SATA is one of two primary interfaces through which you connect critical components to your PC (the other one being PCIe).
It is used by storage drives including hard disk drives, optical CD/DVD drives, as well as SATA Solid State Drives.
When you are new to building PC or adding a component, things can get a bit daunting. This is particularly true when you have to identify components using their technical terms.
From major components such as CPUs to seemingly trivialities such as SATA cable, every thing is as important as the other.
It should be noted that the term SATA cable can refer to many different cable types using the SATA interface. In the following text we will look at what does SATA cable look like and its type.
What Requires SATA Cables?
As mentioned earlier, SATA interface is used primarily for storage drives. This includes:
- Your typical hard disk drives
- SATA Solid State Drives
- Optical Drives
Also, you do not confuse SATA SSDs with NVMe SSDs. The former uses the SATA interface and has transfer speeds of only about 550 MB/s on SATA 3 version. The latter uses the PCIe interface and can reach speeds of 5000 MB/s on PCIe v4.0.
What Does SATA Cable Look Like?
Basically, there are two main SATA cables that are needed to run a SATA drive:
- SATA DATA Cable
- SATA Power Cable
Also Read: What Does a SATA Port Look Like?
SATA Data Cable
SATA Data cables are thin ribbon like cables with small identical 7 pin connectors on each end. The connectors measure no more than 1.5 x 0.4 cm and have distinguishable L-shaped notch for connection.
Some SATA Data cables have a 90 degrees angled connectors. These aren’t essential, but they can help with connecting to certain motherboards.
SATA Data cables are often provided with the motherboard.
Also Read: Do Motherboards Come with Cables?
SATA Power Cable
The other part of the equation in running a SATA Drive is the power. SATA drives require a SATA Power connector that originates from the Power Supply Unit.
Other Types of SATA Cables – What Do They Look Like?
There are also other types of SATA Cables used for different purposes that you may find out there. Most are obsolete.
|SATA Cable Types||Purpose||What Does it Look Like?
|Micro SATA||Used to connect small 1.8″ form factor SSDs, aka, mSATA SSDs. However, it is more or less obsolete now.|
|e-SATA||Used to connect external SATA Drives. Was used to compete against USB interface, but is not more or less obsolete.|
Is There a Difference Between SATA 2 and SATA 3 Cables?
No, as far as the cables are concerned, there is no such thing as SATA 2 cable or SATA 3 cables. The cables on both SATA version can be used interchangeably.
However, as far as the interface version itself goes, there is a whole world of difference between the two.
SATA 2 has transfer speed of 3 Gbps where as the SATA 3 has transfer speeds of 6 Gbps. Meaning a SATA SSD used with SATA 2 interface will perform at half the speed as it would on SATA 3.
Again, the cable does not matter!
Where Do SATA Cables Go?
SATA cables connect to dedicated SATA ports located on your motherboard. Each motherboard comes with multiple SATA ports. The average number of ports that you can find on your motherboard is 4.
Also, different SATA ports on your motherboard may conform to different SATA version. For instance, in the motherboard above, the white SATA ports conform to version 3.0 whereas the blues ones conform to version 2.0.
How Do You Install SATA Cables?
Installing SATA DATA cables is fairly straight forward. Since both connectors on either end are identical you can use either either end on hard drive or on the motherboard.
You have to first identify an empty SATA port on your motherboard. If you have SATA ports with different versions, use the port with the latest version.
Install one end of the SATA Cable on the port on the motherboard using the specific notches or key. Plug the other end of the cable into the SATA port on the hard drive.
Make sure to also connect the SATA power cable coming from the power supply unit to the hard drive.
Also Read: How Many SATA Cables Do You Need?
SATA and PATA are not the Same
PATA, or IDE, cables are mostly defunct now for commercial PC. They were used in the older PCs with Parallel ATA interface, but they have since been replaced by the more advanced Serial ATA interface.
PATA cables were wide ribbon like cables with a 40 pin connector on each end.
PATA only achieved a max transfer rate of 133 MB/s. Compared to this, SATA 3 has a transfer rate of 750 MB/s (6Gbps).
Also Read: Do Graphics Cards Come with Cables?
There are different types of SATA cables. The most common and important ones are the SATA-SATA cables, also known as SATA Data Cables, and the SATA Power cables.
These two are needed to run typical 3.5″ and 2.5″ hard drives and optical drives.
So what does SATA cable look like? As far as the data cable goes, this is a very thin ribbon like cable with identical 7 pin connectors on either end and a distinct L-shaped key in the middle.
The SATA power cable, on the other hand, has a larger 15 pin connector and originated from the Power Supply Unit. This also an L shaped key in the center.
It should be noted, however, that SATA data cables can come in many different lengths. For instance, you can find 300mm, 500mm and 1m SATA cables.
Depending upon how large your PC case is and how far the SATA ports on the motherboard from the hard drive are, you may need different sized cables.
A motherboard typically comes with a few SATA cables. However, if you have more drives to connect than you may have to procure others separately.