PATA is an abbreviation for Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment. It is a regular interface that is used within PCs to connect all kinds of storage devices like hard disks, CD or DVD drives and solid state disks to the motherboard. The PATA interface connector is made up of thirty four pins and is connected to a ribbon-like flat cable nearly two inches broad. It does not support hot swapping. PATA was earlier known as just Advanced Technology Attachment. But with the introduction of SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) a few years back, ATA has now come to be known as PATA.
Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) and Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics (EIDE) are used interchangeably with PATA. IDE is the type of interface that a drive has. ATA, which can be either parallel or serial, talks about the way in which data is transferred via the cable.
PATA cables support sixteen bits of transfer data at a time. Although PATA standards recommend cables only up to 18 inches long, cables twice the length are known to work without any problems in performance. Longer cables might be required sometimes in case of very large towers having external drives or to enhance the cooling within.
Data transfer in PATA is not as fast as in case of SATA which supports hot swapping. When two drives are attached to a single cable, one refers to them as master and slave. A most common fallacy is that in such a case, both the drives will run at a speed of the slower one. But actually PATA supports independent drive speed. But at the same time, it is true that both the drives cannot perform a read or write operation at the same point in time. PATA specifications have a security feature built in. You will find that disk drives always have a master password as well as a user password allowing it to be locked for maximum security.
The lone physical variation between a PATA drive and a SATA drive is the data cable and power connections. While PATA has a 40 pin IDE connector, SATA has a 7 pin connector. PATA has a 4 pin molex power connector while SATA has a 15 pin power connector. There is no concept of master/slave in SATA drives.
PATA cables are flat cables having connectors with 40 pins arranged in two rows of twenty each at either end of the cable. The connector at one end is plugged into a port on the motherboard, normally labeled as IDE while the other end fits into a storage device like a hard drive or optical disk drive. Some PATA cables might have an additional connector between the two ends of the cable to connect a second storage device demonstrating the master-slave concept.