Thursday, December 14, 2006

IDE hard drives

I just lent two 80G IDE drives to a friend, and he re-paid me with 160G drives. Generally I don't mind people repaying hardware loans with better gear (much better than repaying with the same gear after a long delay and depreciation), but this concerns me.

My friend gave me the 160G drives because he can't purchase new 80G drives any more, his supplier has nothing smaller than 160G. I have some very reliable machines that I don't want to discard which won't support 160G drives - I'm not even sure that they would boot with them! Now I'm going to have to stock-pile 40G disks.

The machines I am most concerned about are my Cobalt machines. They are nice little servers that are quiet and use only 20W of electricity!

It's a pity that there aren't any cheap flash storage devices that connect to an IDE bus. If I could get my Cobalt machines running with flash storage they would be even more quiet and energy efficient while not being at risk of mechanical damage, and I doubt that flash storage will exceed 40G of capacity for a while.

Update: I've set a new personal record for rapid comments on a blog entry, all telling me that it is possible to get CF to IDE adapters. Thanks for the information, I appreciate it and will consider it for some machines. The problem however is that the price of a CF to IDE adapter plus the cost of a CF card of suitable size is moderately high (more than the cheaper hard drives), while CF capacity generally is only just usable for a mainstream Linux distribution.

These factors combine to make CF-IDE devices an option for only certain corner cases, not really an option to replace all the hard drives in machines that matter to me. I will probably use it for at least one of my Cobalt machines though.

Update2: Julien just informed me of the new Samsung flash-based laptop drives that will have capacities up to 16G (or 32G according to other web sites). I'm now trying to discover where to buy them.


Carsten said...

Well, there are converters from CompactFlash to IDE. I've no idea how good they are, but at least they're not too expensive ($20, €15).

If you need a link, please let me know (carsten (at )

Pete Boyd said...

x86 PCs are different. If the BIOS doesn't recognise greater than 130GB and there's no BIOS update, you can still put the >130GB disk in and the extra just won't be recognised. Even better though, the BIOS may not recognise it but with computers I've tried this with that doesn't stop Debian from recognising >130GB.

Anonymous said...

Googling for 'flash IDE' turns up a whole pile of responses, actually. Still too expensive, though, looks like:

If a flash card->IDE adapter came down to $100 or so, I'd consider putting in a 2-4 gig drive as the / in my desktop box.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and it looks like does have cheap flashcard->IDE adapters, which they say are bootable:

So it looks like you can possibly get exactly what you want, if 4-8gb is sufficient, which it might be- don't know about your needs.

Chi-Thanh Christopher said...

Some hard drives have jumper settings to clip them at 32 or 128GB. You will not be able to boot from partitions beyond that, however a sufficiently capable OS should be able to use the full capacity.

Check the label on your drives.

Peter said...

The IDE->Compact Flash adapters work pretty well. My old company relied on them pretty heavily, and we never had any problems with them. They're tons cheaper than getting a hardwired IDE flash module (what we used to use), and as a bonus are upgradable and you can use them in your camera or whateverif you're desperate.

We never tried with anything bigger than about 256 MB though.

Anonymous said...

Clipping your disk to 128G will only waste 16% of its capacity.

Chris Samuel said...

Did those Samsung drives make it to the market ? The article was dated May 2005..

Leon Brooks said...

Many hardware suppliers (here in Perth) will sell you an 80GB IDE drive, but that’s the smallest they have.

You might try your luck with 2.5" (laptop) drives. Not as cheap, but smaller, lighter, lower-powered. Adaptors for those are readily available.

Buying CRT screens is a bit harder, but most flat-screens don't have either the resolution or colour-depth to match.

etbe said...

Leon, do you buy wholesale or retail?

The guy who gave me the disks runs a small computer company and buys wholesale. I'm sure that there are plenty of stores in Victoria that still have stock of smaller disks, but it seems that the supply has dried up in the wholesale end.

The unfortunate thing is that there are plenty of companies that have fleets of PCs that they want to be identical. Whenever some common part is EOL'd they start buying them up. I guess that my blog post would have accellerated that trend. :-#

Leon Brooks said...

I generally buy wholesale.

If you're buying a few of these, I'm sure most Perth wholesalers would be happy to deal with you.

I’m not allowed (terms of use) to say whose prices these are, but 80GB drives are $55 (no cache), $55 (no cache) or $63 (8MB cache) (all ex GST). Another supplier is $74 (8MB, inc). For comparison, 160GB/8MB is $80ex or $96inc.