SCSI Host Adapters, Cables, and Terminators

For SCSI host adapters, I usually recommend Adaptec. Its adapters work well and come with the necessary formatting and operating software. Windows 9x/Me, Windows 2000/XP, and even OS/2 have built-in support for Adaptec SCSI adapters. This support is a consideration in many cases because it frees you from having to deal with additional drivers.

Standard or Fast SCSI is adequately supported by the now-obsolete ISA bus, but if you are going to install a Wide SCSI bus—or especially an Ultra, Ultra2, or Ultra160/320 bus—you should consider a PCI host adapter. This is because ISA supports a maximum transfer speed of only about 8MBps, whereas a Fast-Wide SCSI bus runs up to 20MBps.

Even faster versions such as Ultra3 (Ultra160) or Ultra4 (Ultra320) SCSI run up to a blazing 320MBps! In virtually every case, a local bus SCSI adapter would be a PCI bus version, which is supported in all current PC systems. For maximum performance, you should use a 64-bit-wide, 66MHz version of the PCI slot if your host adapter supports this version of the PCI standard.

Like all modern PCI adapters, plug-and-play is supported, meaning virtually all functions on the card can be configured and set through software. No more digging through manuals or looking for interrupt, DMA, I/O port, and other jumper settings—everything is controlled by software and saved in a flash memory module on the card.

Following are some features found on recent SCSI cards:

  • Complete configuration utility built in to the adapter's ROM

  • Software-configurable IRQ, ROM addresses, DMA, I/O port addresses, SCSI parity, SCSI ID, and other settings

  • Software-selectable automatic termination (no resistors to pull out!)

  • Enhanced BIOS support for up to 15 drives

  • No drivers required for more than two hard disks

  • Drive spin-up on a per-drive basis available

  • Boots from any SCSI ID

Adaptec has full PnP support on all its SCSI adapters. These adapters either are automatically configured in any PC that supports the PnP specification or can be configured manually through supplied software in non-PnP systems. The PnP SCSI adapters are highly recommended because they can be configured without opening up the PC!

All functions are set by software, and there are no jumpers or switches to attend to. Most peripheral manufacturers write drivers for Adaptec's cards first, so you will not have many compatibility or driver-support problems with any Adaptec card.

For SCSI cables, I recommend CS Electronics, which can supply or custom manufacture virtually any SCSI cable or adapter. It can also supply a wide range of terminators, as can a company called East/West Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc. (formerly Aeronics), which is also worth a look.