken care of whatever problems
    I was having.

    Now I have a new addition to the system. I have purchased an external
    IDE drive enclosure. The enclosure I have purchased is a member of the
    Metal Gear Box series by PPA International. See

    This enclosure has the interesting feature of having both USB 2.0 and
    SATA connectors. For a small additional cost, I thought it would be
    good to have the option of SATA's much higher data transfer rates.

    I thought the upper limit on SATA II was 300 MB, but I am running into
    webpages that seem to say it is 150 MB. See"sata i" OR "sata ii" 150 OR 150mb

    I think the P4PE, which I installed in early 2003, must have predated
    SATA II. So I assume its SATA connectors are SATA I. So when the
    Metal Gear Box advertises itself as having a 150 MB upper limit, I
    guess that is something that might matter to me sometime in the future.
    But for now, I assume I am restricted to SATA I speeds when connecting
    a SATA drive to the P4PE.

    Yet it is my impression that even SATA I speeds are substantially
    faster than USB 2.0. I have already used the USB 2.0 connector to hook
    up the Metal Gear Box enclosure, and have verified that the P4PE system
    is able to see the drive that I have put into that enclosure. But now
    I would like to try to get the SATA I connection to work.

    Note, again, that the drive I have placed into the enclosure is an IDE
    drive. The data and power connections inside the enclosure are IDE
    connections, not SATA. As I understand it, the sole purpose of the
    external SATA connection is to speed up the transfer of data between
    the motherboard and the external IDE drive.

    I say it is an external SATA connection, but that is not quite right.
    To my surprise, the rear end of the Metal Gear Box enclosure sports an
    internal SATA connector, not an eSATA connector. I will be pleased if
    I don't have to buy a shielded external cable, but I am also a little
    concerned about the noise effects that may impact data transfers
    through an exposed internal cable. But I can get by with exposing only
    about one foot of internal cable, between the computer case and the
    external drive, so this may not be a problem.

    What is a problem, at this point, is that the system does not recognize
    the external drive when I use the SATA connector. As I say, the USB
    connection works OK, but I want that SATA speed if I can get it. The
    question is, can I?

    I have taken the time to write up this careful explanation of the
    situation because it seems that I have one or two complications. One
    complication is this atypical situation of using a SATA cable to
    transfer IDE data. I hope I don't have to set jumpers in any certain
    way. If I'm going to have to crack open the case and play with jumpers
    each time, I might as well have just used the drive internally and
    skipped the purchase of an external enclosure.

    Another complication is the whole matter of configuring the internal
    SATA drive as an array of one. On boot, the FastTrack controller does
    see both drives; it's Windows Explorer that doesn't. The controller
    reports that the second drive is in a "Free" status -- which, I can
    assure you, is not an apt description of the amount I have spent on
    this little enterprise. How to convert that free drive into a more
    agreeable condition of enslavement, I don't know.

    I am concerned about the Metal Gear Box's evidently mixed reviews. For
    example, I hadn't run across the page at while doing my initial
    exploration. What I saw was the Newegg reviews at
    I do rely on Newegg. I don't think they tend to sell junk. But I am
    missing something here.

    The unit did not come with any printed documentation. There is a CD,
    but it contains drivers and information that seems to be oriented
    toward Windows 98 users, whereas I am running XP.

    So if anyone can tell me how to hook this sucker up, I would be most
    grateful. Best regards ...
    ray_woodcock, Aug 12, 2005
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  2. ray_woodcock

    Paul Guest

    The Taiwan candy factory rolls on... Products without docs...

    This page led me to the following review...

    Here is a review that included a picture of the controller board.

    Controller board picture

    Chips used - Prolific PL-2507 IDE-USB chip

    Sil3611CT80 SATA-PATA chip

    Judging by the Prolific datasheet, the two chips will fight
    for control of the drive. What this means, is you cannot have
    both the SATA and USB cables plugged in at the same time.
    The PL-2507 documents seem to suggest the Prolific chip will
    "grab" the drive, the instant the USB cable is plugged to
    the host. The SIL3611 is probably unaware that there is
    another master on the bus. While there might be some
    hidden custom communication between the chips, it just might
    be that simple (two independent chips, unaware of one another).
    (I don't have the SIL3611 datasheet to check further.)

    I would suggest unplugging power from the external enclosure,
    to ensure it gets reset. Unplug the USB cable.
    Plug in the SATA cable, between host (like a SATA controller
    card with PCI faceplate SATA connector, so the cable will
    reach) and the drive, and then the computer should be able
    to see the drive via the SATA bridge chip SIL3611. As long
    as the PL-2507 cannot sense the presence of a USB cable,
    it should remain "asleep".

