By Lincoln Spector, PCWorldNov 24, 2008 8:23 am PST
Kathy Anton wants access to faster, eSATA external hard drives. But her PC, like most of them, lacks an eSATA port.
eSATA, the external variation of the standard SATA internal hard drive interface, provides faster access to external hard drives than does the standard USB 2.0. But few PCs have eSATA ports (which, of course, are useless without an eSATA external drive.)
Here are some gadgets that can add eSATA support to your PC. What you should buy, of course, depends on what you have available to plug the gadget into.
If you have a…
Desktop PC with a free SATA connector on the motherboard: All you need here is a SATA-to-eSATA Cable attached to a ATX Bracket, and you can buy these for as little as $2. Well, sort of. I bought a no-name, generic one through Amazon for that price, but shipping put the cost over $7. That’s still a fraction of any other option. It came with no CD or documentation, but it didn’t need any. If you’re comfortable enough with the inside of PC to even consider this upgrade, installing this bracket is easy and obvious, and it needs neither software nor drivers. But there’s a downside: You PC will see the external drive as an internal one, which means no plug-and-play hot docking. You have to shut down your PC to safely plug in or remove a drive. That’s why, even if you have a free SATA connector, you might want to consider one of the following:
Desktop PC with a free PCI Express slot: There are a number of options here, and I can’t claim to have tried all of them. But I’ll recommend the two-port SimpleTech ProSpeed eSATA PCI Express Card despite its rather high $70 list price (as I write this, you can buy it for $60 at Best Buy). Why? The software on the bundled CD makes it extremely easy to set up.
Desktop PC with a free PCI slot: This time I’ll go with the cheaper but more difficult option. The Addonics ADSA4R-E costs only $40, yet it has four eSATA ports and RAID capabilities. But be prepared for an initial struggle. The poorly-written, one-page documentation doesn’t really agree with what’s on the CD (in fact, it doesn’t even agree that there is a CD, and tells you to insert the floppy), and the installation software on the CD is just as confusing. But once you get the right driver installed, it works.
Laptop with a Cardbus slot: I wish I could offer a recommendation here. I tried two Cardbus eSATA adapters. They both worked, but they failed to deliver any performance benefit over USB, making them pointless