PCI to PC Card(Bus) Bridge Chips in Select PCMCIA PC Card Readers

Whether on a notebook computer, or a PCI to PC Card host adapter for desktop computers, a controller is necessary to bridge between the host system and a PC Card slot. While 16-bit legacy PC Cards are based on ISA, and 32-bit PC CardBus cards are based on the PCI standard, there are some differences in the way PCMCIA PC Card hardware is implemented, particularly hot-swap capabilities. These differences are what the bridge chip resolves between the PC Card slot and the host systems native system bus. A range of controllers have been manufactured over the years, and there is no real advantage of one specific manufacturer over another. However, newer controllers tend to exhibit less compatibility issues than older ones. Starting around 1996, most manufacturers switched to 32-bit PC CardBus controllers on both notebook computers and host adapters for desktop computers. For more information on determining the differences between 16-bit PCMCIA PC Cards and 32-bit PCMCIA PC CardBus Cards, see our PCMCIA CardBus PC Cards Information and FAQ.

For the most part, choosing a PCI to PC Card reader should be based on application requirements. There are some situation where a certain motherboard and chipset combination will not work with specific CardBus controllers. This isn't something documented, and no vender maintains a master compatibility list, which is impossible considering how many different hardware combinations exist. Synchrotech's experience is that if you find one chipset won't work with a specific machine, it is best to try a reader with a different chipset. Today's two main providers of CardBus controllers are Ricoh and Texas Instruments (TI), and both venders provide excellent compatibility. If you find one won't work with a particular hardware setup, try the other. Unfortunately, this is often an exercise in trail and error.

Another factor to consider when selecting PCI to PC Card readers is whether you have an operating system with native support for the bridge chip you are selecting. Driver support for nearly every bridge chip is included in *BSD and Linux systems. Windows XP and the Vista also includes drivers for the vast majority of bridge chips with one caveat; large computer manufacturers tend to remove these drivers from their Windows installations and don't include them on the 'restore disks' they provide with the computers. For more information on this see: XP/Vista CardBus Drivers Information. Elan's P-Series readers come with their own drivers, but the drivers introduce a host of other problems based on Elan's requirement that the reader use interrupt (IRQ) 11 or under, and they can't be shared with any other devices. For more information on this see: Troubleshooting Elan PSeries PCMCIA PC Card Readers. With newer motherboards with mixed PCI and PCIe slots, the Elan problems are even more pronounced. In these cases it is better to choose a different reader, purchase a retail copy of Windows and install Windows from scratch before installing the reader. If the Windows system was previously installed from a retail disk, then the correct drivers are already on the system. There is no need to do anything in this case.

