Which SATA mode should I use?

SATA, which stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, is the interface and protocol used to connect storage devices like hard drives and SSDs to a computer’s motherboard. SATA was designed to replace the older Parallel ATA (PATA) standard and enables much higher transfer speeds.

There are three main SATA modes that control how the connected storage devices interact with the operating system:

  • AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface)
  • RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks)
  • IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics)

The SATA mode determines how data is transferred to and from storage devices. It controls whether drives are accessed independently or as part of a RAID array for performance or redundancy. The mode used can impact performance and compatibility.


AHCI mode (Advanced Host Controller Interface) is an interface specification that allows the operating system to directly communicate with SATA devices. It was introduced in 2004 as the successor to IDE mode. AHCI mode offers some advantages over IDE mode:

AHCI mode allows each SATA drive to be accessed independently via hot swapping. This means drives can be exchanged without powering down the system. In IDE mode, all drives on a channel have to share bandwidth. With AHCI, each drive can utilize the full SATA bandwidth (according to Partition Wizard).

AHCI mode enables advanced SATA drive features like Native Command Queuing (NCQ). This allows commands to be queued up and reordered to optimize drive performance. NCQ can reduce data access times by up to 50% compared to traditional command execution (according to Pits Data Recovery).

In addition, AHCI provides better error logging and monitoring capabilities. The operating system can query each drive via AHCI to determine health status and predict potential failures. This helps optimize reliability.


RAID mode allows multiple drives to be combined into a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) array for improved performance or data redundancy. Some key points about RAID mode:

  • RAID arrays combine two or more drives and present them as a single logical drive to the operating system (https://www.reddit.com/r/iBUYPOWER/comments/fyuvnn/questions_what_is_raid_mode_what_are_the_chassis/).
  • RAID can provide better performance by allowing parallel reads and writes across multiple disks. Common RAID levels like RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 balance performance and redundancy in different ways (https://www.quora.com/Should-I-use-NVMe-RAID-mode).
  • RAID can also provide fault tolerance if a drive fails, ensuring data redundancy and the ability to rebuild the array with a new drive.
  • Enabling RAID mode allows the configuration of RAID arrays in the system BIOS.

In summary, RAID mode unlocks RAID capabilities, which can boost performance through disk striping and protect against drive failures via redundancy.

IDE Mode

IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) mode is an older standard for connecting storage drives like hard disk drives and optical drives to a computer’s motherboard. It was originally developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Western Digital, Compaq, and Control Data Corporation.

In IDE mode, each drive has its own controller that handles the interface between the drive and the computer. The controller is integrated directly onto the drive itself, rather than being a separate controller on the motherboard. This helps reduce cost and complexity compared to earlier drive interfaces like ST-506 and ESDI.

IDE uses a parallel interface with 40 pins for data transfer. The cable has three connectors – one for the motherboard and two for drives. Up to two drives can be connected on a single IDE cable, one set as master and one set as slave. The motherboard has an IDE controller that manages communication across the parallel interface.

The IDE standard evolved over time with new versions like Enhanced IDE (EIDE) and Ultra DMA expanding performance and capacity. However, parallel interfaces have limitations compared to newer serial interfaces like SATA. IDE has largely been supplanted by SATA in modern computers, though some older systems may still allow IDE mode for backwards compatibility.

Choosing Between the Modes

When selecting between AHCI, RAID, and IDE modes, it’s important to understand the key differences and use cases for each one:

AHCI mode is the newest standard and offers the best performance, especially for solid state drives. It allows advanced features like hot swapping and native command queuing. AHCI should be used for a single SATA disk unless you specifically need RAID. Enabling AHCI typically requires changing a BIOS setting before installing Windows.

RAID mode combines multiple disks together for redundancy or performance. RAID allows creation of a RAID array to guard against disk failures or achieve faster speeds. RAID mode is necessary if you want to setup a RAID configuration. Like AHCI, it must be enabled before OS installation.

IDE mode is the oldest standard dating back to the beginnings of SATA. It works for a single disk but has limitations around hot swapping and queued commands. IDE mode may be labeled “ATA” or “Legacy” in BIOS settings. It’s only recommended for older systems that don’t support AHCI.

In summary:

  • AHCI offers the best performance and features for modern systems.
  • RAID is required for RAID arrays.
  • IDE/Legacy works but has limitations and is outdated.

