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

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

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

Given this, people often 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 in performance between SATA 2 and SATA 3 cables. There is no SATA 2 or SATA 3 cable except on paper.

In other words, a SATA cable you received with your old SATA 2 motherboard would have the same bandwidth carrying capacity as 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). But first, a preface on the 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
Image: SATA Ports

Older motherboards, like the one above, can combine 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 the 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, if connected to SATA 3 port, a SATA SSD will function at 550 MB/s. If connected to SATA 2 port, it 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 the hard drive on the other. On the other hand, the SATA power cable comes from the power supply unit and links to the hard drive.

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

Connect the 15-pin SATA power and data cables to a hard drive.

There is No Difference Between SATA 2 vs. SATA 3 Cable

Regarding performance, 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 brands only tell you when the SATA cable was made.

So if you have a decade-old SATA cable, its labels will read as SATA 2 or SATA 3 Gbps. But it will work equally 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.

A Study by Gamer Nexus

GamerNexus.com conducted a study 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 NO difference in performance between SATA 1, SATA 2, or SATA 3 cables.

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

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

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

The Different Forms of SATA Cables

While there is no difference between SATA cables regarding performance, there are different forms or designs of SATA cables.

Basic SATA Cables

Basic SATA Cables

Basic SATA cables are simple cords with an L-shaped connector on 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

Image: SATA DATA Cable

These are the most common SATA cables today.

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

The latches ensured the SATA connector would hold fast to the ports; hence, this form is most commonly used today.

Angled SATA Cables

sata data cable angled
Image: An angled SATA connector

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

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

eSATA is NOT the Same as SATA

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

If you have a very OLD system, it may also have an eSATA port. eSATA was 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, could you distinguish that from a SATA cable? They are not the same and are designed for entirely different ports.

Final Words

The branding for SATA cables can get many people needing clarification. 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 believe the SATA cable is causing it, your old SATA 2 cable could have degraded over time. Still, when comparing two brand-new SATA 2 vs. SATA 3 cables, you will observe no difference in performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does using a SATA 3 cable improve performance over a SATA 2 cable?

Yes, using a SATA 3 cable with a compatible device can improve performance by increasing the maximum data transfer rate from 3 Gbps (SATA 2) to 6 Gbps (SATA 3). However, the actual improvement in performance will depend on other factors such as the speed of the device and the overall configuration of the system.

2. Can you use a SATA 3 cable with a SATA 2 hard drive or vice versa?

Yes, SATA 3 cables are backwards compatible with SATA 2 and SATA 1 devices, and vice versa. However, using a SATA 3 cable with a SATA 2 or SATA 1 device will not improve performance beyond the device’s maximum transfer rate.

3. How can I tell if my computer supports SATA 3 cables?

To determine if your computer supports SATA 3 cables, you can check the specifications of your motherboard or system manual. Look for information on the SATA interface, which should indicate whether it supports SATA 3 (6 Gbps) or an earlier version such as SATA 2 (3 Gbps).

4. What are the advantages of using a SATA 3 cable over a SATA 2 cable?

The main advantage of using a SATA 3 cable over a SATA 2 cable is the increased maximum data transfer rate of 6 Gbps compared to 3 Gbps, respectively. This can result in faster data transfer speeds and improved overall system performance, especially when using high-speed solid-state drives (SSDs) or other high-performance storage devices.

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