How AHCI or IDE Modes can affect the Drive Performance?

When you finally decide to address a huge bottleneck in your computer by upgrading to an SSD for your Boot drive. But when you finally get up and running, something seems a little off.

May be your file transfers are slower than you expected, underwhelming SSD performance could be caused by a somewhat obscure setting in your UEFI BIOS.

IDE or PATA and AHCI or SATA Modes

You see, most modern Hard Drives or SSDs can be set to operate in either IDE mode or AHCI mode, but what in the heck does that mean?



Well, there are multiple ways, your system has of talking to drives. IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) or PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) is the standard, that was used for a long time back, when we were all using those Huge Gray Ribbon cables to connect hard drives to motherboards.

Drives with the newer smaller SATA or Serial Advanced Technology Attachment connectors can also utilize a newer standard called AHCI or Advanced Host Controller Interface.

Advantages of AHCI Mode over IDE Mode

AHCI enables cool features like hot swapping. So, you don’t have to turn off your computer, if you want to unplug an external drive from an eSATA port or use that super Hot swap bay in the top of your case.

A less obvious but also important advantage is support for native command queuing, which affects the way that your drives handle multiple requests to fetch data at one time.

On Hard drives using NCQ can mean the drives read and write head doesn’t have to move around as much to get a certain piece of information. Speeding up your access times, but how does AHCI also help speed up SSDs?

Well, although the benefits of NCQ on SSDs are small or negligible for home users, many users do report greatly increased performance. Especially for large file transfer in AHCI mode compared to IDE mode.

Due to AHCI just plain being designed with more modern drives in mind.

Why would you ever want to use IDE Mode?

If AHCI is that better than IDE mod, than why is there IDE mode, why can’t we just get rid of that option?

Well, if you are running an older operating system such as Windows XP or eariler, there is a good chance that it won’t have native AHCI support. Meaning it won’t play nicely with your drives, if your motherboard is set to AHCI mode.

Unless you do some software trickery, when you install the OS. This might also be the case if you are trying to run software from a bootable USB Stick or an Optical Disc.

If you have a boot drive that you have been using in IDE mode, but then switch over to AHCI mode, you might get a boot erroe, forcing you to switch back to IDE Mode.

Though fortunately, if you are using Windows, there is a registry tweak that you can use to fix this more permanently, if you are interested, stay connected, I will write that in my next blog.

Of course AHCI is not the end game for drive protocols and the sexy new one NVM Express is starting to gain popularity, while you won’t be able to use it with your SATA drives.



It is being implemented in high performance PCI Express SSDs and since NVM Express was designed from the ground up for Solid State Storage (SSD), it can enable speeds several times faster than what you would get with AHCI Mode on a standard SATA Interface.

So, you might want to look into those, if you have got some money to burn and milliseconds to count, when you are trying to transfer your files or opening Google Chrome to read the latest and exciting blogs from your Favourite SuratNow.

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