Yes, to an extent, it does matter which SATA port you use. However, it also largely depends on the motherboard model and the SATA port version it features.
For instance, if you have a recent motherboard model with all the ports being SATA 3, you can use any port to connect your SATA 3 drive.
On the other hand if you have an older motherboard with a mix of SATA 2 and SATA 3 ports, then the port you choose to connect your drive to does matter as the SATA 2 ports would have half the transfer speed as compared to the SATA 3 ports.
In addition to that, whether the SATA port matters or not also depends upon which type of storage drive you use i.e Hard Disk or SATA SSD.
Finally, on certain motherboards, some SATA ports share their connectivity with other components like the M.2 slot such that using either will disable the other.
So, does it matter which SATA port you use? Yes it does and in the text below we will talk in detail about why it does.
A Brief Overview of SATA
You will find a variety of computer products that are specified as SATA devices and these include SSDs, HDDs, and CD drives. SATA stands for Serial ATA and is an interface to connect these drives to the computer’s motherboard.
SATA is the successor to the earlier Parallel ATA (PATA) standard. Today SATA is one of the two common interfaces for connecting hard drives, the other one being PCIe for NVME SSDs.
There are three versions or generations of SATA interface:
- SATA 1: 1.5 Gbps or 0.1875 GB/s
- SATA 2: 3.0 Gbps or 0.375 GB/s
- SATA 3: 6.0 Gbps or 0.700 GB/s
Also Read: What Does a SATA Port Look Like?
Does it Matter Which SATA Port I Use?
Yes, there are many cases where it would matter which SATA port you use:
- If You Have an Old Motherboard
- If You are Connecting an SSD or an HDD
- If Your Motherboard has Special Caveats
Let us look into each of these in detail:
1. If Your Motherboard has Older and Newer SATA Port Version
Image: This motherboard has four SATA 2 ports (Blue Colored) and 2 SATA 3 ports (White Colored). Hence, here it matters which port you use.
If you have an old motherboard (5 or more years old) then in that case you may find a mix of SATA 2 and SATA 3 ports. In this situation, the SATA port you choose will matter.
If you have a mix of SATA version, the ports corresponding to a generation will be color coded and even have a label next to them clearly mentioning which version of the interface they belong to.
It is very important that you take note of these and connect the right drives to the right port.
If you have a SATA 3 hard drive, you will need to make sure that it plugs into the SATA 3 connector to get the maximum speed of 6 Gb/s from the interface.
If you connect the same drive to a SATA 2 connector, your drive will work but at reduced speed i.e. 3 Gb/s. In that case, you won’t get the maximum benefit out of the new drive.
We emphasize here that a motherboard’s manual plays a key role in determining the SATA ports along with their versions. You can also identify SATA ports by their color-coding.
Image: Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3 SATA Specifications
The specifications for this motherboard, for instance, clearly tells you which ports are SATA 2 and which ports correspond to SATA 3.
Not Much of an Issue for Newer Motherboards
For newer motherboards, this should not be much of an issue as there is a high chance that all of them would conform to the newest SATA 3 interface.
If your motherboard has all the SATA ports following a uniform version then in that case, it would not matter which SATA port you use.
Also Read: Does it Matter Which PCIe Slot I Use?
2. If You are Connecting a SATA SSD or an HDD
The hard drive of your choice also plays an important role in determining whether the choice of SATA port would matter or not.
When Connecting SATA SSD
The SATA port you use plays a significant role particularly if you are connecting a SATA SSD.
Most of the modern SATA SSDs are designed to be used with the SATA 3 interface. When connected to the SATA 3 port, these SATA SSDs can reach speeds of about 550 MB/s.
However, since SATA SSDs are backward compatible, you can connect a 3rd Gen SATA SSD to SATA 2 or even SATA 1 port.
But doing so can have a significant impact on the performance. If you connect SATA SSDs to a SATA 2 port, then the transfer speed can technically be halved.
When Connecting Hard Disks
When it comes to normal spinning hard disks, however, it would matter little if you use SATA 2 or SATA 3 ports. This is because hard disks have a max transfer rate of about 200 MB/s.
SATA 2 and SATA 3 interface can handle 375 and 750 MB/s transfer speed respectively. Therefore, a normal hard disk cannot saturate these two interfaces.
However, if you connect a modern hard disk to a SATA 1 port, than it will have a reduced performance since a SATA 1 port has a max bandwidth of 150 MB/s only while a modern hard disk can reach 200 MB/s transfer speeds.
3. If Your Motherboard Model has Special Caveats
Some motherboards have caveats and special notes on how to use certain SATA ports.
On certain motherboards, you may find SATA ports share their connection with another port. Using either of these disables the other.
Take the following motherboard for instance:
Image: AMD X470 GAMING PLUS Specifications
According to this motherboard “SATA1 port will be unavailable when installing SATA M.2 SSD in M2_2 slot.”
Hence in this case both SATA1 and the M.2 SSD slot #M2_2 share the same connection.
In this case, it would certainly matter which SATA slot you use. If you have the M2_2 slot on this motherboard occupied, then any device connected to SATA1 slot would cease to work.
What Happens if You Use a SATA 3 Device on a SATA 2 Port
If you have storage device like a SATA SSD which is designed to be used with SATA 3 interface, then you can certainly use it on SATA 2 ports as well. SATA is a backward compatible interface.
However, doing so will reduce the performance of the drive.
Here is how the SATA 3 SSD perform on either SATA 3 or SATA 2 ports:
- On SATA 3: 550/500 MB/s – sequential read and write speeds.
- On SATA 2: 275/250 MB/s – sequential read and write speeds.
Which SATA Port Should You Connect Your SSD Into?
A SATA SSD should be connected to a SATA 3 port. While this may not matter for normal hard disks, it does matter for SATA SSDs.
As mentioned earlier, a SATA 3 port has a transfer speed of 6 gbps. A SATA 2 port has half as much.
Therefore, it is quite logical to use the faster port.
An SSD’s speed scales with the speed of the port. Hard disks, on the other hand, do not scale their speed and are limited due to their mechanical design.
Does the SATA Port Order Matter?
SATA ports are numbered starting from 0. As far as the performance goes, it does not matter which port number you use (as long as they all belong to the same version as discussed earlier).
However for the sake of consistency, generally, it is preferred that the first port i.e Port number 0, be used for the boot drive.
Also, if you have a motherboard with SATA ports belonging to different SATA generations, the first ports will almost always conform to the newest generation. Here is an example:
Image: Here you can see that the port 0, 1 (SATA3_0, SATA3_1), conform to the newer SATA 3 generation whereas the rest in the numbered order belong to the old SATA 2 generation.
So does it matter which SATA port you use? Well the answer to this question is a yes. You must consult the manual of your motherboard in order to see if there are any caveats.
There can also be instances where your motherboard has SATA ports of different generations. Though the SATA interface provides backward and forward compatibility, we recommend connecting a drive to a port of the same generation for optimal performance (for example a SATA 3 drive to a SATA 3 port on the motherboard).
As the ports vary from one motherboard model to another, finding it out through your model’s manual would give you a clear picture.