$3 Mystery PC Card — Athena Power BP-SP127SAC

While browsing Facebook a month ago, I came across a Newegg ad for an unusual PC expansion card by Athena Power. The card fits any card slot since it doesn’t plug into the mainboard. The card has two internal connectors that you often don’t see together: a SATA data connector and a floppy drive power connector. With a $15 discount for a limited time, the card sold for $3 USD and I ordered a pair from Newegg. What is this mysterious expansion card? Why would you want to get a pair for your PC?

The expansion card is the Athena Power BP-SP127SAC, a 2.5” drive hot-swap SAS/SATA backplane. A backplane like this is also known as a hot-swap cage to allow easy replacement of a hard drive or SSD. Hot-swap cages are typically found in the external bays of a PC case. Newer PC cases, however, don’t have external bays. A hot-swap cage built into an expansion card makes sense for cases without external bays.

The most obvious flaw with this card is the floppy drive power connector. It that should have been a SATA power connector. The last floppy drive I had inside a PC was over 15 years ago. I still have a USB floppy drive in my junk box for those rare occasions that I find a floppy disk from my college programming days. Linux recently dropped legacy floppy drive support after 28 years because finding mechanical floppy drives to test the software are nearly impossible to find.

Non-modular power supplies may still have a floppy drive power connector, and modular power supplies may not have one at all. If a power supply does have a floppy drive connector, it will have only one. I haven’t seen a power supply with dual floppy drive connectors in over 20 years. What if your power supply doesn’t have floppy power connector or you need more than one?

I also ordered a pair of floppy drive to SATA power cables for $7 USD from Newegg. I’m not a big fan of the ketchup-and-mustard power cables, but I can always paint them black. These cables were the cheapest ones I could find and that made them more expensive than the cards themselves. That brings the overall cost for each card to about $7 USD each.

The removable caddy is accessible from the back of the card by sliding a button and popping out the handle to pull it out. The caddy will only accept 7mm tall drives, and most drives sold today are 7mm tall. Mount the drive to the bottom of the caddy with the Included screws. If you have an older drive that is 9mm tall, it won’t slide into the drive caddy.

Why would you need you a couple of these for your PC?

My editing PC has a pair of mirrored 240GB SSDs that I use for editing videos. Mirrored drives, also known as RAID-1, can have one drive go bad and the other drive will continue working without losing data. After replacing the bad drive, the new drive will sync, or copy, from the other drive. Please note that mirrored drives are not a backup. My mirrored drives are back up nightly to an external Western Digital drive. When I’m done editing a video, the working folder is back up to the internal hard drive and on to the network.

My editing PC has the Cooler Master N200 micro-ATX case, which does have the external bays for the traditional hot swap cages. My next case, however, may not have any external bays. While removing the SDDs to mount them in the caddies, I had a difficult time loosing up the cable management, disconnecting the power and data cables, and physically removing them from the case. If I had to replace a dead SSD inside the case, it would haven’t been convenient. With the expansion cards, it only takes a few minutes to replace a drive.

I did notice a few problems when installing the expansion cards.

Since this was a micro-ATX case, there are only four expansion slots. The Asrock B450M Pro4 mainboard puts the video card in the middle two slots, leaving an open slot on either side. If this was an ATX case with seven or eight expansion slots, I would have put both cards at the bottom.

The weight of the card above the video card sagged down to touch the exposed electronics on the back of the video card. Without a backplane on the video card, there could be a potential short. I put rubber bumpers on the frame of the card to keep it separate from the video card. This wouldn’t be a problem if the mainboard was inside a horizontal rack mount case as the card would rest on the mainboard slot connector.

Cable management was a bit ugly with the expansion cards on either side of the video card. The data and power cables for the top card went behind the video card. I didn’t bother to paint the ketchup-and-mustard cables black. That will change when I get an ATX case and both cards are in the bottom slots.

The expansion cards are hard to come by since Newegg keeps selling out with the $15 USD discount. Sign up for email notification to get an alert when Newegg gets them back in stock.

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