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The word SATA, IDE and PATA are very common words in the computer world. If you are one of those that have the gift for details, you must have come across them at least once in your life as you read computer reviews. Whether you are doing research to get a new machine or just reading reviews to see which computer holds down the number one spot for the year, those words always pop up SATA, IDE, PATA. In layman terms, they are related to hard drives. So, let's see what they actually are.

PATA is another name for IDE. PATA and SATA are two different methods of connecting a hard drive to a computer. Therefore, if you are looking to buy a new computer hard drive, you must know which method your computer uses.

SATA is simply an acronym for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (Serial ATA, for short). Serial means that data is transferred one bit at a time in each direction.

Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment, PATA, is an interface. With PATA, data is transferred 16 bits at a time through a single 16-bit connection travelling in both directions. Although PATA transfers 16 bits at a time compared to SATA that transfers one bit at a time, PATA is slower.

Nowadays, technology has improved to the point that PATA interface can transfer as much as 133 megabytes per second. On the other hand, the modern SATA interface can transfer more than 600 megabytes per second.

There was a time that PATA was the interface of choice for optical disk drives (CD/DVD) and floppy disks. Today, many new machines come with SATA hard disk drives. It is common to find machines that come with both SATA and PATA (for optical drives) interface. Increasingly, as technology improves, we are beginning to see more optical drives available with a SATA interface. In summary, the PATA interface is becoming outdated.

A computer could be using either the SATA or PATA interface or both. Before you set out to get a new hard drive, you must know if the interface is PATA or SATA, except in those special cases were the machine uses both PATA and SATA interfaces. (Every computer uses either SATA or PATA interface or both.) Since your hard drive could be using the SATA interface, the next time you plan to change the hard drive, you must have that important information. You can check your motherboard documentation or manual to see what connections are available.

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