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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Interfaces and Configuration | Integrated Drive Electronics / AT Attachment (IDE/ATA) Interface | Official IDE/ATA Standards and Feature Sets ]


The ATA-3 standard is a minor revision of ATA-2, which was published in 1997 as ANSI standard X3.298-1997, AT Attachment 3 Interface. It defines the following improvements compared to ATA-2 (with which it is backward compatible):

  • Improved Reliability: ATA-3 improves the reliability of the higher-speed transfer modes, which can be an issue due to the low-performance standard cable used up to that point in IDE/ATA. (An improved cable was defined as part of ATA/ATAPI-4.)
  • Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART): ATA-3 introduced this reliability feature.
  • Security Feature: ATA-3 defined security mode, which allows devices to be protected with a password.

ATA-3 was approved rather quickly after ATA-2, while the market was still spinning from all the non-standard "ATA-2-like" interface names being tossed. This, combined with the fact that ATA-3 introduced no higher-performance transfer modes, caused it to be all but ignored in the marketplace. Hard disk manufacturers added features defined in the standard (such as SMART) to their drives, but didn't tend to use the "ATA-3" term itself in their literature.

Note: You may see a so-called "PIO Mode 5" described in some places, with the claim that it was introduced in ATA-3. This mode was suggested by some controller manufacturers but never approved and never implemented. It is not defined in any of the ATA standards and only exists in some BIOS setup programs... See the discussion of PIO modes for more information.

Note: ATA-3 does not define any of the Ultra DMA modes; these were first defined with ATA/ATAPI-4. ATA-3 is also not the same as "ATA-33", a slang term for the 33 MB/s first version of Ultra ATA, itself a slang term for the 33 MB/s Ultra DMA transfer mode 2. :^)

Next: SFF-8020 / ATA Packet Interface (ATAPI)

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