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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Interfaces and Configuration | IDE/ATA vs. SCSI: Interface Comparison ]

Configuration and Ease of Use

Much like the performance issue, the winner here depends on how many devices you want to use. Both IDE/ATA and SCSI have had a rather spotty history in terms of their ease of setup and configuration, and both are much better today than they have been in the past. Overall, I would say that IDE/ATA is easier to set up, especially if you are using a reasonably new machine and only a few devices. IDE/ATA support is built into the BIOS, and there are fewer issues to deal with: far fewer different cable types, no bus to terminate, only one type of signaling, fewer issues with software drivers, and in general fewer ways that you can get yourself into trouble.

The difference between the interfaces is, if anything, increasing. Over the past few years IDE/ATA has in many ways become simpler to deal with, as manufacturers have agreed on standards and fixed problems with drivers and support hardware. SCSI has gotten more complex, especially now that new hard disks use LVD signaling, which is more complex to set up.

The configuration simplicity advantage for IDE/ATA drops off quickly if you want to get maximum performance while using more than a few devices. You then have to worry about where they are being placed on the channel, finding IRQs and other resources for multiple channels, etc. This can be done without too much difficulty, but there are many different things to take into consideration. In contrast, once SCSI is set up, you can put 7 devices on the bus (or 15 for wide SCSI) with very little effort, although you do have to watch the termination as you expand the bus.

SCSI has a significant advantage over IDE/ATA in terms of hard disk addressing issues. While IDE/ATA hard disks are subject to a host of capacity barriers due to conflicts between the IDE/ATA geometry specifications and the BIOS Int 13h routines, SCSI is not.

Next: Expandability and Number of Devices

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