SATA (or Serial-ATA) is becoming the new standard for hard drive interfaces, and has been for about the last 1.5 to 2 years.
Instead of using a ribbon cable like EIDE (PATA), SATA uses a small roundish cable. Also, SATA transfers data in a serial fashion, one bit at a time. While, PATA tranfers several bits at one time, in parallel.
Currently, the fastest interface for PATA drives is 133MB/s, while SATA can transfer at 150MB/s, and SATA II at 300 MB/s. This data transfer rate isnt too significant because the hard drive itself, not its interface, is usually the bottleneck. SATA hard drives will usually perform marginally better than its PATA counterpart because of how the interfaces are. Imagine the interface trying to arrange and sort several bits at once, rather than just one at a time. the hard drive controllers have an easier time handling one bit at a time.
Its also good to mention that your motherboard must support SATA, because it uses a different interface than PATA drives. But, there are PCI expansion cards that have SATA interfaces, that can be used on a motherboard that originally had no SATA interfaces.
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