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Validating SATA & HD specs on Dell XPS600 & Precision 380

by kahra27 / March 2, 2006 1:57 AM PST

I just received these 2 PCs & am curious what savy tech people believe is best & most reliable way to confirm SATA & HD specs on Dell PCs. After doing lots of detective work (looking up hardware info through Windows various Device Managers, Sys Info, BIOS etc and through indep Benchmark software -e.g., PC Wizard) it's becoming clear to me that I *do not* have Dell's advertised SATA II (3G/sec) capabilites. Also I see very ambiguous HD info-- WD's & Samsungs that are hard to track down specs on.

I'm debating what to do-- return or upgrade say future HD's but am wondering what should I look for to be sure that my current system will work w/ new SATA II HDs?
thanks for any input here!!

(btw-- only reason I went in Dell direction has to do w/ research equip being thoroughly tested on these systems. It's unfortunate that they seem to be engaged in deceptive business practices. I am considering alternatives but just want to play out scenario of staying w/ these PCs. any insights/inputs are greatly appreciated. )

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get Everest... it will tell your everything
by ramarc / March 2, 2006 2:55 AM PST

Everest will tell you exactly what's in your PC with a logical/easy to use interface. Unfortunately, it's freeware version has been discontinued. You can either goto http://www.lavalys.com/ for the trial version or google 'everest home edition' to find the freeware version still in the wild.

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Everest&Validating SATA & HD specs Dell XPS600 & P380
by kahra27 / March 2, 2006 12:16 PM PST

thanks-- I'll give it a try. I wonder if I'll get same info as PCWizard & some other config software I've been trying it out. Any insights on upgrade to SATA II would be appreciated. i.e., what kind of connectors should I be checking that I have?

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nothing's wrong with your drives
by ramarc / March 3, 2006 2:03 AM PST

Both your XPS 600 and Precision 380s defintely have SATA drives. Both only have 1 IDE channel and your optical drive is using it.

On the Precision 380, four SATA ports are adjacent to IDE port (which is adjacent to the main power connector). On the XPS 600, the four SATA ports are on the front left corner. SATA I/II/150/300 are all interoperable so any SATA drive will work just fine in your PCs. (If you're thinking about upgrading be wary of Maxtor DiamondMax 11s... they've had issues.) If you need cables, I suggest http://www.geeks.com/products.asp?cat=CBL... $3.50 ain't bad.

As for your suspicion about having ATA drives, SATA controllers can expose themselves as IDE/ATA controllers for better OS compatibility. For example, I have an Intel D945GNT mobo (945 chipset) and the SATA controller can be configured in IDE mode, SATA/AHCI mode (allows hot swapping), and RAID. (Your Dells use an Intel 9xx chipset and are very similar.) If you're not using RAID and only have internal drives, then it makes sense to configure the controller in IDE mode to avoid having to install the SATA drivers (which are not built-in to WinXP). When configured as IDE, even the drives themselves will appear as regular ATA drives to the OS.

Dell is not ripping you off or doing a bait-and-switch. You've got 2 good PCs.

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clarification: your XPS has an nVidia chipset
by ramarc / March 3, 2006 2:11 AM PST

That's why you see the nVidia HD. But its still SATA and still has the ability to expose itself as an ATA.

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Please realize that a SATA dirve IS
by Ray Harinec / March 3, 2006 2:26 AM PST

an IDE drive and ALSO IS an ATA drive. ATA7 spec brought the Serial drives into the spec.

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nothing wrong..
by kahra27 / March 3, 2006 5:47 AM PST

thanks for the very useful info. I do have RAID 0 config so perhaps I can configure the system to get SATA controllers operating. Re: the bait & switch-- I did get quite suspicious after receiving SATA 1 drives on the XPS even though I put in great effort getting the SATA II. Apparently, the option for 10KRPM 80GB HDs was erroneous-- as I learned from a Dell forum.

Thanks for this & nice knowing there's a helpful community of PC users out here. cheers,

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Everest is awesome!!
by kahra27 / March 3, 2006 11:43 PM PST

Thanks a million for your suggestion. I've played around w/ a bunch of these PC diagnostic tools & Everest is by far the most comprehensive in giving detailed info on hardware (also seems to give impressive info about software but I wasn't focused on this).

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A number of things
by Ray Harinec / March 2, 2006 4:49 AM PST

First, remember that Dell sells millions of systems and buys proprietary versions of most of the hardware, thus their hard drive can be special versions made just for Dell. The SATA drive may be actuall a 300 but just as is the case with PATA drives those data rates are never acheivable. Also the SATA 300 spec is really a nebulous one. There are about five features that the drive can have any one or two of and still be called a 300.

Also note when they buy a proprietary drive from WD, or anyone else, the specs are proprietary to Dell and the drive mfr can no longer give that info out publically. This is true of all types of hardware, and why you can't get drivers for a sound card such as a creative labs SB proprietary to Dell. It may use the same driver that Creative uses with their public card but they can't legally tell you. I've had Creative tech support people "accidentally" let it slip what the equivalent driver would be.

It's a business world.

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# of things-on learning what's really in Dell PCs-XPS _ P380
by kahra27 / March 2, 2006 12:10 PM PST
In reply to: A number of things

interesting. thanks for this info. Good point about below spec performance -- I did read about this & how by adding additional hd's performance might improve. I do have a concern that the P380 Samsung 80GB SATA II drive may actually be Ultra ATA & that XPS Nvidia HD is just SATA I (although I at least know this pc has the ability to be upgraded. While using PC Wizard early this eve I got the impression this HD might even be SCSI. I don't have the precise info in front of me but I have tons of specs if anyone is interested. This has been quite the challenge just confirming exactly what it is I have on my PC. But perhaps this might have something to do w/ my having been spoiled by the straightforwardness & reliability of Apple. Nevertheless, I'm forging ahead in the PC world & just seeking out info to get the job done. thanks again.

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