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Connecting Hard Drives And CD-ROM/DVD

Building Your Own PC, Part 1: Know-How for Do-It-Yourselfers

The vast majority of hard drives and CD/DVD drives are based on the IDE (Integrated Device Electronics) standard. There's also the SCSI standard, which is mostly used for servers or workstations. In comparison to SCSI, IDE is extremely cheap to produce, which accounts for its higher popularity. There are four subgroups within the IDE class: UltraDMA/33; UltraDMA/66; UltraDMA/100; and UltraDMA/133. The number at the end describes its bandwidth. As a rule of thumb, the higher, the better. 133, for example, stands for the maximum data transfer rate of 133 megaBytes per second. DMA is short for Direct Memory Access. A beginner doesn't necessarily have to know how DMA works in order to obtain good results.

Two drives can be run on each IDE connector block. Motherboards usually have two IDE connectors (Primary and Secondary IDE), so that a maximum of four devices can be connected. Modern motherboards with an additional controller can even offer four IDE connectors. If you want to connect an IDE to a drive, it is configured as a "Master" (Single). If, on the other hand, two drives need to be connected, one must be labeled "Master," and the other "Slave." The jumpers are used to connect the contacts, thus configuring the drive. The connection to the motherboard is made by way of a 40-pin ribbon cable. It has three plugs - one for the motherboard, and the other two for the two drives.

Most PC systems have one hard drive and one CD-ROM/DVD drive. CD-ROM burners are also a type of CD-ROM drive. The following configuration is recommended for IDE drives:

  • Primary IDE: hard drive as Master (Single) Primary IDE:
  • Secondary IDE: CD/DVD drive as Master (Single)

Users who want the full allotment of IDE components should connect the drives as follows:

  • Primary IDE: hard drive 1 as Master (Dual)
  • Primary IDE: hard drive 2 as Slave (Dual)
  • Secondary IDE: CD/DVD drive 1 as Master (Dual)
  • Secondary IDE: CD/DVD drive 2 as Slave (Dual)

There's usually a sticker on top of the drive explaining the necessary jumper settings. Or, you can also find a description in the hard drive manual.

IDE jumper table for a Maxtor hard drive.

Port panel on the hard drive: power supply, jumper blocks, IDE ribbon cable (from left to right).

Connecting the CD and/ or DVD drives is basically the same as with hard drives. The same rules apply.

CD-ROM port panel: digital audio, analog audio, jumper blocks, IDE cable, power supply (from left to right).
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