Buying A Computer: Drives (Part 1): Affordability And Performance Buying Tips


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This article series will be broken down into the following sections: Processor and Memory, Hard Drive and Multimedia Drives, Audio, Video, and Graphics, Data Fax and Modem, and Ports.

These articles are about the components of the Compaq Presario SR1617CL-B; however, the knowledge you gain from these articles will equip you to make better buying decisions regarding any home desktop computer purchase. I will also add information and tips about computer components that are not in the Compaq Presario so that you have a solid understanding and that you are equipped to do good comparisons when shopping.

Hard Drive and Multimedia Drives: First of all, the hard drive type used most in home computers is the ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) drive (better known as the IDE drive). This drive type has a 16 bit parallel interface and it supports up to 133MB/s data transfer rate. The version of ATA drive that supports this speed is ATA-7 and is the last drive of this type to be made.

When someone refers to a hard drive as an ATA drive, it is commonly a Parallel ATA hard drive. ATA hard drives are also often called IDE, EIDE, Ultra-ATA, Ultra-DMA, ATAPI, and PATA hard drives (each of these acronyms does imply specific details, but are commonly interchanged). Since the Compaq Presario SR1617CL-B uses a 160GB 7200RPM Ultra DMA hard drive, I will go into the specifics of Ultra DMA.

Ultra DMA can be best understood by breaking down its parts. DMA stands for Direct Memory Access. DMA allows the hard drive to send data directly to memory without visiting the processor (CPU). Since the CPU is busy doing all sorts of things, DMA increases performance by not having to wait on the CPU to get to the task. The Ultra in Ultra DMA means that the ATA transfer rate of 16.6 Mbytes/sec has been increased to 33.3 Mbytes/sec. There is an Ultra DMA hard drive that can transfer 133 Mbytes/sec and it is based on the ATA-7 standard and it can be found written as Ultra DMA-133 in desktop computer descriptions.

Therefore, if someone tells you that the computer you are buying has an Ultra DMA hard drive, make sure you ask if it is a 33,66,100 or 133 hard drive. The higher the DMA number the faster it can transfer data to the rest of the computer system. One last note Ultra ATA is the ATA hard drive standard developed by Intel, Seagate and Quantum for desktop computer systems.

In my next article of this series, we will move from the Ultra DMA drive to the workings of the SATA hard drive. Currently, the SATA drive is a little above the value priced range but as the popularity increases and the prices decrease the SATA will most certainly become the new standard.

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