Consult your motherboard manual or BIOS settings to determine which SATA modes are supported. AHCI is preferred unless RAID or legacy system compatibility requires something else.

Enabling AHCI Mode

To enable AHCI mode for your SATA controller, you will need to access your computer’s BIOS settings. Here are the steps:

1. Restart your computer and press the key to enter the BIOS, often Delete or F2. This will bring you to the BIOS setup screen.

2. Navigate to the “Advanced” tab and look for the SATA or Onboard Devices configuration.

3. Change the SATA mode from IDE or RAID to AHCI. The setting may also be called “ACHI”, “SATA as AHCI” or something similar.

4. Save changes and exit the BIOS. Your computer will briefly power off and on again.

5. When Windows boots up, it will detect the new AHCI drivers. Install any AHCI drivers if prompted by Windows (2). This will prevent crashes and ensure proper functionality.

That’s it! AHCI mode is now enabled. You can check in the Device Manager under Disk Drives that your SATA controller is now working in AHCI mode.

Enabling RAID Mode

Enabling RAID mode in BIOS typically involves the following steps:

1. Access the BIOS/UEFI settings by restarting your computer and pressing the BIOS key during bootup (F2, F10, Del, etc. depending on system). This will bring you to the system BIOS or UEFI menu.

2. Navigate to the storage or SATA configuration settings.

3. Look for an option to change the SATA or disk mode. Common options are IDE, AHCI, and RAID.

4. Select RAID as the disk mode. On some systems, you may need to choose a setting like “RAID Autodetect” or “RAID On”.

5. Save changes and exit BIOS.

6. After rebooting, you can configure RAID arrays in the RAID configuration utility.

For more details, refer to: https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-enable-RAID-mode-in-BIOS

Enabling IDE Mode

IDE mode is the legacy storage interface that was commonly used before SATA became prevalent. To enable IDE mode in the BIOS:

1. Restart your computer and enter the BIOS setup utility by pressing the BIOS key during bootup (F2, Delete, F10, etc. depending on your motherboard brand).

2. Navigate to the “Advanced” or “Advanced Storage” section and look for the SATA or AHCI/RAID mode option.

3. Set this option to “IDE” or “Compatibility” mode. The terminology may vary between BIOS versions.

4. Save changes and exit BIOS.

Enabling IDE mode allows compatibility with older operating systems and hardware, but results in lower performance compared to AHCI or RAID modes. According to this forum post, switching to IDE mode can be necessary when dual booting older Windows versions.

Performance Differences

When it comes to performance, studies have shown that AHCI generally provides better read/write speeds compared to IDE mode. This is because AHCI allows the SATA controller to process commands more efficiently in parallel through native command queuing. In benchmarks, AHCI can achieve sequential read speeds around 10-15% faster than IDE depending on the drive.

RAID mode builds on top of AHCI and allows drives to be configured in a RAID array for increased performance or redundancy. RAID 0 can double sequential speeds by striping data across two drives, while RAID 1 provides fault tolerance through drive mirroring. Overall, RAID delivers substantially higher performance potential than either AHCI or IDE alone. However, it requires multiple drives and is meant for servers or high-end workstations rather than typical consumer PCs.

For most regular desktop uses, AHCI offers the best balance of improved performance over IDE while still being compatible with boot drives. Enthusiasts looking to maximize speed could use RAID 0, but at the cost of reliability. IDE is sufficient for basic needs, but its limitations make AHCI a better choice for modern systems.


In summary, the three main SATA modes are AHCI, RAID, and IDE. AHCI mode is generally recommended for single drives as it allows advanced features like hot swapping and native command queuing. RAID mode enables multiple drives to be configured in a RAID array for performance or redundancy. IDE mode emulates older IDE functionality and has the worst performance.

For most users, AHCI mode is the best option as it provides the best performance for single drives. RAID mode is only needed if you want to configure multiple drives in a RAID array. IDE mode can be useful for compatibility with older operating systems but should be avoided otherwise.

Enabling AHCI mode requires changing the SATA mode setting in your system BIOS. This may require reinstalling Windows afterward. RAID and IDE modes can be enabled the same way. Just be aware of the tradeoffs with each mode.

Overall, choose AHCI for single drives and RAID for multi-drive arrays. Avoid IDE mode unless you have a specific backwards compatibility need. With the right SATA mode enabled, you can maximize your system’s storage performance.