Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older PATA interfaces?

23 replies [Last post]
LivingInThePast's picture
Offline
Joined: Sep 26 2014
Posts: 3

I'm going to be upgrading the hard drive on an old-model Mac, but before I make a purchase, I want to research my options. At this point, I know for certain that the computer's drive interface is ATA-2 and that I will need to buy a drive that has a PATA, not SATA, interface. What I'm not certain about is whether or a modern drive would be sufficiently compatible with such an old interface.

I do have a background in both electronics and programming, so I could do detailed research about the differences between ATA standards, but I thought I would see if anyone out there has enough (accurate) knowledge to address my questions, thereby allowing me to avoid engaging in more in-depth research.

So here are my questions:

Are all PATA standards backward compatible?
In other words, if I buy a drive that complies with an ATA-4, -5, -6, -7, or -8 standard can I plug it into an ATA-2 interface and expect the drive to function?
If there are any incompatibilities among the different generations of ATA standards, are they merely speed-limiting issues or are there differences in the functionality of the pins that might cause permanent damage to the drive or the computer?
For that matter, since drives tend to be sold independently of computer systems, are there any PATA variations that I should watch out for (that might have manufacturer-specific pin configurations)?
I've noticed that some sellers are listing drives with the tag “PATA II”. Does anyone know exactly what the “II” refers to? Does that mean it's ATA-2 compliant, or is it some other marketing designation that some manufacturer concocted?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
eeun's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 1891
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I've never experienced incompatibility with ATA drive variations. The devices are billed as backward-compatible, so a later ultra-ATA drive, for example, will drop its speed down for a slower ATA interface.

40-pin cable pinouts, slave/master/cs jumpers should be compatible across the standard.

Which Mac are you upgrading? Some have a few caveats with ATA drives for boot partition size, master/slave support, etc. Low End Mac is a good place to check for any specific issues by Mac model.
http://lowendmac.com/profiles.htm

__________________

"Give a man a fire, he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life."
(Terry Pratchett)

LivingInThePast's picture
Offline
Joined: Sep 26 2014
Posts: 3
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Thank you for the response. I suspected (without extensive research) that there probably wasn't a problem with using 2014-vintage PATA drives in a 1995-vintage computer, but I wanted to be sure. I did a cursory Internet search for evidence of backward compatibility and nothing relevant jumped out. I thought I would throw out some forum posts before diving into any further research.

I noticed that OWC, who makes SSD replacements, doesn't offer anything for pre-G3 PowerBooks, so I think I may ask them why that is the case. I was just concerned that Apple may have done something non-standard with the wiring on 5300/1400/2400/3400 PowerBooks. I don't think the drivers in the OS would be an issue; that generation of PowerBooks can support up to OS 9.1.

I'm going to be collecting some other old Macs in the coming months, but (for now) I wanted to be sure I could buy a PATA SSD for a PowerBook 5300c without wasting my money on an expensive drive that I might not end up using.

I also noticed that the later ATA standards require an 80-conductor cable to reduce noise, but an old interface isn't going to be clocking the drive that fast anyway, so I'm not going to replace the cable.

The maximum-partition-size problem usually isn't an issue. I always create a boot partition that has the same formatting and size as a hard drive that would have been originally sold with the computer, and I keep the other partitions under 8Gs or less. There really isn't much point to putting a massive 1T drive in such an old computer anyway. The software of that era didn't exactly generate massive data files.

Oddly, I placed this exact same post on another Mac forum and I got numerous responses telling me that my topic was too broad, my question was far too 'highly technical', and that I was over-complicating the problem. Wow. Apparently, some forums aren't engineer-friendly.

Eudimorphodon's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 21 2003
Posts: 1204
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Just tossing this out there...

IDE to Compactflash adapters are becoming an increasingly popular upgrade for older ATA systems; an eight to 32GB compactflash card is relatively inexpensive and usually consumes less power than the original drive, making them a good upgrade for laptops. There *are* sometimes issues with card compatibility but if you get a brand-name card your odds are usually pretty good.

