sata ports

SATA Ports: A to Z

Any laptop or pc produced within the last decade is a SATA-compatible device. It can be a solid-state drive (SSD), optical or hard drive (HDD). Most of these systems used SATA until just recently. But what is SATA really? It can be quite complicated to learn about this technology, but here is the simplified view.  You will get to find out everything about the SATA ports from A to Z in this article. 

What does SATA Port mean?

SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) is basically a primary bus interface that helps to connect most storage devices like solid-state, optical, and hard disk drives to a host bus adapter. 

Different Versions of SATA Ports

Various SATA ports come with different technological advancements and the newest of them all is the SATA 3. Each of the SATA versions increases in transfer speed. The newer versions have a higher transfer speed than older versions. 

SATA I

The SATA I interface is the first generation design, and it operates at a speed of 1.5Gbps, but its bandwidth can run up to 150 Mbps.

SATA II

SATA II is the second generation of the SATA interface and it runs at a transfer speed of 3.0Gbps. This interface supports the bandwidth up to a speed of 300 Mbps, and the SATA II port cable length gets up to a meter.

SATA III

This SATA interface is the third generation SATA, which is built to offer a transfer speed of 6Gbps. The interface can accommodate a bandwidth throughput of 600Mbps. It is also compatible with the SATA 3Gbps port, and it supports a cable length of about one meter.

mSATA (miniSATA)

The miniSATA was brought out in 2009. Several applications including netbooks and other super slim devices require a small solid-state drive, which led to the manufacturing of the mSATA. It has a connector with huge similarities to the PCI Express interface and it is also electrically compatible.

SATA Express

The latest specification, SATA Express interface, is currently being designed by the SATA International Organization. They aim to combine the SATA software with the PCI Express interface to give a higher-speed storage solution. 

SATA Express gives room for the development of latest devices that use the PCI interface and it maintains support with SATA application software. This is a cost-effective way to top device interface speed. 

The use of the SATA interface depends on the type of hard drive installed in the computer. Some hard drives can reach speeds of 200 MB/s, but the speed of the average ones can be catered for by the SATA 2 and SATA 3. For SATA solid-state drive, you will have to use the best available port, the type of port you need matters in some cases.

Numbers and Labels of SATA Ports

It’s easy to locate SATA ports on your system’s motherboard. The manufacturers usually label them to indicate their speed or version. The SATA 3 interface is labeled as SATA 6Gb/s or just SATA 3, and SATA 2 connectors are labeled SATA 3Gb/s or SATA 2.

These labels help to identify the different ports, so you know which to connect to your drives. Systems with up to five SATA ports can have numbers of 0 to 4, and it goes higher as the number of ports increases. 

Most manufacturers would recommend that you connect your bootable hard drive to port 0 and the secondary drive to your port 1. But this isn’t compulsory; you can connect your drive to any port of a similar SATA version.  

How does SATA Ports look like?

You can find a SATA PORT on any regular motherboard; you will notice an array of SATA ports arranged closely together. The different versions of SATA ports are color-coded with different colors distinguishing them. 

For example, in the figure shown below, the blue ports are depicting the older SATA 2, and the white ports denote the newer SATA 3. 

If your system has a SATA SSD or the primary drive, it would be channeled to the SATA 3 ports. For systems with just one SATA port version throughout the motherboard, there might not be any color coding differentiating them.

How many SATA Ports do PCs Usually have?

Usually, the motherboard of a laptop system can have up to six ports. The number of ports your motherboard has depends on the motherboard’s chipset.

Take the mini ITX motherboards, for instance, this type of motherboard has a low number of SATA ports when compared to most ATX motherboard systems. 

But the fact remains that the number of SATA ports in a system varies with different types of motherboards. You can even find a motherboard housing about eight SATA ports. The higher your SATA ports on your motherboard, the higher the number of drives you will be able to connect. 

An average user might not have more than three SATA ports, but for professionals in the game, and NAS (National Academy of Sciences) building, you need a high number of SATA ports.

Are PATA and SATA the Same?

No, SATA and PATA are not the same. Even in terms of compatibility, these two do not match at all. PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) was the first integrated drive electronics technology to be designed, which was used to transfer files or data from a storage device, hard disk mostly to a motherboard through a parallel data channel. 

Although the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) drives also use the Integrated Drive Electronics system, they aren’t similar drives and SATA drives are not IDE drives. 

