What Is a Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller?

By C.A. Rubino

The core of virtually every computer is the motherboard. Every device the computer accesses must be connected to the motherboard. For devices such as optical drives or hard drives, integrated drive electronics hardware is often used to make this connection. If a system doesn’t have enough IDE channels available to connect all of the devices needed, a standard dual-channel peripheral component interface IDE controller can be used.


The standard dual channel PCI IDE controller is a card installed into a motherboard’s PCI expansion slot, providing space for additional IDE device connections. Dual channel refers to the two ports on the card, each running a separate channel. Since IDE can support two devices per channel, or cable, a single dual channel IDE controller can provide connections for up to four additional IDE-compatible devices.


Standard dual-channel PCI IDE controllers are widely compatible with virtually every computer that can support PCI devices. While some models of IDE controllers may have a few specific requirements, most modern machines should have no trouble matching those specifications. For the devices connecting to the controller, as long as they are IDE compatible, they should work with every IDE controller. While IDE is not nearly as common as it once was, at the time of this writing, it is still available on new optical drives and hard drives. Often, modern IDE-compatible devices are marketed as PATA, or Parallel ATA. There is no difference between PATA and IDE drives and both are compatible with standard IDE controllers.


Installing an IDE PCI controller is no different than installing any other PCI device into a desktop. The computer must be fully powered down and disconnected before being opened and an anti-electrostatic discharge device should be used to prevent shock trauma from damaging or destroying electrical components in the computer, such as the motherboard. The IDE controller is installed by lining it up with the PCI slot and gently, but firmly, pushing it down into place. The IDE controller card should not be forced or rocked into place, as it could damage both the card and the motherboard. After it's seated firmly, the IDE devices can be connected and the computer reassembled and powered back on.


Some PCI IDE controllers require additional drivers to be installed before the controller -- and connected devices -- can be recognized and used. Refer to the instructions for your controller card for specific instructions. IDE devices also must have their jumpers set correctly in order to be used. The jumper on an IDE device is located on the back next to the IDE connector. The different jumper positions are typically printed on the hard drive’s label. When two devices are connected on the same channel, meaning they share the same cable, one must be set to “master” and the other to “slave.” New drives normally ship configured to detect and assign themselves a position using the “cable select” setting. If devices connected on the same channel are not accessible by the computer, you will need to set the jumper manually.