Basically, the actual number will depend on the board itself. An average motherboard has about 4-8 SATA ports. Things such as motherboard size and chipset matter here. Currently the number of SATA ports on motherboards ranges from 0 – 13. But again high number of SATA ports are only found in expensive and specialized boards
If you want to install a hard drive or an optical drive, then you basically need a SATA port. Motherboards have a limited amount of SATA ports on them, but in reality, most of the time, 2-3 SATA ports are more than enough for an average users.
However, certain scenarios may require you to have a lot SATA ports. For instance, if you are building a NAS PC or a PC for archiving data, then you could use as many SATA ports as you can. In scenarios like these it becomes important to ask how many SATA ports do I have.
SATA is basically one of the two interfaces used for storage devices, the other one being NVMe PCIe for SSDs.
There are different version of SATA interface. The most current version is the SATA 3 with a total of 6 Gbps or 750 MB/s transfer speed.
What is SATA and SATA Ports?
SATA cables mere much smaller and their physical profile on the motherboard didn’t particularly stand out as much as PATA did.
There are three primary devices that use the SATA connection:
- Hard Disk Drives
- SATA SSDs
- Optical Drives
You may have seen them on the motherboard too. A SATA connector commonly appears as an L-shaped connector.
Since their inception, the SATA implementation has been improved and the current iteration, SATA 3.0 (III) is fastest with a speed of 6 Gigabits/s (Gb/s).
The following are the speeds of the different SATA versions:
- 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
Image: With more SATA ports on a motherboard, you have the freedom to add more storage devices.
The motherboard above has four SATA 2 ports (colored in blue) and two SATA 3 ports (colored in white).
PCIe NVMe vs SATA
While SATA is the primary standard for storage, PCIe NVMe is also used for high speed SSDs.
There is a drastic difference between the speeds of SATA interface and the PCIe.
With the current 4th gen PCIe, each PCIe lane has speed of 1,969 MB/s. A typical NVMe SSD utilizes 4 PCIe lanes and thus has a theoretical speeds of 7,877 MB/s. Contrast this to the SATA 3 interface with a max theoretical speed of 750 MB/s only.
In reality, an average Gen 4 NVME SSD can have read speed of 5000 MB/s such as the Samsung 980 Pro and an average SATA 3 SSD only has a transfer speed of 550 MB/s.
Compare these speeds to an average speed of 200 MB/s on SATA Hard Disk.
- Which is Faster PCIe or SATA?
- Does it Matter Which SATA Port You Use?
- How Many PCIe Lanes Does M.2 Slot Use?
So How Many SATA Ports Do I have?
You’re probably interested to know how many SATA ports you have because this will go a long way in determining the number of drives you can connect to your computer.
There are several ways to go about finding this number, some may be straightforward while others will require a little bit of digging.
1. Consult the Manufacturer
This is the best way to go about getting information on your motherboard. All reputable motherboards brands have an extensive data sheet available for their motherboards.
Getting this information should be fairly easy if you know the model number of your motherboard. If you have the board’s packaging, you can try and find the user manual and if one was shipped with it, go ahead and search through it.
If this does not yield the results you need, you can always go to the manufacturer’s website. A quick google search can land you there and once you arrive, head over to a products section and see if your board is listed.
There you will find a lot of information and a detailed breakdown of the board as well as the ports it has. If the board has a certain number of SATA ports, they will be listed, including their performance specification and position on the board.
Image: Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3 SATA Specifications
For instance, above you can see the specifications for the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3. Here you can clearly see that the motherboard has two SATA 3 ports and four SATA 2 ports. It also tells you the identification of the SATA slots.
2. The Manual Way
The first two ways are the simpler methods to go about determining how many SATA ports you have on your computer.
You can also accomplish the same if you open up your case and manually count the SATA ports on your motherboard.
This method is great because you can get direct feedback and if you need to assign any of the SATA ports to a device you already have you can just plug the device in right away.