    As for mixing bridge chips with motherboard SATA controllers,
    at least Intel does not approve of it. There were products like
    the "serillel" adapter, for converting a PATA drive to have a
    SATA interface, but Intel doesn't guarantee the resulting SATA
    will work with an Intel Southbridge. I think this is just Intel
    being cautious (worried about having to deal with tech support
    issues), rather than there being a problem.

    I just googled on SIL3611, and someone mentioned that the
    Abit serillel2 adapter uses the same chip. When you use your
    external enclosure, plugging in the external enclosure power supply,
    and connecting a SATA cable from the enclosure to the host computer,
    it is the equivalent of this product:

    Notice in this picture, that Abit suggests setting the PATA
    disk drive to "Master". Maybe that will help ?

    Paul, Aug 12, 2005
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  3. ray_woodcock

    Paul Guest

    It just occurred to me. The "Free" status means you haven't
    declared the new drive as "an array of one", like your other
    drive. Maybe once the drive has been set up by the RAID BIOS
    screen, it'll appear in Windows, ready to go ? Maybe there is
    some Fasttrak software you can run while in Windows, to change
    the status from "Free" to "array of one" ? If you are not
    careful, the RAID BIOS could try to combine the new drive
    with the old one...

    I wouldn't recommend the path you are taking here, as when using
    the USB option, the drive interface is "vanilla IDE". When
    connected to the Fasttrak, the Fasttrak could be using
    a "reserved sector" to store the RAID info about the drive,
    Depending on which interface you were using when you
    formatted/partitioned the drive, a partition could become
    invisible when plugged to one of the interfaces. Since you
    have no data on the drive yet, if you insist on using the
    Fasttrak and the USB methods with the enclosure, you may want
    to test for interoperability once the drive is set up in Windows.
    Connect to USB, set up multiple partitions, shut down, connect
    to SATA, see if all partitions are present. Put one test file
    on each partition, and see if the file stays there.

    (I had an experience with a 20378 using its "ATA" driver, and
    a Southbridge port, where the first partition disappeared when
    my drive was connected to the 20378. It reappeared again, when
    I moved the drive back to the Southbridge. That has made me
    nervous about mixing RAID controllers and normal controllers,
    no matter what "ATA" drivers are used for the RAID controller.)

    A product like this one, uses a SIL3112. There are two ROM files
    available for the SIL3112, one supporting RAID features, and
    the other one does not. I assume this product has the non-RAID
    ROM. I don't know if the reserved sector function is non-existent
    with the non-RAID ROM or not. The main benefit of this product,
    is the SATA connector on the PCI faceplate, which means you will
    have more cable to work with.

    VANTEC SATA PCI Card Model UGT-ST200 (SIL3112 based)

    Shielded SATA cables are intended to reduce electromagnetic
    interference. The twisting together of the +/- signals in
    the SATA data pairs (internal to the cable), helps to control
    EMI from the SATA signals themselves, but any common mode
    coupled signals can travel out on the cable. Turn on your TV set,
    and attempt to receive non-cable (broadcast) signals. Observe the
    TV with and without the SATA enclosure connected, to determine
    whether EMI is going to be a problem for your neighbours. You'd
    be surprised how much radio interference comes out of computers
    (due to such things as the inadequate common mode filters used
    on the 120V AC interface on an ATX PSU). Every computer cable
    is a potential antenna.

    Paul, Aug 12, 2005
  4. ray_woodcock

    ray_woodcock Guest

    Bingo! I hit Ctrl-F at boot to enter the FastBuild utility. I chose
    the option to Define Array. The "Free" drive was the only option
    appearing there. I changed the N to a Y. I guess this made it form a
    second array. On reboot, it recognized it just fine, using the
    internal/external SATA cable described earlier. No problems so far.

    I had read some reviews by people who complained that the Metal Gear
    Box worked fine, first time, but then Windows Explorer no longer saw
    it. I think they were using the USB connection. Anyway, that happened
    to me too. The first time I used USB, fine, great, there was my drive.
    In reboots, though, I have not seen it when using the USB connector.
    So this SATA connection option has saved the day for me.

    Now I have to figure out what diagnostics to use to do a surface test
    on these SATA drives. The Seagate Seatools that I just downloaded
    earlier today is calling the SATA thing an unidentified controller.
    Something like that, anyway. Maybe I already have something on one of
    the CDs I got from Seagate or ASUS back when I bought the hardware, 2-3
    years ago. But as I recall, all I've ever seen is an earlier version
    of Seagate's Seatools.

    Thanks for the responses. Diagnostics aside, I am all set to go.
    ray_woodcock, Aug 14, 2005
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