PATA and SATA are entirely two distinct disc drive interfaces. You should know that the electrical and physical connection to a drive either utilizes the PATA or SATA interface. The figure above depicts the difference in physical structure. The SATA drive is on the left and the PATA drive is on the right. 

You will notice that the SATA is a pair of thin connectors, the smaller is meant for data and the larger connector is for power. The PATA drive has a large connector consisting of pins, which is used for data, and the prong connectors are for power. 

The term “Parallel” means that the data is transferred 16 bits at a time in a single 16-bit connection, and it is used to send data in either direction.

The PATA interface transfers data at a slower rate for several reasons. Although the latest PATA interface can transfer data at a speed of up to 133Mbps. But for a SATA interface, it can send files at 150. 300, and up to 600Mbps, depending on the interface’s version being installed. 

How important is SATA today?

Way back in 2018, SATA became the standard for personal computers, SSDs, and hard drives. However, technology is advancing beyond SATA. Drives like M.2 that use the latest NVMe protocol are now of popular interest.

These SSDs provide the highest level of performance and they also appeal to users who take the performance of high value. 

NVMe drives and M.2 drives are not meant for only SATA cables, and due to that, they can offer better performance.

Current SSDs like Samsung 980 Pro have a transfer speed of about 50 Gbps which is way faster than the SATA 3 with a speed of 6 Gbps. Although, SATA is still a top player when it comes to larger SSDs and HDDs size. 

FAQs

How many SATA Ports do I have?

When you need to install a driver; optical or hard drive, you typically need a SATA port connection. Laptops systems are built with motherboards that have a specified number of SATA ports designed on them. However, an average user can comfortably use three to four SATA ports connections without experiencing any issue.

What are SATA Ports good for?

SATA ports can be acronyms for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment and are sometimes referred to as Serial ATA. This interface enables storage devices; mass storage devices like your optical and hard drive to be able to communicate with your system’s motherboard through a high-speed cable which is laid over two pairs of conductors.

What are SATA 6Gb/s Ports used for?

The SATA 6Gb/s port (SATA III) is commonly known as the third generation of the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. It is the principal standard for connecting the host bus adapter of your computer system to a storage device. Typically, SATA 6 gigabytes per second (Gbps) ports are specifically meant for connecting a motherboard to the data storage device, including your solid state drives, optical drives, and hard disc drives.

What is a SATA data cable?

SATA Data Cables look like really thin ribbons. They are ribbon-shaped cables that have even pin connectors that are identical in shape, running through the internal bottom surface of the cable. These pin connectors have a dimension of 1.5 x 0.4 cm and do not measure more than that, they also have distinct L-shaped notches for system connection. There are several SATA Data cables that are made with 90-degree angle-shaped connectors. These types of cables are not really important, but their unique function is that they are compatible with most motherboards and help during connection. Motherboards come with their own SATA Data Cables.

Are there any differences between SATA 2 and SATA 3 cables?

When talking about cables, there is no distinguishing name as SATA 3 cable or SATA 2 cables. You can use any of the cables on the SATA versions to replace one another. But when the interface version is concerned, there is a whole lot of difference between the SATA 2 and SATA 3. SATA 3 has a transfer speed rate of 6 Gbps, while a SATA 2 version has a speed rate of 3 Gbps. This shows that a SATA SSD will give half the performance when combined with SATA 2, as it would when used with SATA 3. Newer versions of SATA always have a higher transfer speed than older ones.

How are SATA cables installed?

It’s quite a straightforward process when trying to install a SATA Data Cable since you have identical connectors on both ends of the interface. You can use the ends of the motherboard or your hard drive. To begin the installation process, first, you need to spot a free SATA port on your system’s motherboard. For laptops built with different versions of SATA ports, it’s best to go with the newest version. 
After that, you put in one end of your SATA cable on your SATA port on the motherboard using the right key or notch. Install the other end of the cable to the port at the end of your hard drive or storage device. Ensure you connect the SATA power cable that comes from your power supply unit to your drive.

Conclusion

The main purpose of a SATA interface is to install hard drives to your computer systems. If you are one that installs PC hardware a lot, it is almost impossible to miss a SATA port, so you need to know what SATA ports look like.

It is the most vital interface and port in a computer system, and that makes it essential that you don’t just know only the looks, you should be able to distinguish it from a PCI interface.

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