If you were upgrading an old PC instead of a Mac you might have to worry about your BIOS choking on drives larger than (take your pick, 512MB/2GB/4GB/8GB/32GB/128GB, depending on the age of the system) but so far as I'm aware the only one of those numbers you *may* have to worry about is the 128GB one.

mmphosis's picture
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2005
Posts: 316
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I bought a 16GB solid state drive for an iBook G3 and it did not work. I think that the drive was meant to be used with a digital camera. The drive was cheap at about $35 compared to other name brand solid state PATA drives that cost hundreds of dollars. I ended up putting a regular spinning drive in the iBook.

http://www.applefritter.com/content/solid-state-drive-ibook-g3

I appreciate Eudimorphodon mentioning the IDE to Compactflash adapter. The price of those has come down since the time when I was looking into this.

Eudimorphodon's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 21 2003
Posts: 1204
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Doing a quick search of various forum posts (in various locations) it looks like most people have no trouble using CompactFlash adapters in older Powerbooks; I vaguely recall reading someone's account of having issues with one that they were able to trace to their card presenting a media identity string that... again, only vaguely recall but it was something along the lines of the card appearing as if it had multiple LUNs, which confused the formatter, but that may have actually been a case of a CompactFlash adapter stacked on top of an IDE-SCSI adapter in a *really* old Mac. (Can't find that particular thread again.)

There are also SD-to-IDE card adapters that may be worth a look, since SD is *really* cheap these days, but compatibility may be more hit-and-miss. One thing to remember about any of these solutions (granted, probably not a huge deal) is the performance isn't going to be super-fantastic; they may be slower than a good spinning disk, particularly for writing, and I wouldn't really recommend doing virtual memory on Flash. But for running OS 7/8/9 with appropriately non-challenging software they should be fine.

gsmcten's picture
Offline
Joined: Oct 4 2005
Posts: 2626
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I placed an IDE to CFFA Adapter with a 4 Gig CF in my PB 5300cs and have had no problems with it for more than three years.
She comes up first time, every time.

Steven Smile

__________________

Steven (gsmcten)

"Apple ][.....It's ALIVE!!!!!"

mmphosis's picture
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2005
Posts: 316
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Replacing the hard disk on an iBook G3 was an elaborate process, lots of tiny parts, and many pages of detailed instructions.

The new 16 Gb SD drive (not an adaptor) came with a single MS-DOS formatted partition. The first time the System Installer formatted it, the process failed. From that point forward, I could not format the SD drive as the System Installer / Disk Util would not recognize the drive. Open firmware would see the drive, but I don't know how to format a drive using Forth.

I was using the Installer from a Mac OS X CD-ROM, maybe the Mac OS 9 Installer might work.

Those adaptors look like the way to go.

bushnrvn's picture
Offline
Joined: Jan 15 2012
Posts: 186
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

http://eshop.macsales.com/search/IDEA%20ATA%20PATA%20SSD

Expensive but worked well in my iBook G4.

EDIT: Note to self: learn to read.

Not sure how this will fair in a mid-90's mac.

__________________

WTB IIgs accelerator

mmphosis's picture
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2005
Posts: 316
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Thanks, I think a more expensive SD drive might have worked too. And, those have come down in price since then.

Searching around, the prices are way lower for adaptors...
291175211456 - US $2.46 (free shipping) 2.5" 44-Pin Male IDE HDD Hard Disk Drive To CF Card Adapter for Laptop PC

Dual CF card reader, one for the system, one for recovery...
131028611190 - US $3.68 (free shipping) 2.5" Compact Flash CF to 44 pin 2.0mm IDE Male Adapter Converter

I have lots of SATA drives and connectors, this might also be an option?
191374885143 - US $0.99 (free shipping) 2.5" SATA SSD or HDD Drive to IDE 44-pin IDE adapter

I am not selling these (and buyer beware), just some examples of low cost adaptors.

Offline
Joined: Jan 16 2015
Posts: 3
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I know this thread hasn't been contributed to in a while, but I just had to put my two cents in...
I have a 1995 model Gateway2000 P5-133XL (1993 chips on the board and old PIIX IDE controllers), and currently listening to music on it as I type this, all playing off a 300 GB IDE hard drive, purchased brand new in 2009 or 2010, so I'd say that's pretty new.... You shouldn't have much of a problem, now, whether IDE is future friendly in terms of availability, However, I have seen alot of SATA - IDE adapters for sale in various places online, to adapt SATA devices to IDE...

