The amount of SATA ports you need will depend on how many storage drives you plan to connect to your PC. Each drive connects to a single SATA port. Two SATA ports are generally quite sufficient for a basic build. However, If you need to connect more hard drives, you will need more SATA ports.
SATA has long been the industry standard for connecting storage drives ranging from hard disks to SSDs as well as optical drives. If you are new to building PCs, it is quite common to ask how many SATA ports do you need.
An average motherboard can easily have about 4-6 SATA ports depending upon its chipset and its size. Essentially, the amount of SATA ports you need largely depends upon what you intend to accomplish.
For instance, if you are building an average PC for home use, then as mentioned earlier, 2 SATA ports should be sufficient.
On the other hand, if you are building a NAS PC with multiple storage drives, particularly in RAID configuration, then you may need 6, 8 or even more SATA ports depending on how large a storage solution you need.
Image: SATA is one of the primary interfaces for connecting storage drives. The other one being PCIe.
Also Read: How Many SATA Cables Do I Need?
SATA Ports on the Motherboard
Basically, in order to connect hard drives to a PC, you need an interface. SATA is an interface that is used to connect SATA SSDs, HDDs, and CD drives to your motherboard.
SATA stands for serial ATA and it it has many different version. The most current version is SATA 3.0.
Each version is significantly better than its predecessor in terms of performance. The older SATA 2.0 had a speed of 3Gbps (375 MB/s) whereas the current version i.e the 3.0, has a max theoretical transfer speed of 6 Gbps (750 MB/s).
The transfer speed of the SATA ports matters a lot particularly when you are installing SATA based SSDs. A SATA SSD on a SATA 3 interface can have a transfer speed of about 550 MB/s. If you install the same on a SATA 2 port, it will operate at half the speed.
A normal hard disk generally has a transfer speed of about 200 MB/s and therefore, it would not matter much if you were to use this on a SATA 3 or SATA 2 interface.
Also Read: Does it Matter Which SATA Port I Use?
Most of the motherboard, even the smallest ones with the Mini ITX form factor and featuring entry level chipsets i.e H series chipset for Intel and A series chipset for AMD, feature at least 4 SATA ports easily.
To know the exact amount of SATA ports you have, you should consult your motherboard specsheet.
Image: Specsheet for Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3. According to this, the motherboard has a total of 6 SATA ports. Two of them conform to SATA 3 while the rest four conform to SATA 2 version.
Also Read: How Many SATA Ports Do I Have?
So How Many SATA Ports Do You Need?
The amount of SATA ports you need depends upon a lot of factor.
Essentially, a regular user would not require as many SATA ports as would a professional wanting to create a NAS storage solution would require.
Anyhow, the following scenarios should better guide you.
For a Regular User
Here we assume a regular user has their desktop set for some basic tasks like browsing the internet and doing some light work like typing word processing.
A casual user will most certainly require one port for their primary hard drive. They may also require an optical drive for inserting CD drives into.
So for regular home or office use, two SATA ports would be quite sufficient. Finding a motherboard with two SATA ports is hardly an issue since most motherboards, even those featuring entry level chipsets like Intel H series chipset or the AMD A series chipset will have at least 4 SATA ports.
Image: Even the cheaper H series Intel chipsets have 4 SATA ports. This is more than sufficient for basic users. Source: PCWorld.com
The Intermediate Users
An intermediate class of users are those who may indulge in heavier tasks like video editing and photo editing.
As such, they may require a larger storage capacity and may also require faster speeds for their primary boot drive.
So in a situation like this you may have two hard drives for storing media, and perhaps one SATA SSD drive (as your primary boot drive). You may also need a CD drive for your recording your media.
For an intermediate user we recommend an SSD as the primary drive because it can give you remarkable performance difference compared to a normal HDD.
Image: Seagate 3TB BarraCuda SATA vs Samsung SSD 850 EVO vs Samsung 970 EVO NVMe Source/Credit: Jollibeee86 Reddit
You wouldn’t need a really large SSD though since most of the larger files can be stored in the two archival hard drives. The SSDs primary job would be to have the OS as well as the ‘hot data’ or the project and the software you are currently working on.
For an intermediate user, particularly someone who is an editor and works on professional software, we would recommend at least 4 SATA ports for immediate and for future expansion.
PCIe NVMe vs SATA SSDs
Note that there is a world of difference between a PCIe based NVMe SSD vs the SATA based SSD.
The NVMe SSDs use the much significantly faster PCIe express that can reach read speeds of about 3,500 MB/s on PCIe v3.0 and 5,000 MB/s on PCIe v4.0.
Whereas a typical SATA 3.0 SSD has speeds of only about 550 MB/s max.
However, the NVMe SSDs use the PCIe interface and thus cannot be installed on SATA ports. They instead use the M.2 slots which use the PCIe lanes.
If you do have an M.2 slot available, we would recommend that you ditch the SATA SSDs and go for an NVMe SSD in a heart beat. If you choose to go this route, you would free up a SATA ports which would have otherwise been used for SATA SSD.
Multi Drive NAS Users and Professionals
In this next category of users, we have people who want to leverage their SATA ports for more than two or three drives. This can be as a measure to improve the storage capacity of the computers or to create a personal media server.
Users who need to use multiple drive bays will often want some of the hard drives to be used as backups in case one or more of the hard drives that they have installed fails.
So a setup for NAS, RAID configuration for mirroring the drives, and for professional backup, you may need a motherboard with as many SATA ports as you can get.
For a NAS setup, particularly with RAID mirror configuration, we recommend at least 6 SATA ports. However, it is not uncommon for NAS pc to have as many as 8 or more SATA ports.
Expanding the Amount of SATA Slots You Have
Image: A Non-RAID SATA controller.
What happens when you find that the SATA slots on your motherboard are no longer enough?
If somewhere down the line you realize that you need extra HDDs or SSDs and you have run out of slots, you can purchase a Storage Controller, or an SATA Expansion Card.
The SATA expansion card go into the PCIe express slot. Their size and the price is determined by a few factors:
- How many SATA ports they have
- The version of the SATA ports
- Whether they are RAID or non-RAID
For instance, an SATA expansion card with SATA 3 ports and RAID utility will be more expensive and larger compared to a non-RAID expansion card with SATA 1 expansion ports.
These expansion card can be installed directly into the smaller PCIe slots Because PCIe is much faster than SATA, you barely get a performance hit unless you’re using too many slots on a multiplier card that’s connected to a lower-performance PCIe slot.
Also Read: Devices that Plug into PCIe Slots
When determining how many SATA ports do you need, pay attention to your needs first so that you don’t end up purchasing a board with far more SATA ports than you need or one with fewer slots.
While there’s no big deal with having more than enough SATA ports, having fewer can be costly. So, to be on the safe side, ensure you take your needs into account.
A safe bet is to always go with three or more ports. This way you could potentially use one for a SATA SSD for fast boot times, one for HDD for data storage, one for an optical disk drive and the last one as spare for future use.
Popular Build Guides: