INFO: How to enable SATA on mba rev.1

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by nando4, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. nando4 macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2009
    Hi MBA ppl,

    Some of my investigations on how to get SATA working on my machine may be useful to Macbook Air users with the same chipset. This is a work in progress but is presented for your consideration on how to get a SATA interface where one hasn't been supplied.

    1. Enabling ICH8-M SATA controller
    MacBook air Hacking - USB PORTS announced there was an unused SATA port on a MBA. This got me curious in finding and enabling a ICH8-M SATA controller on a HP 2510P with the same chipset. I succeeded in enabling the SATA controller to be visible in the OS. Relevant documentation on how to do this is here. All that remains now is finding the 4 SATA I/O from the southbridge pins on the systemboard, plus a 3.3V and GND (6 lines) and connecting it to say the Samsung SSD (below). I present this here so perhaps MBA ppl can do this too, and more importantly, identify if that is *all* that is required to get it working.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Left: test pads from Macbook air southbridge
    Right: SATA I/O pins on southbridge of interest

    2. Use the Sony SATA to ZIF Adapter

    Preliminary findings are here. Has a proprietory connector on the systemboard side though. Sony part number 1-878-429-11 as used in Sony Vaio P series.

    3. Creating a microSATA to ZIF adapter
    If the native SATA controller cannot be enabled and it's I/O lines found, all is not lost OR the Sony adapter is too expen$ive, then could have a go at making this. The parts are rather inexpensive.


    The 1.8" harddisk measures at 2.13x2.79in, we find this could potentially fit:

    Size of SATA to 3.5" IDE adapter: 2.13 in x 1.81 (size as given for 2-port version)
    Size of 3.5" IDE to ZIF adapter: 3.54 in x 1.30
    Total: 3.54 in x 3.112
    Size (shrunk) estimate: 2.13 in x 2.33 (removal of 2x~0.39 IDE connectors + more)

    I have *no* performance benchmarks to say how effective, or not, this would be but am awaiting feedback in those threads about it. More details, including source of parts, in thread titled For those with slow 1.8" PATA drives wanting SATA...

    If anyone has success enabling and using the SATA controller and/or creating the microSATA to ZIF adapter, please chime in on the threads above with what could be quite useful information to others in the same boat.

    I guess our platforms are the same (chipset) but different at the same time :) 1.8" SATA SSD offers a considerable performance boost to 20MB/s 4200rpm 1.8" HDD or 32MB/s 5400rpm 1.8" HDD.

  2. wetrix macrumors 6502


    Dec 1, 2006
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Are you suggesting that this thing will fit inside a MacBook Air?
  3. nando4 thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2009
    The microSATA-to-ZIF adapter is majorly magnified. I've read the MBA rev1 has a 8mm 1.8" ZIF drive. Based on this, if replacing it with SSD, say Samsung 1.8" SSD, they are 3.48mm thick. So there is a rectangle of 4.52 that could be occupied that the adapter and would fit due to the clearance provided by the SSD. Even Intel X18-M SSD is only 5mm thick.. so 3mm left for the adapter, and I've calculated that if done correctly, it *would* fit.

    Though, given the enthusiasm in finding the USB ports, I was hoping someone could have a go at enabling and using the ICH8-M onboard SATA controller and I/O pins. I have a HP 2510P and can assure you that there is a lot less of us than there are MBA users. So I would like to share what I've found and perhaps path the way for opening up the native SATA on these machines.. and other *crippled* ZIF machines using ICH8-M chipsets.
  4. fteoath64 macrumors regular


    Nov 16, 2008
    Yikes, that Sony pata cable bridge chip is horrendous!. No way of that going to get into the MBA cavity. I am very surprised of all the bright EEs out there and no one has cracked tapping out that "hidden" SATA off the south bridge on the MBA Rev A. In fact, iFixIt would gladly commercialize a solution for upgraders provide it not cost too much. I would say $150 for cable mod and soldering of connector to the mainboard or attaching a connector to the edge of the MBA logic board.
    Then we can cable to a MicroSATA 1.8 inch SSD like the Samsung 128GB and be done with it.

    Well with all that trouble, I might just OCX Vertex my MBP and OptiBay the 500GB HDD and be done with it. The MBP would be wickedly fast as some guys in the forum are already enjoying. In future, Raid 0 two 250GB vertex2 in the MBP and enjoy that for a couple of years ...

    Waiting for MBA Rev A upgrade seems futile now ...:mad:
  5. kuehltruhe macrumors newbie

    Aug 26, 2008
    No, both rev1 and rev2 are sporting 5mm drives, ZIF PATA (rev1) and SATA(rev2), respectively.

    C'mon guys, PATA is dead and we'll never get an alternative drive for our rev1 MBAs... sad, but true!

  6. nando4 thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2009
    Yikes!! 5mm.. there is very little clearance.. the ultra small DIY solution could be a tight squeeze, but may be possible *if get an ultra thin Samsung SSD and relocate the crystal. The Samsung SSD has cavities that could be used to gain extra clearance. Otherwise the Sony microSATA-to-ZIF..

    As to the hidden SATA lines, if I had a faulty rev1 board, pull off the southboard and start from the SATA I/O pins, do a continuity probe against (1) test pads and (2) that unused 30-pin connector near the Southbridge. OR I'd be comparing rev1 and rev2 boards, noting where the SATA lines are on the Rev2 board, tracking it back to the southbridge and seeing if there is any accessible point in between that is the same also on the rev1 board.

    Only need the 4 SATA I/O wires to go to 4 tap-off points on the systemboard for each of the onboard ICH8-M SATA controllers AND the sata controller to be enabled to be visible in the OS (eg: BIOS or ACPI dsdt tables).

    Surely it can be done, one way or the other.
  7. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    Really cool for you to share this information whether it works or not, in the end. It is cool ideas like this that make searching the posts like this fun. I hope all of you original MBA owners find a solution to the drive controller problem. That PATA drive controller was the worst decision with the original MBA. Exactly why the rev B has SATA.

    Anyways, hopefully this idea ends up leading to a working solution.

    SATA controller with a Samsung 128 GB SSD would really change a lot of the problems with the original MBA in addition to Cool Book. The PATA controller is a huge bottleneck on that system... and why even a PATA SSD is NOT able to change much as the limitation is the PATA controller.

    Great work and thanks for sharing here. Maybe a shared understanding with some others here at MR will lead to a workaround which allows some a chance to add a SATA drive to their original MBA.
  8. Stratus Fear macrumors 6502a

    Jan 21, 2008
    Atlanta, GA
    Well, as far as the 1.8" HDDs go, the bottleneck there is the HDD, not the controller; SATA and PATA alike will be slow at 1.8". The early 1.8" SSDs are also pretty slow no matter the interface (although reasonably faster than the HDDs), compared to the more recent ones. Definitely would much rather have a SATA SSD than a PATA one now though, since most new (and good) SSDs can outstrip the max 133MB/sec that PATA can do quite easily. They weren't this fast a little over a year ago.

    As far as SATA getting enabled on the 1st rev MBA, it already appears to be. The controller shows up in the device manager in Windows, and I found this in ioreg on Mac OS:

    SATA@1F,2  <class IOPCIDevice, registered, matched, active, busy 0, retain 7>
    So all that's left is to find the pins and wire them up to a drive, I guess. Pretty exciting! I'd give anything to get away from this slow HDD, and no one is really providing any good PATA ZIF SSD options that actually work and have decent capacity and speed. They're all slow MLC drives or older (and slower) SLC models.

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