Beginner’s Guide To SATA Cables – Everything you need to know

CG Director Author Alex Glawionby Alex Glawion   /  Published 

With various uses and applications, SATA cables are quite effective in connecting various drives to your computer’s motherboard.

However, SATA cables have different designs and specifications that are suited for different applications.

The speeds of SATA cables also vary from one generation to another.

And while SATA cables are quite versatile, telling the difference between various types might be challenging, especially if you’re not handling such cables on a daily basis.

Ugreen SATA Data Cable

Source: UGREEN

In this guide, we’re going to take you through the different types of SATA cables that are out there, making it easier for you to understand how they operate.

Let’s dive in.

What Are SATA Cables?

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment cables are special types of cables, which are mainly used to connect multiple types of storage drives (optical drives, hard drives, solid-state drives) to a motherboard.

The technology dates back to the early 2000s. It was introduced to replace the older cables, which are known as PATA cables.

Obviously, SATA cables are faster than the old PATA cables.

Unlike PATA cables, SATA cables can be disconnected or connected to your computer’s motherboard while the computer is still running through a process known as hot-swapping.

SATA Versions

SATA cables are available in different versions; each generation is rated at different speeds and specifications.

The bandwidth throughput and data transfer rate improved with each generation.

  • SATA I is the first generation interface and operates at 1.5Gb/s with a maximum bandwidth throughput of 150MB/s.
  • SATA II is the second generation interface and operates at 3Gb/s. The maximum bandwidth throughput of SATA II is 300MB/s.
  • SATA III is the third generation interface and has a transfer rate of 6Gb/s with a bandwidth throughput of 600MB/s.

The latest generation is compatible with previous generations through backward compatibility.

Note: Gb/s (Gigabit per second) can be easily confused with GB/s (Gigabyte per second). 8 bits equal one byte.

Here’s an overview table for quick comparison of Sata Cable generations and Bandwidth:

Generation Bandwidth ThroughputTransfer rate in Gb/s
SATA I150MB/s1.5Gb/s
SATA II300MB/s3Gb/s
SATA III600MB/s6Gb/s

The Two Main Types of SATA Cables

There are two major types of SATA cables:

  • SATA power cables
  • SATA data cables
Types of SATA Cables

Source: Cablestogo

SATA Power Cable

A SATA power cable has a connector with 15 pins, which are designed to supply power.

Three different pins on the connector can work hand-in-hand in parallel to conduct power with varying voltages.

Apart from that, a SATA power cable features thin rounded wires, which go straight to the connector.

SATA Data Cable

As the name hints, a data cable facilitates the transfer of data.

It packs a connector with 7 pins and is mainly used to connect a hard disk to a PC’s motherboard. In short, one end should be connected to the port on your hard disk.

The other end should be connected to the SATA connector port, which is found on the motherboard.

In terms of appearance and design, data SATA cables are thinner and smaller than power cables.

Moreover, other data cables might feature an angled connector, making it easier for you to connect them to your storage devices in tight situations.

Other Types of SATA Cables

SATA to USB

SATA to USB cables are quite effective in connecting SSD drives to a computer through a USB port.

USB C SATA 3.0 USB Adapter

Source: UGREEN

Such cables can be used to streamline the data transfer process or extend the storage space of your laptop.

They are often used to quickly plug in internal storage devices that do not come with an external storage enclosure. This can be a life-saver for doing backups or moving files off of a PC or Laptop that does not turn on or boot anymore.

e-SATA

e-SATA (external SATA) is a cable, which makes it easier for you to connect an external hard drive to your computer through the e-SATA connector port.

In short, it is designed to connect to the exterior part of a device.

Micro SATA

As the name hints, micro SATA cables are designed to connect mSATA SSDs to a motherboard.

Micro SATA to SATA Adapter

Source: Amazon

Low Profile SATA

Low-profile SATA cables are helpful for PC Builds that have bulky GPUs obstructing the SATA Ports. They fit beneath long GPUs without the need to bend the SATA cable.

Using SATA Cables to connect storage devices

The installation process differs, based on the type of SATA cable that you are planning to use.

For example, if you are planning to upgrade your HDD with a new one (or swapping out any SATA device with a different SATA device), you can leave the SATA cable plugged in to the motherboard.

Disconnect the end that connects to the storage device you’re looking to upgrade, then replace the device and plug the ends of the SATA power and data cable back into the new device.

SATA SSD HDD Intallation

Follow these steps to install addition SATA storage devices on your PC’s motherboard:

  • Turn off your PC and open the case by removing the side panel
  • Place the storage device into an empty storage bay (3,5″ or 2,5″) in your case
  • Depending on your case, the device will either be snapped in automatically or has to be screwed tight
  • Check if the SATA connection ports are easily accessible with the SATA cable length you have available
  • Connect one end of the SATA cable to the hard drive, then connect the other end of the cable to one of the free SATA connectors on your motherboard.
  • Start with a SATA port number first (Check your motherboard manual or the print on the motherboard itself to find out which port to use)
  • Once you finish connecting the SATA cable to the suitable ports, check whether the connection is tight
  • Close your case and power up your PC, boot into your OS to see if it has recognized the drive automatically

FAQ

Are PATA cables still used?

It’s quite rare to come across a device that uses PATA cables—they were replaced with SATA cables.

SATA cables are faster than PATA cables with the latest generation operating with a 6Gb/s transfer rate.

Which SATA cable generation is used nowadays?

Most devices use the SATA III interface.

Apart from that, there are different versions of the SATA 3 interface—3.1,3.2,3.3.

SATA 3 interface is quite fast and has super transfer speeds.

Can you use a SATA cable on a computer that doesn’t have a SATA connection port?

If a PC doesn’t have an external SATA connection port, you can use a SATA to eSATA adapter cable to make the connection work.

Over to You

Do you have any questions about SATA Cables? Let us know in the comment section down below or head over to our forum and ask away!

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Alex Glawion - post author

Hi, I’m Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I’ve built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I’ll do my best to help out!

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