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Difference Between AHCI and ATA

AHCI vs ATA

ATA (AT Attachment) is a standard that has been around for quite some time and was originally designed to create an interface between storage devices like hard drives and the CPU. Because ATA is very old, it has been improved a few times. There are two types of ATA, the first is Parallel ATA (PATA) and the second is Serial ATA (SATA); although the use of ATA often refers to the former as ATA and PATA are synonymous prior to the advent of SATA. On the other hand, AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) is a host controller interface that was designed for SATA. It defines how information is passed between the storage device and the host.

As AHCI is relatively new, it is not compatible with the older ATA. It is only possible to use AHCI with SATA enabled motherboards and hard drives. Even when using SATA, users still have the option whether to use AHCI or the older PATA implementation. This is meant to improve compatibility with older devices that have SATA controllers but cannot implement AHCI. If you already have a Windows installation with ATA selected, it is a bit difficult to switch to AHCI as your system may not have the correct drivers installed, leading to a blue screen of death. The easiest and most straightforward way of switching to AHCI is to do a fresh install of your operating system. Although it is easy, it still takes a long time and it may not be worth the time.

AHCI is not without its advantages. It may not be worthwhile to go into the details of the specification but AHCI unlocks two features that you would not find on hard drives that use ATA. The first is hot-plugging or the ability to add/remove hard drives from the system without having to reboot your computer. It basically treats your hard drives as memory cards or any removable media. The second feature is NCQ (Native Command Queuing). NCQ allows the controller to change the order of the requests in order to minimize the number of spins needed to extract all the data.

Summary:

AHCI is a controller interface while ATA is a standard for connecting storage devices

AHCI is not compatible with ATA

AHCI has a lot of advanced features that are not available with ATA


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