IDE and Floppy Drive Cables
IDE Ribbon Cables
Traditionally, IDE cables were flat, gray, ribbon-type connectors. Older (ATA-33) IDE cables had 40 conductors and forty pins. Newer ATA-133 EIDE cables have 80 conductors, but still have forty pins. The colored stripe along one edge of the cable aligns with pin number one on the device and motherboard connectors.
80-conductor EIDE cables have color-coded connectors:
- The blue connector gets attached to the motherboard.
- The black connector attaches to the master drive or device.
- The gray connector attaches to the slave drive or device.
The drive positions on older, 40-conductor IDE cables can be determined by their relative positions along the cable:
- The off-center middle connector gets attached to the slave device.
- The connector closest to the middle connector gets attached to the master device.
- The connector farthest from the middle connector gets attached to the motherboard.
Floppy drive cables look a lot like IDE cables except that they are a little narrower, have only 34 conductors, and have a twist at the end of the cable that attaches to the drives. They may have from two to five connectors: one to attach to the motherboard, and as many as four drive connectors.
Why as many as four? Well, prior to the advent of hard drives, most PC's had two floppy drives (A: and B:), both of which were connected to a single controller by the same cable. When the ancient 5.25-inch floppy drives were replaced by 3.5-inch drives (which have different connectors), cable manufacturers began including both types of connectors on floppy drive cables. So the same cable could have one connector for the motherboard, two connectors for 5.25-inch drives, and two connectors for 3.5-inch drives. But the total number of floppy drives is still limited to two; the "wrong" connectors simply go unused.
Since few computers today have two floppy drives (most don't even have one anymore), and most of us haven't seen a 5.25-inch drive in years, most floppy cables manufactured in this century have only two connectors: one end gets attached to a 3.5-inch floppy drive, and the other end gets attached to the motherboard.
Round EIDE and Floppy Cables
Nowadays, ribbon cables are being replaced by newer, round cables. They are available in all sorts of colors to suit any taste or decor. But the real advantage to round cables is that they don't block airflow inside the case as much as flat cables do.
As computers become more and more powerful, they generate more and more heat; and the added airflow that round cables allow can make a big difference in a computer's stability and performance.