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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 | Unofficial IDE/ATA Standards and Marketing Programs ]

Plug and Play ATA

A final "standard" that you may occasionally see reference to is something called Plug and Play ATA. This appears to be a proposal made by Quantum and Hewlett-Packard to standardize the connection and configuration of ATA hard disks in order to eliminate the need for master and slave configuration jumpers. The idea is based on the cable select feature that has been used by a number of manufacturers to get around the need for setting specific drives as master or slave.

This specification has never gained any widespread acceptance; after reading it several times I can understand why. The document leaves me puzzled as to what exactly the point was in introducing it in the first place, because it appears to have almost nothing in terms of new concepts. There's nothing novel about using cable select to automatically select which drive in a dual-drive configuration is the master and which the slave. The other main requirement seems to be support for the "Identify Drive" command to allow autodetection of drive size and other parameters on the part of the system BIOS. But again, this is already supported by every IDE/ATA drive made since at least the mid-1990s.

Perhaps the main point was to exploit the buzzword potential of the phrase "plug and play", to help convince consumers that a great breakthrough in configuration ease had been made. I don't really know, but based on the lack of substance in the specification, that's my bet. At any rate, I have not seen any other hard disk manufacturers make reference to it, and it does not appear to be destined to play an important role in the market at this time. For more details, you may be able to find the original white paper on Quantum's web site.

If you run into a system that is advertised as using "Plug and Play ATA", this most likely just means that the drive(s) are set to the cable select method of configuration, and a cable select cable is being used.

Next: Making Sense of IDE/ATA Standards and Compatibility


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