Model Specific Bridge Chips Table

Part Number Description Bridge Chip
PCM-CR-PC1IC3 PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer Internal Rear R5C485 Ricoh R5C485
PCM-CR-PC2IC3 PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer 2 Slot Internal Rear P222 R5C486 Ricoh R5C486
PCM-CR-PC2IF32R-B PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer 2 Slot Internal Front R5C486 Ricoh R5C486
PCM-CR-PC1IF32R-B PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer Internal Front R5C843 Black Ricoh R5C843
PCM-CR-PC1IR PCI Bus to PC Card Read-Writer 1 Slot Internal Rear 5 Volt Only Ricoh RL5C475
PCM-CR-PC2IR PCI Bus to PC CardBus Read-Writer 2 Slot Internal Rear Ricoh RL5C475
PCM-CR-PC2IR PCI Bus to PC CardBus Read-Writer 2 Slot Internal Rear TI PCI1211
PCM-CR-PC1ELF PCI Bus to PC Card Read-Writers 1 Slot External Low Profile TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PC1IC2 PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer 1 Slot Internal Rear P111 TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PC1ICFL PCI Bus to CompactFlash Type I-II Read-Writer Internal Rear Low Profile P312 TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PC1ICL PCI Bus to PC CardBus Read-Writer 1 Slot Internal Rear Low Profile P311 TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PC1ILF-B PCI Bus to PC Card Read-Writers 1 Slot Internal Low Profile Black P313 TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PC1ILF-W PCI Bus to PC Card Read-Writers 1 Slot Internal Low Profile Beige P313 TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PC2IFR PCI Bus to PC CardBus Read-Writer 2 Slot Internal Front Rear P416 TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PMC1I PCI Bus to PC CardBus Read-Writer 1 Slot Internal Mezzanine PMC TI PCI1410/ENE CB1410*
PCM-CR-PC2EF PCI Bus to PC Card Read-Writers 2 Slot External P424 (0.75m cables included) TI PCI1420/ENE CB1420*
PCM-CR-PC2IC2 PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer 2 Slot Internal Rear P222 TI PCI1420/ENE CB1420*
PCM-CR-PC2IF2-B PCI Bus to PC Card Read-Writers 2 Slot Internal Black P423 TI PCI1420/ENE CB1420*
PCM-CR-PC2IF2-W PCI Bus to PC Card Read-Writers 2 Slot Internal Beige P423 TI PCI1420/ENE CB1420*
PCM-CR-PC1IF32-B PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer Internal Front PCI1510 Black TI PCI1510
PCM-CR-PC1IF32-W PCI Bus to PC Card and CardBus Read-Writer Internal Front PCI1510 Beige TI PCI1510

* Note on Elan P-Series Controllers

The Elan P-Series card readers have switched CardBus controllers several times over the years. While they have used Texas Instruments and TI compatible controllers, the changes in specifics sometimes cause issues. While not completely chronologically accurate, the following rough timeline should be helpful. Elan P-Series devices prior to 2002 used the TI PCI-1420 for their two slot readers and either the TI PCI-1410 or PCI1211 (depending on availability at production) on their one slot readers. For a stretch of several years (roughly 2002-2006) Elan used ENE Technology Inc. CardBus controllers in place of TI. The CB1420 for two slot readers and the CB1410 for one slot readers. A reliable, and widely support TI PCI-14xx clone series, ENE's controllers actually fixed many of the errata from the chips they cloned. This, however, caused problems for systems coded around the problems with the original TI PCI-14xx series. Around the beginning of 2006 Elan switched back to TI PCI-1420 for their two slot readers and either the TI PCI-1410 on their one slot readers. However, there still is a lot of ENE based P-Series readers in inventory, and certain models of the P-Series will not be replaced with the TI based controllers until the existing stock of ENE devices are sold.

Troubleshooting Elan PSeries PCMCIA PC Card Readers

The following are documents and links that are helpful in troubleshooting issues with Elan PCMCIA PC Card readers. The Elan PSeries and interrupt steering issues are a long-standing problem and must be dealt with as documented. In brief, the cards slots must occupy IRQ 11 or lower, and cannot be shared with any other device on the system.

W3 Document Using P-Series Devices in The Windows Vista
Instructions for deploying PSeries readers with the Windows Vista
Download Drivers (pseries_windows.exe)
PSeries Driver release for the Windows Vista, subject to Elan's license conditions
Synchrotech Elan P-Series Readers * Date 2007.03.16 * 7.2MB
Download Drivers (pseries50708cd.zip)
PSeries Driver 5.07.08 release, see both sets of release notes below, subject to Elan's license conditions
Synchrotech Elan Series Readers * Date 2005.10.05 * 5.1MB
W3 Document PSeries Driver release notes
W3 Document PSeries Driver CD release notes
This information is a must read for all Elan installations!
W3 Document PCMCIA IRQ Routing on Windows XP
Microsoft support document explaining interrupt issues and work around methods.
W3 Document PCI to PC Card (16) Card Readers Installation Addendum
W3 Document PCI to PC Card (16) Card Readers Installation troubleshooting
W3 Document PCI to PC Card(Bus) Bridge Chips in Select Card Readers

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