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Apple patent hints eSATA storage for Macs

updated 10:35 am EDT, Thu August 21, 2008

Apple eSATA Patent

Apple has been exploring the possibility of adding external Serial ATA (eSATA) to its Mac lineup through a unique method, the company has revealed through a newly published patent filing. The application both references adding the format to a computer for outside storage but also the possibility of an outside computer accessing this storage through a switching mechanism; holding a key on startup or toggling a hardware control on the host computer would start up a low-power mode that makes its internal storage available as though it were external drive attached to the other system.

The method described closely resembles Apple's own Firewire Target Disk Mode, which was developed to speed up data transfer between two local Macs and more recently has been used to ease copying data to a new Mac through Apple's Migration Assistant feature. Apple notes in its filing that eSATA has no built-in spec of its own to handle this kind of behavior.

It's unclear whether Apple intends to use the technology from the patent for shipping products. The technique was first proposed in February of last year but hasn't been used for any existing Mac, all of which have at most been able to use FireWire 800. The external SATA format has been valued by ASUS and several other PC makers for performing in identical fashion to internal SATA, which in its base form transfers is theoretically almost twice as quick at a peak speed of 1,500Mbps.

Recently, the IEEE approved the FireWire 3200 specification, a variant of the Apple co-developed format that would outperform eSATA at about 3,200Mbps.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. bobolicious

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Aug 2002


    One might also hope...

    ...for an integrated power supply solution which currently makes such (and usb with 160 drives) an ungainly affair with double cabling & port use...

  1. mullum

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2007



    I recently made use of the internal SATA ports on a Macpro with a little adapter that puts eSATA ports in a PCI bracket (not using a PCI slot).
    Just saying in case anyone didnt know about them and fancies making use of them ;)
    The bracket (with its internal SATA cable) only cost a fiver.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    re: esata

    From what I understand, this will work, but it does have a "limitation" that the disks aren't accessible at boot-up (if you're using the ports on the back of the mobo, the front ones used for the 4 bays should be OK).

  1. dliup

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2006


    eSATA boot?

    I think this is about something similar to the quick and easy Mac TARGET DISK MODE available with Firewire and USB boot, but for eSATA.

    External SATA drives still need a way to get power, and stand alone eSATA drives still need a secondary cord to provide power.

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    farewell to firewire?

    With the limited uptake of Firewire (particularly FW800) by other PC vendors and the momentum of USB 2.0 and soon USB 3.0, could this be a preemptive move by Apple to maintain TDM functionality through eSATA and ditch Firewire?

  1. Eriamjh

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: Oct 2001


    TDM for USB?

    Can a mac do that? I thought it was only for FW?

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