How to Identify Different Types of Hard Drives

by Contributor

Superficially, IDE and SATA hard drives look the same. They're the same dimensions and colored in the same manner. It's only if you read the jumble of letters and numbers on the label or look at the pin setup on the back that you can tell which is which. Knowing which kind you have and which kind you need can help prevent buying hardware that you can't use.

Look for a bunch of pins among the connectors in the back. IDE drives have over 50 pins in the back of the drive; SATA drives don't have many pins if they have any at all.

Identify the board connection. On an IDE drive, the connection consists of many pins spread out over about 2 inches. The cable that plugs into it is wide and ribbon-like. SATA drives have much smaller connectors similar to that on a cell phone.

Find the power connector. IDE drives have large connectors with 4 wide pins while SATA drives have power connections similar to their board connection, only smaller.

Check for jumpers. IDE drives have jumper settings that tell the computer which point on the ribbon cable they get plugged into. SATA drives, since they're the only drive on their cable, don't have jumpers.