Offline
Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 832
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I'm reviving this zombie post. If you have any updated advice, please share it.

I'm upgrading a G4 Alum Powerbook 1.67Mhz with an SSD drive. based on this and other discussions on AF, the SD memory and an 2.5" IDE to SD card adapter seems to be the way to go. I always try to go with SanDisk with flash memory. If I understand correctly, the bus on this hinky computer can handle only a 320GB drive. I would like to max it out, but I think the SD cards go from 256GB in a jump to 512GB without stopping at 384GB. This seems to be the cheapest way to go. I have looked at the dual CF card adapters which would get me closest to the optimal disk size without waste. But CF cards are expensive. (BTW why is that?). Any help is appreciated.

Eudimorphodon's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 21 2003
Posts: 1204
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I don't think there's anything about the IDE bus in a late PowerBook G4 that limits it to 320gb; I'm pretty sure that "limit" is simply a reflection of there being no native PATA 2.5" hard drives that large. ATA-6's 48 bit addressing makes the physical limit something unbelievably huge like... 128 petabytes? There's no reason a 512GB volume shouldn't work.

Offline
Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 832
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Hmm. Okay, thanks. That adds a wrinkle. I was starting to waffle on the project when I saw that I could get a 320GB Western Digital PATA 2.5" drive new for about $150. New. I don't really trust WD drives too much. Seagate, yes, WD, not so much.

Anyway I want the reliability, low power consumption, and speed of an SSD. So now the question is which flavor of memory, SD, CF, or 1.8" SATA do I choose? Right now the SD's are looking reasonable price wise (as previously mentioned in this thread). Of course I want reliability/longevity, so SanDisk is the preferred maker. Any caveats about these adapters? I have the feeling that the slowest memory IC's will still be faster than the bus can keep up with.

Offline
Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 832
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I just thought I'd post what I've found. Samsung EVO850 msata ssd drives seem to be one of the more reasonably priced reliable options, with an adapter.

Eudimorphodon's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 21 2003
Posts: 1204
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Be aware if you're intending to run OS X on this card said OS is pretty hard on disk what with all the swappin', and inexpensive MLC NAND SD cards (and CompactFlash, for that matter) don't have *that* many write cycles, even factoring in wear leveling. (It's not at all unusual for the numbers to be as low to 5-10 thousand cycles.) This isn't just a theoretical concern, word of mouth from users of SD-card based computers like the Raspberry Pi suggests it's not unusual to have cards start to fail after a year or two. An SLC flash SSD will probably last longer and be faster as well.

(Note that SLC-based SD and compactflash *is* available, but it costs about an order of magnitude more than the cheap stuff.)

mmphosis's picture
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2005
Posts: 316
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Nope.

I bought a "MSATA TO IDE" board. I would need an MSATA SSD to plug into it. I thought that if I could get this working I would acquire more of these little adapter boards.

I waited months, maybe half a year, and when shipping was free, I jumped at getting a MSATA SSD! Shipping is often more costly than the actual item. In my haste, I bought M.2 MSATA SSD -- a smaller type of MSATA SSD. Sad

Offline
Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 832
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Thanks for the info. Is there a way to determine the amount of memory loss due to write cycles over time? 10GB/year of typical use? When I'm looking at a 1TB drive, that doesn't seem terrible.

Also, are the rewrite cycles lessened by having/using the earlier simpler versions of OS X? Like OS 10.4 versus OS 10.5 for example? 10.5 was when they introduced Time Machine. Also aren't MacBook Airs SSD hard drive based?

Eudimorphodon's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 21 2003
Posts: 1204
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

mutant_pie wrote:

Thanks for the info. Is there a way to determine the amount of memory loss due to write cycles over time? 10GB/year of typical use? When I'm looking at a 1TB drive, that doesn't seem terrible.

