Adding SATA ports to an Acer X3200 motherboard (possibly general)

Hi all,

I have an Acer X3200 (nForce) and I'm planning on replacing the stock 3.5" hdd with two 2.5" hdds but there are only two internal SATA ports.

Before we begin, I know about PCI-E SATA cards and I know I could just buy one of those but I'm curious about the possibility of manually adding SATA ports directly to the motherboard (or, more likely, just adding permanent SATA cables). The reason I'm posting on this forum is because I like to think you guys will be less inclined to start screaming WARRANTY! NOOO! or RISK OF FIRE! NOOO! which would just be patronising. I'm fearless when it comes to this stuff, but fearlessness does not directly translate to knowledge/experience. Usually. So here I am.

Right now you're probably thinking "Fangorn! What madness drove them in there?", to which I reply, "tnkgrl from Engadget added an eSATA port to her Acer Aspire One!". Granted, that mod was pretty straightforward as the board already has the header points, just no actual connector.

My motherboard has an eSATA port on it already and I was thinking about buying an eSATA->SATA cable and looping it back inside but I'm not too fond of that idea (not least because I'd have to drill through the case (the two expansion slots are being used for wifi and gfx cards).

Windows 7 tells me there are about six SATA ports and it seems Acer has decided to only include three (2x SATA, 1x eSATA) and ignore the rest. Now, it may very well be that the remaining three ports are phantoms and do not actually coincide with any circuitry on the board itself and could just be that the controller is reporting six ports and the necessary pins to tap are nowhere to be found.

In that case (or, rather, the most likely case is that) I'm considering soldering the wires from a SATA cable to the PCB-mount pins of the eSATA port (I won't be needing it anyway) but would be interested to know if the pins for the unused SATA ports are somewhere on the board or the controller. Is just such a feat possible? Which chip should I be concentrating on? I'm not sure whether the SATA controller is a little chip somewhere on the board or if it's integrated with the main nForce controller chip.

On a more general note, has anyone here tried to do something like this with a different motherboard?

So to summarise, I am interested in knowing:

- whether it's feasible to add SATA ports in this fashion (I'm pretty sure it would work for the eSATA port at least, not as concerned with the others)
- whether there are any pitfalls or caveats associated with such a project
- where on the motherboard I should be looking for the pins to tap
- if I go the pin-tapping route, would I need to involve things like resistors and capacitors? I saw a SATA port mod for a device of some sort and that needed those

Again, please, no talk of PCI-E SATA cards just yet. I'm not cheap, I can afford a card, but I really want to try this. Call me nuts if you like, but let's see how far we can get before we resort to Plan B!

And don't worry, I may not even go ahead with this, but I thought it would be interesting to get a discussion going to help me decide. And I definitely won't get upset if it all goes wrong and I kill my board, my Acer or myself.

Thanks in advance for any replies!
4 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about adding sata ports acer x3200 motherboard possibly general
  1. Best answer
    Motherboard makers do leave off parts such as SATA connectors to sale higher end motherboard designs at lower prices. Its possible your motherboard could accept more SATA connectors. There is also other things to consider such as will the Acer bios even operate extra SATA's even if the motherboard was designed for them. You may have to find the motherboard makers website and get a bios made for the extra SATA's and then loss your OS. Your OEM OS then wouldn't work which could cost you to replace.

    I suggest you first look at all your alternatives. If the system has an unused Pata controller you could use a PATA to SATA mini converter.

    The best of these devices seems to be bytecc which connects to the PATA cable and with 2 of these you could have 2 SATA. Only thing is the 4 pin power connector you will need to make sure you have this or buy 1 or 2. Also each SATA device you plug these into will need about inch and a half clearance at the back.

    Here is another that has 2 SATA ports on a single PATA connection.

    There is a huge list of devices for IDE to SATA, USB to SATA, and ect.

    This all being said the eSATA to SATA is the best ideal and I found a 6ft cable that should allow entry to the case from all way around the front.
  2. Hi elbert, thanks for the reply.

    The thing is, Windows tells me there are six SATA ports. I'll check again to see if it's just the driver saying it. If it's the driver, then I may go ahead and convert the eSATA port to SATA as that's already supported of course.

    Regarding the alternatives you gave, if I'm going to buy anything I'll buy a SATA controller card anyway so wouldn't need any converters, but no there are no IDE channels to play with or else I'd happily use them for my extra hard drive.

    It took longer than anticipated as it was really fiddly to solder the wires to the pins and it turned out I'd wired it up incorrectly so the hard drive wasn't recognised :(

    I wired it up in the opposite direction so the transfer and receive pins were swapped (makes sense) and it all seems fine now. To test it out, I'm running the Windows drive off the cable and so far it seems fine with no slowdown or the like. I retained the shielding from the SATA cable and just covered it with shrink wrap.

    So I now have three internal SATA ports and not a controller card in sight!

    Hope it doesn't bugger up later on down the line...
  4. Best answer selected by bilals.
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