If you have one CD ROM drive and one hard disk, then essentially you will need one SATA Data cable and one SATA Power cable.
Basically, each drive requires a SATA data cable and a power cable to operate. The SATA cables are provided with the motherboard and the power cables are provided with the Power Supply Unit.
If you have more than two drives in your computer, then you will need to get an additional data and power cable for each drive.
There are also cases where the SATA power cable would have split ends. That way you may able to supply power to multiple drives with a single cable.
Let us look at how many SATA cables do you need in depth.
Also Read: Do Motherboards Come with SATA Cables?
What are the Types of Drives that Require SATA Power and Data Cables?
There are basically three drives that require the SATA interface:
1. Hard Disk Drives
These are your average spinning hard drives and are generally the primary storage drive for any computer.
2. Optical Drives (CD/DVD Drives)
From CD to Blu Ray drive, they all require the SATA interface.
3. Solid State Drive (SATA SSDs)
SATA SSDs also require the SATA data and power cables. SATA SSDs can reach speeds of upto 550 MB/s whereas an average hard disk drive reaches speeds of about 200 MB/s.
Also, do not get confused between PCIe NVMe SSDs and SATA SSD. The later connects the the PCIe interface. These are more expensive an require an M.2 slot, which is found in much fewer number on motherboards compared to SATA ports.
The NVMe SSDs can reach speeds of 3500 MB/s on PCIe v3.0 and 5500MB/s on PCIe v4.0.
What Does a SATA Power Cable Look Like?
A SATA power cable has a long 15 pin connector. This cable comes with the Power Supply Unit and one end connected to the PSU and the other connected to the drive.
Split SATA Power Cables
You will often power cables that have split ends meaning, the power cable will have one end connect to the Power Supply Unit and then have multiples SATA connectors split at the end.
That way you could supply power to multiple drives using just a single power cable.
The power cable above, for instance, is a split power cable with three SATA connectors.
What Does a SATA Data Cable Look Like?
SATA 3 data cables come with the motherboard. Generally you get about 2-3 SATA cables and if you want more cables, you have to procure them separately.
So How Many SATA Cables Do I Need?
Now that you know the basics of the SATA cables, you should be able to judge how many SATA power or data cables you need depending upon how many drives you have.
In the simplest of terms, as far as the power is concerned you can attach one SATA power cable to a drive through the fifteen-pin connector. Depending on whether you have a split power cable or not, you may need a single or additional power cables with SATA connectors.
As far as the DATA cables are concerned, you need a single SATA cable for each drive. Unlike the SATA Power cables, the Data cables cannot have split end.
Each drive will require an individual SATA Data cable.
The amount of SATA data cables you need also depends upon how many SATA ports you have!
In other words, you cannot attach seven drives on a system that only has 6 SATA ports. So with a motherboard with 6 SATA Ports, the maximum amount of SATA Data cables you can have is 6. Simple math.
The key takeaway from here when building your system are as follows:
- Each SATA drive requires a single DATA cable and a SATA power connector.
- SATA cables attach to the motherboard and power cables attach to the PSU
- Power cables can have split ends, SATA DATA cables cannot.
- Make sure you read how many SATA cables you get with the motherboard and how many SATA power connectors you get with your PSU.
- Take note of the amount of SATA ports you have on your motherboard too.
How to Add More SATA Ports to Your PC
If you need to add more drives to your PC but if your motherboard does not have any additional SATA ports, then you have the following options to increase the port count:
- SATA Hub Port Multiplier
- SATA PCIe Cards
- SAS SATA Expansion Card
We talk in detail about this in the following article: How to Add More SATA Ports to Motherboard?
How to Add More SATA Power Connectors in a Desktop?
To add more drives to your PC, you may also need additional SATA power connectors. There are two ways through which this can be done. One is through the use of SATA power splitter cables and the other through Molex to SATA adaptor cable (for older PSUs).
We will explore each of these here:
1. Through SATA Power Splitter Cable
The primary purpose of this cable is to expand the number of SATA devices in your desktop and to provide power. It also helps in avoiding the cost of getting a new PSU to accommodate more SATA drives.
It features a SATA power connector that connects to a single PSU SATA connector and eventually breaks out into multiple SATA connectors as we saw earlier. These connectors can be used individually to power a particular drive.
The numbers vary for the SATA power connectors that break out from cable to cable. Some cables feature up to four SATA connectors that can power up to four SATA drives, whether hard disks, solid-state drives, or optical drives.
As these cables are available at a cheap price, it’s important to get a quality one for connecting your storage devices.
2. Through Molex to SATA Adaptor Cable
If you have an older PSU that still has Molex connectors, then you can can also use a Molex to SATA adapter cable if you run out of SATA Power cables from the PSU.
These do not come with the PSU or the motherboard and need to be procured separately.
SATA Connections and Power Requirements
While connecting the drives through the use of SATA power cables, you need to make sure that the PSU is capable of supplying the power that your computer needs.
PSU models available today have a wattage ranging from 200-1800 watts. A hard drive consumes between 15 to 30 watts while an optical drive uses about 20 to 30 watts power.
While these wattage numbers are not much of a concern for an average PC, but if you have a large number of drives connected than the power consumption becomes a concern.
The best way to determine the power consumption of your PC parts and the recommend PSU wattage to get is to use the automated online calculators:
Here we looked in depth at how many SATA cables do you need in order to connect and operate your drives. Essentially, we looked at both the SATA Data and Power Cable requirements.
For an average build, the available SATA power cables or connectors and the provided data cables with the PSU and motherboard should be adequate to meet the requirements of most users.
If you need to add more drives, then you will need to procure more cables and connectors. Always choose a high-quality cable that would protect you from the risks of any mishap.
You also need to keep your computer’s overall power requirements in mind when adding more drives.