No IDEa about hard drives
September 11, 2005 2:47 AM   Subscribe

Can I add more than just four IDE devices to my PC?

I've got a stack of old hard discs knocking around here, and it seems a waste to just ditch them. Is there any way I can use them in my PC?

Logically I must be able to (or else why fit PCs with four 5inch and six 3 inch bays) but IDE cables only support two devices. What gives?
posted by twine42 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Add IDE adapter cards to taste.

Season with IDE cables.

Fold in hard drives until power supply starts to brown.

Serves one.
posted by pjern at 2:52 AM on September 11, 2005

In other words, each IDE channel in your PC supports a maximum of two IDE devices, which is why the cables only have slots for two drives. Most PCs come with two IDE channels, hence four devices.

You can buy additional PCI IDE cards which have 2-8 channels on them, for varying costs.
posted by Jairus at 3:00 AM on September 11, 2005

Response by poster: Ah, thank you. There had to be a sensible answer - now just to track one down for a sensible price.

Follow on question - does anyone know why motherboard manufacturers seem to have standardised on two IDEchannels?
posted by twine42 at 3:06 AM on September 11, 2005

My guess would be that most manufacturers assume you need more than two devices, but less than six.

For the controller itself, you probably want this or this, depending on how fast you need your data.
posted by Jairus at 3:13 AM on September 11, 2005

Personally, I'd go with an external USB or Firewire hard disk enclosure. They're dirty cheap, easier to install, and they turn your spare HDs into portable, plug-and-play drives --- very useful should you ever plan on taking huge chunks of data on the road.
posted by Goblindegook at 3:14 AM on September 11, 2005

You probably know this (but just in case): As an alternative you could buy a small usb-attachable external hard drive enclosures. You just stick the hard drive you want to use in the case and plug it in to your pc, basically like a really clunky (but presumably gigful) pen drive.
posted by sic at 3:27 AM on September 11, 2005

Motherboards generally have two IDE channels because most PCs have two IDE devices: a disk and a DVD drive. There is a large performance hit if two devices are placed on the same channel and used simultaneously.
posted by ryanrs at 5:14 AM on September 11, 2005

Well I don't know about you guys, but the last two or three motherboards that I bought had 2 normal IDE connections and then 2 RAID IDE connectors. With minimal fuss I use those RAID connections for extra IDE hard drives just like twine42 is trying to do. At one point I had 1 optical drive, 1 Zip drive (ugh), and 4 hard drives all living peacfully together.
Short answer: take a look at your motherboard, this might be easier than you thought.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:19 AM on September 11, 2005

PS: if you go whole hog and find your power supply is not up to the task you can install a second power supply to power your additional drives.
posted by Mitheral at 7:37 AM on September 11, 2005

My old mobo was set up like Who_Am_I's. My new mobo has two SATA connectors as well as two IDE connectors, which annoys me to no end because only one of my drives is SATA. If you're talking about a serious number of drives, I'd look for some kind of network attached storage device, RAIDing or software RAIDing them all together so they're actually useful as one, and mounting it as a network share.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:55 AM on September 11, 2005

Note that most parallel IDE add-in cards can support ATA devices (i.e. hard drives), but not ATAPI devices (i.e. CDROM drives or DVD+/-R(W) drives.)

ATAPI as a language is a superset of ATA, and many add-in cards do not speak all of ATAPI, only the ATA bit.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 10:32 AM on September 11, 2005

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