So, the short answer is "it doesn't really work that way". An SD formatted in HFS+ and running an old version of OS X isn't just going to magically get smaller as blocks start hitting their wear limit. Unless you're running a modern OS *AND* using an SSD that supports the more sophisticated wear leveling protocols that can use the whole disk your sparing pool is going to consist solely of the 5-10% of the total capacity that the card has set aside in the hardware before you start. (This set-aside is why SD cards generally format out to significantly less than their claimed capacity.) and very time OS X swaps out a page of memory or updates a filesystem directory it's going to plow through those set-asides. And it really doesn't take that long, and these are SSDs. SD cards usually use simpler-minded wear leveling algorithms and have smaller set-asides., which is why this article from 2011 is still relevant. When it finally exhausts its set-aside pool you're going to end up with a corrupted filesystem (since the write failure is very likely to happen inside a directory structure rather than an individual file) and most likely lose everything at once. So keep it backed up.

Quote:

Also, are the rewrite cycles lessened by having/using the earlier simpler versions of OS X? Like OS 10.4 versus OS 10.5 for example? 10.5 was when they introduced Time Machine. Also aren't MacBook Airs SSD hard drive based?

Yes, MacBook Airs have SSDs. They also support TRIM* and they have real SSDs, not SD cards. Any version of OS X that runs on PowerPC doesn't know anything about how to be nice to an SSD.

(* Note that TRIM's primary purpose is to improve performance by avoiding the phenomenon of write amplification, but it also has implications for wear leveling if the drive is smart enough to use all space marked as "free" in its leveling pool.)

Really, how long it will last in practice is going to depend a *lot* on the usage pattern of the system. If you're using the machine solely for period-appropriate software and not trying to web surf on it maybe it'll hold up for a few years. Again, though, I wouldn't trust your only copy of any data you care about to an SD-based filesystem.

Offline
Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 832
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

"and they have real SSDs, not SD cards. Any version of OS X that runs on PowerPC doesn't know anything about how to be nice to an SSD"

How about a Samsung EVO850 msata? It's relatively modern and made to be used as a hard drive.

Eudimorphodon's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 21 2003
Posts: 1204
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Honestly, it'll probably be fine as long as you don't expect it to last forever. The saving grace of putting on in a PowerBook G4 is the fact that the system is so slow that even if it's going completely nuts writing to swap it's probably not going to manage to wear out the flash in less than a couple years. Those Samsung drives *do* use a less reliable version of flash memory (something called "TLC", vs the more common "MLC") that's only rated for a thousand cycles but supposedly the wear leveling controller on the drive is smart enough to do on the fly data migration to spread out the wear more evenly than the simpleminded algorithms used in flash cards so there's at least a decent chance it will last its five year warranty.

Offline
Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 832
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

Eudimorphodon, thanks for the helpful information. I do appreciate it. Is there a reasonably priced series of MLC msata hard drives that you recommend?

Regarding "as long as you don't expect it to last forever." Of course that's an issue too. I think that most of us here are trying to tie back the hands of time. Smile Assuming that you don't have an alternative recommendation for me, which do you think would be more durable for this Powerbook; The Western Digital 320GB PATA (standard mechanical HD 5400RPM) or a Samsung 500GB msata?

What do you know about the OWC ssd's? http://eshop.macsales.com/search/ide+2.5

mmphosis's picture
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2005
Posts: 316
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I appreciate you all posting about the issues with using SSD with older hardware/operating systems.

I just found an adapter which should work with the little SSD that I accidentally purchased...

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/SINTECH-M-2-NGFF-B-M-Key-SATA-SSD-to-44pin-2-5-IDE-adapter-card-with-case-/321532216470?hash=item4adcd04496:g:sAIAAOSwQItUImVx

mmphosis's picture
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2005
Posts: 316
Re: Are newer PATA drives backward compatible with older ...

I was swapping RAM between G4 Mac minis today. And, before closing things up, I dug out the old Kingspec 16GB SSD that has been sitting in a drawer unused.

I swapped out the spinning drive with the Kingspec 16GB SSD that I very much doubted would work. Booting up a 10.5.1 Installer, much to my surprise Disk Utility could see the Kingspec drive! Reformatted, and installed the OS and so far it seems to be working in the G4 Mac mini.

I really wanted this to work in the old G3 iBook, but four years later I am happy something works. Smile