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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Interfaces and Configuration | Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI) | SCSI Configuration ]

SCSI Device IDs

Each SCSI device is addressed on the bus via a specific number. For narrow SCSI (which allows up to 8 total devices), these are numbered 0 through 7; for wide SCSI (16 devices) the numbering is 0 through 15. The priority that a device has on the SCSI bus is based on its ID number. For the first 8 IDs, higher numbers have higher priority, so 7 is the highest and 0 the lowest. For Wide SCSI, the additional IDs from 8 to 15 again have the highest number as the highest priority, but the entire sequence is lower priority than the numbers from 0 to 7. So the overall priority sequence for wide SCSI is 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 , 0, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8.

The priority levels are used to guide the arbitration process. I describe arbitration in some detail here, but in a nutshell, it is the process by which different devices decide which one can have control of the bus. If more than one device wants control at the same time, the higher-priority device will "win", while the lower-priority device will have to wait for its turn. Since devices are addressed specifically by other devices, the ID setting on the bus doesn't matter a great deal on low-traffic buses--all that is essential is that no two devices be set to the same ID, or obviously great confusion will ensue. In high-traffic settings, you will typically want to set the slower devices (scanners, tape drives) to the higher-priority IDs, to ensure that they are not crowded off the bus by the faster devices like hard disks.

Another consideration is that if you have any devices that absolutely cannot tolerate delays in receiving their stream of data--such as a CD recording drive or a video encoder--they should be given top priority on the bus. Many people also like to make the host adapter the highest-priority device on the bus, which is why host adapters will often default to a SCSI ID of 7. It should be noted that some older host adapters can be finicky about device IDs. Some will only boot a hard disk if it is set to device ID 0. (This is inflexible and has been basically done away with in newer hardware.)

Warning: Some host adapters support multiple bus segments on the same SCSI bus. Device IDs must be unique across all segments that are on the same bus. You can't put two devices both with ID #7 for example on two different segments of the same SCSI chain.

The method of actually configuring the ID depends on the specific device. Many devices use hardware jumpers or switches, or even a rotary dial to set the device ID, on the back of the device enclosure. More sophisticated devices use software utilities--this is most common with more modern SCSI host adapters. If the drive uses jumpers, be sure to check the configuration settings carefully; different drives use different jumper combinations to set particular numbers.

Finally, the use of Plug and Play SCSI allows for automatic assignment of device IDs on the bus, to eliminate devices trying to use the same IDs simultaneously, for systems that support the feature (and when it works). Single Connector Attachment drives also have their IDs set by the host system, to allow for automatic configuration and hot swapping.

Next: BIOS Issues


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