What is eSATA?

External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or eSATA is an external interface for SATA technologies. It competes with FireWire 400 and Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 to provide fast data transfer speeds to external storage devices.

An eSATA card.

SATA has replaced legacy ATA technology as the next generation internal bus interface for hard drives. The SATA interface is more streamlined than ATA and provides serial architecture for greater speed than older parallel technology. eSATA cables are slim and can be up to 6.56 feet (2 meters) long, while parallel cables are much wider and limited to a length of 18 inches (45.7 cm). With eSATA, SATA speed expands to encompass external storage solutions.

A computer motherboard.

Although eSATA achieves transfer rates at least triple that of USB 2.0 and FireWire 400, it does have a downside. eSATA requires its own power connector, unlike the above mentioned interfaces. However, it is still an excellent choice for external disk storage. Unlike USB and FireWire interfaces, eSATA does not need to translate data between the interface and the computer. This increases data transfer speeds, while saving computer processor resources and eliminating the need for an extra chip off-load.

eSATA competes with FireWire 400 and USB 2.0.

For desktop motherboards that do not have an eSATA connector, a Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) card can be purchased and installed in an available PCI slot that will provide an eSATA interface. Laptops can use an external eSATA device made for the PCMCIA , PC Card or ExpressCard slot, depending on the laptop model. eSATA allows the use of fast SATA drives for external disk arrays, not only expanding valuable storage space, but also enabling really fast portable storage. eSATA’s hot-swappable feature makes it easy to take drives from work to home or from one computer to another. Administrators, IT technicians, advertising and marketing executives and even gamers may find this beneficial.

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SATA has different standards, with older hardware exclusively supporting the original standard. With each new SATA iteration, the speed increases. Original SATA, or SATA 150, has a data transfer speed of 150 megabytes per second (MB/s). SATA 3G has doubled the speed to 300MB/s or about 3GB/s. It is also sometimes called SATA 300.

When purchasing an eSATA controller or bus card, make sure that it complies with the SATA standard required by your SATA hard drive(s). Hardware that supports newer standards is generally compatible with older devices, but the reverse is not true. An eSATA controller made for SATA 150, for example, will not be able to support the faster transfer speeds of a SATA 300 hard drive.

SATA 6 Gb/s corresponds to the speed standard of USB 3.0, released in 2008.

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