To do this, however, you need to take some precautions. It’s best to first switch off your computer and disconnect it from any power source before you begin dismantling it.
Additionally, if counting the slots involves completely removing the board, be sure to properly handle it. All in all, take the necessary steps to ensure you conduct this process safely.
Once you know exactly what ports to look out for, this method can produce accurate results.
However, with this method, while you may be able to figure out how many SATA ports you have, you may not be able to find what their version is.
This is particularly confusing when you have a motherboard with differently colored SATA ports. Each color here corresponding to a different SATA version. Since ports from both v2.0 and v3.0 look the same physically, they are differently colored to highlight their version.
Knowing which color corresponds to which version may be difficult through manual counting. However, all SATA ports generally have label next to each slot which highlights its version
You can see this motherboard 6 SATA ports.
On closer inspection, you can see that SATA 2 and SATA 3 ports are labelled clearly on the motherboard. Here you can see that ports 0 and 1 are SATA 3 and ports 2-5 are SATA 2.
3. Using Third-Party Software
Another easy way would be to use third-party software that scours your computer for system information.
Some software can read your device’s status and provide you feedback on your SATA ports including whether they are in use or not.
This method can be a good idea when you have been searching for information for a while but to no avail. It is also good if you do not feel comfortable in opening up your case and counting the ports physically.
However, third party software are often limited in the amount of information that they can provide regarding your hardware.
For instance, HWiNFO is a popular free software that can read the status of your drive and also highlight its SATA speed.
Image: One drive is connected to this system on the SATA 3 interface (6 Gb/s).
The software also gives myriad of other useful information as well including the model and size of the hard drive connected to the SATA port.
4. The BIOS
Image Source: sandisk.com
The BIOS is a treasure trove of information. If your BIOS supports it, you can use it to see how many SATA ports you have on your computer.
BIOS menus may be different for different computers and there are some specific key combinations needed to access it. But once you do, you may be able to tell how many ports you have and even see which ones are active.
When in BIOS, look for a section that relates to DRIVES. Here you may be provided with information about which SATA port is occupied or not along with the total amount of SATA ports available for use.
The navigation and information available to you in BIOS differs from version to version.
Accessing and navigation across BIOS is not for the newbies. When in doubt, exit the BIOS and do not mess around with the settings.
Again, there could be limitation to this method as well. While you may be able to determine the amount of SATA slots you have, you may not be able to determine what version they correspond to.
5. Consulting an Expert
If you have someone you know to be an expert on computer motherboards, you can consult them to find out about your board.
This can be the retailer who sold you the board, or a friend who seems more knowledgeable. Regardless, for you to get accurate information, the person needs to be well-versed in this.
Determining the number of SATA ports shouldn’t be too hard so don’t let this make you feel like it’s a very complicated endeavor.
A technician you trust can not only tell you how many SATA ports you have. They can also give you guidance on how you can go about using them if you are stuck.
You can accomplish the same by posting to an online forum such as this one where you can run into users with the same board as you and they can help.
The sources of information are limitless once you start looking.
How to Add More SATA Slots?
If you do not have sufficient SATA ports on your motherboard and you want more, then you can get yourself a SATA expansion card for the PCIe slots.
Image: An expansion card that goes into x1 PCIe slot and add an extra 2 SATA 3 slots to your PC.
Expansion slots come in different sizes. Smaller cards have fewer expansion slot but also require a smaller PCIe slot. Larger expansion slots have a lot of SATA ports but also occupy a larger PCIe slot.
Also Read: 10 Things That Can Be Plugged in PCIe Slots
When it comes to finding out how many SATA ports do I have, there are many ways to figure this out.
The easiest method by far is to do a Google search if you know the model of your motherboard and look what the specifications have to say.
On a new board, you can also count the SATA ports manually on the board or go ahead and find a user’s manual.
On a board that has already been installed, you can still do the same. But, you can also install some software to help with the process or get the information from the BIOS if your BIOS version is robust enough. However, using third party software or BIOS can have limitations.