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Can I connect or disconnect power to a SATA disk when the PC is running?

Posted on 2010-11-20
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Last Modified: 2013-11-14
I have a standard PC with several harddisks. I would like to use one of them for backing up important data. Just copy the data to the disk is easy.

However, I want to be able to physically disconnect the drive from the rest of the system to get better data protectin. No matter what happens to the main system there should not even be a theoretical chance that the backup disk is altered or deleted.

My thinking is that I install an physical switch that connect/disconnects the backup disk from power. When I want to back up data I apply power - and when I'm done I switch power off.

I have two questions:

1. Can I have a SATA disk connected with the data cable but with power not connected?

2. If I only connect/disconnect the backup disk to power while the PC is turned off then I should be safe (if question 1 is OK). But how about connect or disconnet while power is on? That is, a kind of "hot-swap". Is that OK, or do I risk damage to the disk or the mother board?

An alternative solution is, of course, to use an USB disk as backup. But right now I would like to explore the SATA disk idea.
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Question by:weedogt
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Expert Comment

by:Iekos
ID: 34179909
The easy way to do this in my opinion is to simply buy an external USB Hard Drive.  You can simply take away, turn off etc where ever you want even if the PC is powered or not.  What your planning might be slightly dangerous even for the health of the Hard Drive.  Its not designed for what your asking.

Hope that helps.
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by:Iekos
ID: 34179914
PS, to answer your question, yes you can leave just power or sata in and the system wont see it.  You need both to run.  But still, damage may happen.
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Accepted Solution

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willcomp earned 300 total points
ID: 34179954
Nearly all second generation (SATA II) and later drives are hot swappable. The drive controller must also support hot swapping. If your PC does not support hot swapping, I recommend that you power off before disconnecting drive(s).

If you have a spare 5.25" drive bay, this would be a good solution. When the key is turned off, the drive is disconnected. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817998041

Turning off power to the drive will not damage it.
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Author Comment

by:weedogt
ID: 34180003
Ok, thanks.

The disk I have is an Western Digital VelociRaptor WDS WD3000GLFS.

I'm unsure about the controller but if I look in Device Manager under "IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers" I see "Intel(R) 82801G (ICH7 Family Ultra ATA Storage Controllers - 27DF"

Is this combination compatible with hotswap? I can't change motherboard, but I'm ready to concider buying another disk.
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Expert Comment

by:willcomp
ID: 34180041
I believe the ICH10 southbridge was the first one to support hot swap, so your ICH7 would not support hot swap.

I do recommend an external hard disk or a removable bay like to one I linked to earlier. That way, the disk can be physically removed and stored separately from the PC or off site.
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 34180048
"Can" you remove power -- of course :-)

SHOULD you?   NO!!   Not unless your system has (a) a SATA-II or SATA-III controller AND you are using AHCI access mode.     Hot swap is only supported with AHCI.    If your system is configured to support this, the drive should be shown in the "Safely Remove" list --- and you should always "Safely Remove" it before physically disconnecting it (via either the power cable, the data cable, or both).
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Assisted Solution

by:garycase
garycase earned 200 total points
ID: 34180079
Dalton =>  Note Page 44:  http://www.intel.com/Assets/PDF/datasheet/307013.pdf
... whether the system here supports AHCI or not depends on whether it's an ICH7 or an ICH7R

weedogt =>  If your system doesn't support AHCI, you may want to use an external caddy with a USB interface (which definitely supports "safely remove") ... something like this:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817153066&cm_re=blacx-_-17-153-066-_-Product
... and store the drives in these when not in use:  http://www.amazon.com/WiebeTech-DriveBox-10-pack-3003000300011/dp/B000YNVSMW
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Expert Comment

by:willcomp
ID: 34180142
Gary -- if it were a RAID controller, it would have an R in the chipset model (82801GR).

@weedogt -- you should re-open question and reassign points. garycase gave you some additional, useful information.
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 34180249
Missed the lack of the R in the chipset ... just noted the "... ICH7 Family ..." reference, which could include any of the various ICH7 units  -- SOME of which include AHCI support.

No need to reassign points [I have enough :-) ]
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Author Comment

by:weedogt
ID: 34180704
>> @weedogt -- you should re-open question and reassign points. garycase gave you some additional, useful information.

I'll be happy to. How do I do that?
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Expert Comment

by:willcomp
ID: 34180731
If garycase shows back up, he can handle. Otherwise, click on Request Attention and ask a moderator to re-open question.
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Expert Comment

by:willcomp
ID: 34180762
Gary -- I'm just trying to be a nice guy. You deserve an accept or assist on this one.
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Author Closing Comment

by:weedogt
ID: 34180772
Ok, points to both willcomp and garycase.
Thank you guys! Now I have the answer(s) I need.
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