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I have a couple of dead PCs from my wife's office that have working SATA HDDs. Sorry, I don't know if they're SATA I or II, just that they're SATA. Unfortunately, all my spare hardware at home is pretty old; all I have is IDE support.

I was thinking I could get a PCI addon card on the cheap that would support SATA and put together a budget server of sorts to play with and be able to use those drives. So I've got a couple questions:

After some searching it looks like I can get an addon card for ~20 bucks, but it looks like they're all SATA I? Would that matter? It looks like going to SATAII bumps the price up to $40-$60 or so.

Are there any recommendations on a card to get?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

A SATA II drive should work just fine with a SATA I controller. The drive and the controller should autonegotiate. If not, the drive might have a jumper to force SATA I.

Don't worry about SATA II. Only a late model high capacity / high performance drive would be able to exceed the SATA I interface speed. Even if you had such a drive, you're going to be limited by the PCI bus. Get the best reviewed card you can find for the money you want to spend and don't worry about the interface speed.

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Watch out for shoddy cheap chipsets. I don't recommend VIA-based cards. Look for Silicon Image chipsets -- SiI 3124 is a good chip, but there are others. The SiI 3124 is a SATA-II chipset.

I've had good experiences with Promise IDE chips but haven't had direct experience with their SATA chips.

If you're looking at a card that doesn't identify the chipset it's using anywhere, on the seller's site or the manufacturer's, it's not worth buying. Identifying the chipset means you can research driver support for your OS and Google around for problems other users have had.

Update:
I do recommend a SATA-II chip over SATA-I. Remember that SATA-II doesn't just mean 3.0Gb/s vs 1.5Gb/s. It also means NCQ, and hotplugging, and port multiplier capabilities if you get the right chipset. NCQ is a Very Good Thing(tm), though it's drive dependent. The others, eh, maybe you won't need them.

I'd also recommend more ports over fewer. Even if you only plan to use 2 ports, buying a 4 port card means that you have 2 spares. Buying a 2 port card means if 1 breaks, you get to decide which drive you want to plug in. This isn't to say that you need to go out and spend hundreds on a server-quality 8-port card; just that spare ports are never a bad thing to have.

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Interesting, I'll check that out. Yeah, I was actually planning on using this as part of a linux server, so it would make sense to check the drivers. My plan is to use an IDE drive for the OS and repurpose the SATA drives as empty storage. –  Peter Tirrell May 6 '10 at 17:15
    
@edmicman: ha! that's exactly what my sii3124 card was gotten for, and pretty much where i put my drives (older IDE as system drive, new large SATA as data storage). i splurged on a 4-port SATA-II card. –  quack quixote May 6 '10 at 17:25
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