In part one I covered ‘Why use eSATA?’ In part two I’m covering ‘How to use eSATA’ The presumption is that you want to add additional external drives to your current setup. Maybe you are a laptop user or have run out of internal space in your computer but still want super fast disk access (speaking to you, gamers). Whatever your case, here’s a guide to getting in with eSATA:
First you need a generic internal SATA HDD. 2.5 or 3.5 will do. Newegg has 500GB drives for around 100 USD. Don’t buy less than 500GB. When you buy a SATA disk also buy an eSATA to eSATA cable as your disk will not come with this cable. I recommend the Kingwin 2.9ft eSATA Retractable Cable (eSATA to eSATA) for under 5 bucks. Any eSATA to eSATA will do as long as it supports 3GB transfer rate.
Don’t buy less than 500GB. Seriously, this is the smallest drive you should even consider these days. Put back the 250/320GB that looks cheaper.
Buy a cradle to slot your drive into. The cheapest eSATA cradle, works on USB too, is here; “2.5” and 3.5″ SATA HDD Stage Rack” for sale on GeekStuff4U.com
Alright, with me so far? Now we have a choice depending on if you are on a laptop or using a desktop machine. Here’s how to put in the final piece of the puzzle, the bit that goes inside your computer:
Almost all medium and high end modern laptops (regardless of OS) will have a PCI-Express slot on them, the MacBook Pro does for example, but the MacBook does not. So first check if you have that slot on your laptop. If you don’t then stop now, you can’t add eSATA to a laptop without that port. The port looks like this on the MacBook Pro:
So what do you throw into that slot? Well any hardware I recommend will be outdated by the time I type it out. So while I will give you hardware choices they will only really be valid for Q1 2008. I always suggest that you run this Google Search anyway. You need a card with the following characteristics:
# Provides 1.5Gbps and 3.0Gbps data transfer rates; compatible with SATA-I/1.5Gbps or SATA-II/3.0Gbps hard disk drives
# Supports operating system and software-based RAID or JBOD configurations
# Check your OS of choice is supported
I got one off eBay for 39 bucks. I recommend you do that or get a Firmtek card, they are decent quality and can be found for around 100 dollars. Plus the Firmtek card works with OS X, Windows and Linux.
You’re going to have to crack open the case, search out a PCI-Express slot and plug in either a PCI or PCI-X/PCI card. Get your main/motherboard manual out and check what you have. A cheap but good PCI-Express card is the SYBA SD-SA2PEX-1E1I PCI Express SATA II Controller Card. Why that one? It supports just about every main OS going; Operating Systems Supported: Support Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003/XP 64-bit/Vista, Linux, Mac OS. When buying a card, check it is 3GB (SATAII) and eSATA and that it had drivers for your OS.