How to put SATA in old ThinkPads

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This page gives an overview of several methods that can be used to provide an old model with IDE/PATA/ATA capabilities to use newer SATA/mSATA/M.2/U.2 devices, Please be aware that this page does not offer any information to extremely old models with ancient or obscure interfaces, such as SCSI.


via ATA-ATA bridge controllers

These bridge controllers translate ATA-to-SATA or SATA-to-ATA commands, depending on their application. On other note, be wary of low quality controllers as they can potentially corrupt data transfers or fail prematurely. Some of them may also lack datasheets for some odd reason, and that may just be a sufficient red flag to steer clear of them.

For reference purposes, have a look at a list of ATA-ATA bridge controllers to judge what you need. Some may be faster or more stable than the other, but that does not necessarily mean that it is of higher quality, as these controllers could be built into very unreliable adapters (mostly due to poor PCB work).

Here is one shining example of said PCB work:
HX-811defect.jpeg HX-811correct.jpeg
This is an extremely cheap, definitely of sweatshop quality, ATA-to-SATA adapter with an mSATA slot. It's possibly produced by Shenzhen Soarland and Hexin Technology Corporation Limited, or Sintech Electronic Corporation. The marking on the adapter reads 'HX-811 2.5-MSATA'.

Originally, this was purchased by a user desperately trying to replace his X40/X41/X41 Tablet's failing SFF-8111 1.8-inch based HDD. Unfortunately, due to the sweatshop-tier work performed by the intellectuals in said possible companies, there were two solder pads left unsoldered, rendering this adapter useless (although, it can be fixed by simply connecting them together via pouring solder over them as seen in the red circle of the image on the right side)

Be very careful of adapters such as this pictured here. Don't trust the 'QC PASSED' labels either, as the margins to produce this adapter was likely to be very low, causing the actual quality control to be non-existent.

via removal of the Marvell 88SA8040 bridge controller

In models such as the T43, T43p, X41, X41 Tablet, and the R52, the 82801FBM I/O controller is capable of utilizing SATA. However, it was crippled in a way to use an ATA-to-SATA bridge controller for cost related reasons. This was due to the higher prices of SATA devices back in 2005, which were considerably more expensive than ATA devices. In that sense, it was a logical decision to use a bridge controller for that very reason.

As time went on, ATA devices were slowly becoming more expensive as they dwindled in supply. SATA devices on the other hand, were turning much cheaper as they were basically oversaturating the market. This infuriated some users, as the bridge controller was holding back the potential of their models. As a result of that, some have managed to remove the bridge controller from the motherboard, and soldered a SATA connector to their models:

Problems regarding SATA being used on ATA platforms

Transfer rate limited to UDMA33 speeds

For some godforsaken reason, the BIOS in models with the 82801CAM controller (e.g. A31, A31p, T30, R32, X30) will force it to operate at UDMA33 speeds if it does not 'detect' an 80-pin cable. This clearly makes no sense in a notebook, as the amount of pins related to data transfer is only 44 (the other 4 pins are jumper pins). Unfortunately, this is considered a 'feature' as it actually does make sense in a desktop, but not really in a notebook.
Discussion related to this 'feature'
Discussion regarding models with the 82801CAM I/O controller
Discussion regarding models with the 82801DBM I/O controller

To bypass this issue, grounding pin 34 (PDIAG#, Pass Diagnostic) on the PATA connector is required. Unfortunately, most SATA adapters do not ground this pin, which results in the situation as described above.