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I have an old PC I would like to use for Spinrite hard rive repair. The PC is a Dell Optiplex GX1. This is approx Pentium 1 class PC with 128MB memory, and built in IDE controller, made around 2000.

If I install a PCI SATA controller, will the BIOS recognize any SATA drives I connect?

Spinrite is a DOS program, (FreeDOS to be specific).

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3 Answers

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The question is if it will recognize your PCI SATA controller. If it does, than any SATA hdd will work.

Usually you should have no problem, but there is no 100% guarantee it will work. If you have the chance, try it with a PCI SATA controller first and than by a similar model.

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The most important question is; is your SATA controller card PCI, or PCI-Express? Similarly, are the ports in your computer PCI, or PCI-Express? (Most likely, they are all standard PCI).

Provided that you have a PCI card and PCI ports, there is no reason for the card not to work in the computer, as PCI is backwards compatible across all of its versions.

Provided that you can supply drivers for the SATA controller, the drives connected should be accessible (unless I'm mistaken, the lack of SATA support in BIOS will not affect you).

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You have several issues to consider, for one, do you have dos drivers for your config.sys file that will allow Spinrite to communicate with the drive properly? 2nd, what are the bios limitations for your hard drive size as limited by the system bios? Most of the older bios only supported up to a maximum of a 2 GB drive. A bit of a waste to by the SATA drives of today to just have it be unrecognizable. There are other options too such as disk boot loaders from manufacturers such as Western Digital, Seagate, Ontrack, etc, but finding those applications any more will be harder than coming up with a SATA interface card. 3rd, you'll also need the appropriate drivers for any version of Windows that you might be using, and currently NO manufacturer makes any SATA drivers for the older versions of Windows ME or older. So... unless you can get a software bios driver for your config.sys file, the drive will be completely useless anyway.

Another possibility to consider are the many USB external drives. Most are all SATA internally and have onboard bios to do drive CHS and LBA translation for you. This also requires drivers for the USB host controller, either for DOS, Linux or for Windows. This advantage though will allow you to partition your drive in sizes exclusively limited by the version of the OS that you're using.

Good Luck either way.

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You mentioned using external USB which "translate the CHS and LBA for you" Does not a SATA controller do this also? Is it true that if the BIOS is limited at 2GB that even a recently purchases PCI SATA controller is also limited by this contraint? I thought the BIOS constraints were based on the onboard drive controllers not add on controllers via the PCI bus. Can anyone confirm this as I do not wish to open a new question for this one bit of confusion! Thanks. –  Sukima Nov 8 '12 at 3:12
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