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I have a Dell 2350 I am upgrading. I want a 1TB or greater HD, but of course this Dell only uses IDE HDs. I have found an option of using an SATA to USB adapter. Has anyone done this before and if so how were your results? Would you recommend this for my situation?

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Another option would be a PCI card SATA II adapter

Examples can be found here:

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and this would allow me to hook the drive directly to the slot inside - and not have me connect a USB to the outside of the case? – HollerTrain Mar 16 '10 at 16:08
@HollerTrain: bingo. does require a free PCI or PCIe slot, but it'll be internal, and it's the fastest you'll get with your current motherboard. – quack quixote Mar 16 '10 at 18:04

Will this new 1+TB hard drive be used as a system drive?

  • If so, no, don't use SATA-to-USB. Use a PCI(e) SATA controller card or a SATA-to-IDE adapter. (A PCI(e) card is preferable to an IDE adapter.)

  • If it's only used as a data drive, USB is OK. It won't be as fast as the PCI or IDE options, but it'll work.

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this isn't to say that you can't use a SATA-to-USB drive as a system drive. i just don't recommend it for a general desktop OS, unless you have a specific use in mind. – quack quixote Mar 16 '10 at 16:02
it will be used as primary drive... – HollerTrain Mar 16 '10 at 16:07
@HollerTrain: then don't go USB (..unless you plan to move it from computer to computer. and your motherboard supports booting from USB.) – quack quixote Mar 16 '10 at 18:06

Fair warning: You may have better luck with a PCI or PCIe SATA card. Dells aren't very expandable, but they all still have PCI slots.

If the motherboard can boot off USB, the OS will handle having the drive attached by USB (Linux will), and the SATA->USB runs at 2.0 speeds, it might just be crazy enough to work.

Oh, and you'll need one of these:

  • unpopulated USB pin header on the motherboard (wait, this is a Dell, they don't do things like that),
  • a PCI USB card (on second thought, don't bother, vanilla PCI->USB is way too slow for this application...PCI-SATA might do better...),
  • or re-routing an external cable to inside the case (easy but ugly)
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so just buy my HD and the usb connecter and I'll be gtg? – HollerTrain Mar 16 '10 at 16:01
Do this first: If you can boot off a USB flash drive, THEN AND ONLY THEN should you consider buying stuff. – Broam Mar 16 '10 at 20:51
If you're on Windows, you want this link:… As of note, Fedora 12 is out. – Broam Mar 16 '10 at 20:52

There are three possible hassles I can think of:

  1. Not all older machines support booting from USB. If you plan to use a USB connected drive as the system drive for Windows this will scupper your plans
  2. Getting Windows to install to (and boot from) a USB drive usually requires some hacking, so unless you are planning to use Linux (or some other alternative) this may be a problem.
  3. Transfers to/from USB drives tend to top out at around 25MByte/sec in my experience. Some USB->PATA/SATA adaptors seem slower still (I have a cheap one that seems limited to 10Mbyte/sec either way). This is noticeably slower than modern drives are capable of transferring data.

For speed reasons alone I would recommend a PCI based SATA controller instead, or just using a PATA drive (they can usually still be purchased at around the same cost as the equivalent SATA models).

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