Difference Between SATA 2 vs SATA 3 Cable (Complete Guide)

The SATA interface, which is one of the primary interfaces for connecting hard drives, has different versions. The most recent version being SATA 3.

There is a huge difference between the different SATA interface / port versions as far as the performance is concerned. So much so that SATA 3 ports on a motherboard are twice as fast as SATA 2 ports. 

Given this, often people assume that the cables for SATA 2 and SATA 3 are different conforming to their respective versions. 

However, as far as the cables are concerned, there is no difference whatsoever in performance between SATA 2 vs SATA 3 cables. In fact, there is no such thing as SATA 2 or SATA 3 cable except on paper.

In other words, a SATA cable that you received with your old SATA 2 motherboard would have the same bandwidth carrying capacity as compared to the SATA cable you received with a SATA 3 motherboard. 

In the following text, I will discuss the SATA cables and their differences (if any) in detail. But first a preface on SATA interface and cables:

What is the SATA Interface in Brief?

You have to see the SATA port and cables differently. These are two different entities, albeit related.

The SATA ports can conform to SATA 1, SATA 2 and SATA 3 versions. Recent motherboards have SATA 3 ports. 

Which is Faster SATA or PCIe
SATA Ports

Older motherboards, like the one above, can have a combination of SATA 2 (Blue) and SATA 3 ports (White). In the case of this motherboard, it does matter which SATA port you use.  

This is because, newer version carries twice as much bandwidth, such that:

  • 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

Therefore, the port can affect the performance of the connected hard drive. For instance, a SATA SSD if connected to SATA 3 port will function at 550 MB/s. The same if connected to SATA 2 port will work at half its speed.

SATA DATA and SATA Power Cables

In a nutshell, there are two SATA cables that all SATA drives including hard disk drives, SATA SSDs and optical drives require:

  • SATA DATA Cables
  • SATA Power Cable

SATA DATA cable connects to the motherboard on one side and to the hard drive on the other side. SATA power cable comes from the power supply unit and connects to the hard drive on the other hand. 

SATA 2 vs SATA 3 cable
SATA DATA Cable
split power cables
A SATA power cable

You need to connect both the 15 pin SATA power cable as well as the data cable for a hard drive to run. 

There is No Difference Between SATA 2 vs SATA 3 Cable

As far as the performance goes, there is no difference between SATA 2 vs SATA 3 cables. While you may often see listings on marketplaces or even labels on a SATA cable saying SATA 1, SATA 2, or SATA 3, it has no relation to the performance. The labels only tell you WHEN the SATA cable was made.

So if you have a decade old SATA cable, chances are that the labels on it will read as SATA 2 or SATA 3 Gbps. But it will work equally as well today with SATA 3 ports and drives.

If you have bought a PC more recently, the SATA cables and their packaging will read as SATA 3 or SATA 6 Gbps.

Study by Gamer Nexus

There was a study conducted by GamerNexus.com on this topic which I encourage you to read.

Here they tested several SATA cables such as:

  1. Foxconn SI, which is branded as SATA 1, 1.5Gbps cable
  2. CablePlus SII, which is branded as SATA 2, 3Gbps
  3. HONGJIXIN SIII A, which is branded as SATA 3, 6Gbps cable

After the sequential 4MB read and write and 4K QD4 read and write testing on a hard drive with different SATA cables, they concluded that there is literally NO difference in performance between SATA 1, SATA 2, or SATA 3 cables.

GamerNexus Sequential Read and Write SATA 2 and SATA 3
GamerNexus Sequential 4M Read for SATA 1, SATA 2 and SATA 3 cables. Source: GamerNexus.com

So basically, the SATA 1, SATA 2 and SATA 3 branding for CABLES, is misleading.

For ports and the motherboard and for the hard drives, the SATA version they conform to makes a significant difference. However, for cables, the SATA version branding does not matter at all!

The Different Forms of SATA Cables

While there is no difference between SATA cables as far as the performance is concerned, there are different forms or designs of SATA cables.

Basic SATA Cables

Basic SATA cables are a simple cord with the L shape connector on the end. There are no angled connectors or latches. 

These have become more or less obsolete as almost all SATA cables have latches at least:

SATA Cable with Latches

SATA DATA Cable
SATA DATA Cable

These are the most common SATA cables today. 

Basically, this is the evolution of the basic SATA cable as it was observed that without a locking mechanism, the SATA cable, if not secured properly, would sometimes unplug from the hard drive or the motherboard port accidentally.

The latches made sure that the SATA connector would hold fast to the ports and hence this is the form that is most commonly used today.

Angled SATA Cables

sata data cable angled
An angled SATA connector.

An angled SATA cable serves the same purpose as any SATA cable, however, it is often intended for motherboards that have SATA ports on the edge (parallel to the motherboard instead of perpendicular like they normally are).

Often gaming motherboards and motherboards intended for neat and clean cable management have the SATA ports located on the edge, thus making the use of angled SATA cables feasible.

eSATA is NOT the Same as SATA

SATA and eSATA side by side
SATA and eSATA side by side. They are two different connectors. Source: Wikimedia.org

If you have a very OLD system, then chances are it may also have an eSATA port. eSATA was basically designed to compete with the USB port for peripheral devices particularly the portable hard drive. 

However, eSATA never really picked up and the USB interface advanced in leaps and bounds. 

But if you have an old eSATA cable, do not confuse that with a SATA cable. They are not the same and they are designed for completely different ports.

Final Words

The branding for SATA cables can get many people confused. Sometimes people who complain about a slow hard drive or their PC not working at optimal speeds believe that the version of the SATA cable is the culprit.

However, as detailed above when it comes to performance between SATA 2 vs SATA 3, there is no difference at all.

If you are getting sub optimal speeds and you believe it is being caused by the SATA cable, chances are that your old SATA 2 cable could have degraded over time, but when comparing two brand new SATA 2 vs SATA 3 cables, you will observe no difference in performance.

Photo of author

Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101 and an expert in the computer peripheral industry with over two decades of experience. He has worked as a consultant for major companies and has a deep understanding of the inner workings of computer peripherals. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering and has served as a product manager and technical consultant. He is passionate about testing and evaluating the latest products to provide readers with reliable information.

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