How to put SATA in old ThinkPads

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ATA-ATA bridge

At least fourteen (14) ATA-to-ATA parallel-serial bridge controller microchips exist (ref WikiDevi). The role of such a chip is: to connect two AT Attachment physical busses, bridge communication between Serial and Parallel Transports; and to translate PATA and SATA commands, protocol, and possibly alter responses. These ICs were primarily produced for embedded applications, storage expansion solutions, and integration in complex products to reuse designs (such as many PC products, including ThinkPad). Industry wants consumers to continually consume newer junky stuff, rather than extend life of perfectly good things, so datasheets of these controllers were not made available to public.

Some cheap modular translator adaptor bridge boards exist. With a SATA to PATA adapter, you can connect a new SATA peripheral device to PATA host ThinkPad.

instead of SFF-8111

HX-811 2.5-MSATA

pair of bare pads, circled
pair of pads, covered by solder bridge

X40, X41, X41 Tablet use SFF-8111 1.8" drive form factor (60x70mm) HDD. A very cheap circuit board (marked 'HX-811 2.5-MSATA'; likely manufacturer Shenzhen Soarland & Hexin Technology Co., Ltd. or Sintech Electronic CO., STD;) can fit within this f.f. A seller of this shoddy device might use photos of "QC PASSED" labels to deceive you. A manufacturer of this product has minimal quality assurance, and does not inspect the pieces before they exit factory. One specimen was non-functional: a pair of pads were not electrically connected, leaving all circuitry not- powered. This defect is easy to fix. Connect the twin pads by placing a blob of solder, zero ohm surface-mount resistor, or other conductive material.


Another 'from China off fleaBay' choice.

performance limited to UDMA 2

So you installed some sort of SATA disc in to your favourite laptop, but it does not feel as fast as you had expected. Next (assuming you use Linux), you look at $ dmesg and find ata2.00: limited to UDMA/33 due to 40-wire cable ata2.00: configured for UDMA/33. What is wrong? That's not a bug, that's a feature!

over-validated input

IBM, or Phoenix or some group tried to be clever. Too clever, ten years later reaping negative outcome and disappointment. ATA Serial Transport is not ATA Parallel Transport; SATA devices (Attachments) not use PATA modes (neither DMA nor PIO signalling). Firmware in some ThinkPad models checks whether drive reports 80-conductor cable, and configures ATA host controller likewise. Sane operating systems limit bus to Ultra DMA mode 2 (up to 33 Mo/s), as a safety measure when using 40-conductor cable. (Even at limited speed, even 'plain DMA', you really should use UDMA-ready cable. A 40-wires cable is okay for PIO.)

known affected models contain southbridge ICH3: A31p R32 T23 T30 X22 X23 X24 X30

old firmware bug

Tforty, Rfifty and family, contain southbridge ICH4. It would seem, old firmware versions exhibit behaviour just like in above ICH3 models.

affected models probably includes: T40 T41 T42 R50 R51

modify Sonoma 2005 models

Centrino Sonoma platform is comprised of Alviso chipset, which is first Intel chipset for mobile featuring SATA. At power-on, ThinkPad firmware reports Error 2010 if device model is not in a whitelist; see Problem with non-ThinkPad hard disks. ThinkPads which house PATA drives, bridged to SATA host controller, include: R52, T43, T43p, X41, X41 Tablet (also X301, which is not Alviso generation). Several people successfully modified their ThinkPads to use true SATA, eliminated signal conversion.