Harddisk drive makers are working on a new technical specification, which will lead to faster external hard drives. The first of these can be expected by midyear according to HDD vendors at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Early informal attempts to release external Serial ATA HDDs based on internal S-ATA specifications worried some hard drive makers.
"These approaches, although physically possible, didn't provide enough shielding for an external connection - and they also had connectors that weren't designed to hold up to a sufficient number of insertions," says Anna Jen, Maxtor senior director of product marketing.
Vendors were also concerned that these freelance attempts weren't conforming to an industry standard.
Comax Technology, Maxtor, and Silicon Image have combined their efforts to develop the Serial ATA II Cables and Connectors Volume 2 specification. This specification is designed to allow development of reliable and affordable external SATA products.
The SATA II Working Group is expected to ratify the specification by the end of February, and a complement of compliant products will be out by summer, Jen says. A working prototype external SATA solution was demonstrated at the Intel Developers' Forum in September. There, Maxtor provided the hard drive; Silicon Image, the PCI host bus adapter; and Comax the cables.
To connect external Serial ATA drives you will need to buy a PCI or PC card controller to connect the external Serial ATA device to your personal computer.
"Making it possible to integrate external SATA ports on PCs is primarily up to Intel and Via," Jen says. "They will have to put the support in their chip sets before motherboard manufacturers will be able to provide the ports."
The developers and manufacturers will respond once the demand is there--just as they did with USB 2.0 and FireWire. Meanwhile, Jen expects the adapters, cables, and drives all to appear at affordable prices.