Thread: eSATA: Is It Supposed To Be This Weird?

  1. #1
    Registered /usr
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Newport, South Wales, UK

    eSATA: Is It Supposed To Be This Weird?


    Well, after future-proofing for the last 18 months and buying an external enclosure with both USB and eSATA interfaces (manufacturers must be loving it, an extra 10 for nothing!), I finally took the plunge and bought a 3.5" bay card reader with eSATA port. "Hooray!" I thought, "Blindingly-fast transfers here I come!"

    But as ever...

    The card reader unit is decidedly cheapo: the housing is an enclosed two-piece plastic box, which given that it is for connecting external devices, you would've thought that part of it would at least try to ground itself with the metal chassis it's attached to. Never mind.

    So, fitted it into my case, attached the USB header connector to a header on the motherboard, did the same with the SATA connector. It became the third SATA device in the system after my main hard disk and DVD writer. So far, so good.

    I power the computer on, load Windows and test the USB and card slots. No problems there.

    Then I power the computer back off and hook up my external enclosure using an eSATA cable. I have to power the computer off because the SATA controller is currently set to IDE emulation in the BIOS due to a niggling startup crash which I still haven't managed to solve (reckon it's the graphics card, but it only happens about 30% of the time ). No hot-swapping allowed.

    The first thing I notice when I power my computer back on is the disk activity indicator light is going crazy, yet I don't hear any drives churning. The BIOS goes through drive autodetection, picks up the HDD in the computer, the DVD... then sits there for 30 secs before bailing out. Not a good start!

    Baffled, I disconnected the eSATA from the computer. The activity light stopped its incessant flashing. I reconnected the cable and restarted the computer. THIS time, the activity light was only slightly more active than usual, the BIOS found the drive and even Windows was happy. I managed to get around 15 minutes of usage out of this session before the MP3 that I was playing from the drive suddenly trailed off and Windows Media Player froze... yes, you guessed it, a drive in IDE emulation just vanished from the system! Luckily I wasn't trying to write anything (superstition can be handy sometimes )

    I did a facepalm, restarted the computer and tried again. Mr. Psycho-flashy Activity Light was back with a vengeance and the BIOS would no longer see the drive.

    After much plugging and unplugging, I learnt that pushing down on the connector attached to the card reader stops the activity light from throwing a wobbly (I noticed that my speakers also crackled when the cable was connected). I tried using a different external eSATA drive enclosure and got the same result.

    Now... I'm fairly certain that the eSATA socket soldering or whatever in this card reader is to blame as the speaker crackle usually means that something is dumping current where it isn't wanted. The question is, which part of my setup is really to blame? I know the card reader is cheap and the box is covered in broken English, but I also find that the eSATA connectors aren't as satisfying as USB and I'm worried that they're gonna fall out or something.

    Perhaps trying to use IDE emulation with this setup is a big no-no?

    Does anyone have experience using this (largely pointless) interface?

  2. #2
    and the hat of sweating
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Toronto, ON
    I use eSATA for my backups, but my eSATA port is built into my motherboard, and I don't use IDE emulation. No problems with my eSATA setup.
    "I am probably the laziest programmer on the planet, a fact with which anyone who has ever seen my code will agree." - esbo, 11/15/2008

    "the internet is a scary place to be thats why i dont use it much." - billet, 03/17/2010

  3. #3
    Registered /usr
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Newport, South Wales, UK
    Hmm, I'm currently sourcing an eSATA backplate that I can just slot in and connect to the spare SATA ports on the motherboard and see if that makes any difference. Not very convenient having them at the back though!

    For reference my SATA controller is an Intel ICH9.

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