SATA is one of two primary interfaces through which you connect critical components to your PC (the other is PCIe).
It is used by storage drives, including hard disk drives, optical CD/DVD drives, and SATA Solid State Drives.
Things can get a bit daunting when you are new to building a PC or adding a component. This is particularly true when you must identify components using their technical terms.
From major components such as CPUs to seemingly trivialities such as SATA cables, everything 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 SATA cable and its type.
What Requires SATA Cables?
As mentioned earlier, the SATA interface is used primarily for storage drives. This includes:
- Your typical hard disk drives
- SATA Solid State Drives
- Optical Drives
Also, 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 the SATA 3 version. The latter uses the PCIe interface and can reach 5000 MB/s on PCIe v4.0.
What Does SATA Cable Look Like?
Basically, two main SATA cables 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 a distinguishable L-shaped notch for connection.
Some SATA Data cables have 90 degrees angled connectors. These aren’t essential, but they can help connect 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 the USB interface, but it is now 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 or SATA 3 cables. The cables on both SATA versions 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 a transfer speed of 3 Gbps, whereas SATA 3 has a transfer speed 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!
Also Read: Can You Use a Laptop Hard Drive on a Desktop?
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 you can find on your motherboard is 4.
Also, different SATA ports on your motherboard may conform to different SATA versions. For instance, in the motherboard above, the white SATA ports conform to version 3.0, whereas the blue ones conform to version 2.0.
How Do You Install SATA Cables?
Installing SATA DATA cables is fairly straightforward. Since both connectors on either end are identical, you can use either end on a hard drive or the motherboard.
You have first to 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 keys. Plug the other end of the cable into the SATA port on the hard drive.
Ensure also to connect the SATA power cable 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 the more advanced Serial ATA interface has since replaced them.
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.
On the other hand, the SATA power cable has a larger 15-pin connector and originated from the Power Supply Unit. This also has 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.
You may need different-sized cables depending on your PC case and how far the SATA ports on the motherboard from the hard drive are.
A motherboard typically comes with a few SATA cables. However, you may have to procure others separately if you have more drives to connect.
Also Read: Are All SATA Cables the Same?
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What devices typically use SATA cables?
SATA cables are used to connect storage devices such as hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs) to a motherboard or other storage controller. They are also used to connect optical drives such as CD/DVD drives.
2. How does a SATA cable differ from an IDE cable?
SATA cables differ from IDE cables in several ways. SATA cables are thinner and more flexible, making them easier to route and manage inside a computer case.
They also support faster data transfer rates and have a smaller connector size, allowing for more ports on a motherboard.
Additionally, SATA cables support hot-swapping, which allows you to add or remove a device without having to shut down the computer.
3. Are SATA cables compatible with older devices that use IDE cables?
No, SATA cables are not compatible with older devices that use IDE cables. However, many motherboards have both SATA and IDE connectors, allowing you to connect both types of devices to your computer.
4. Can SATA cables affect the performance of my computer?
Yes, the quality of SATA cables can affect the performance of your computer. Poor-quality cables can result in data transfer errors, which can cause slow performance or even data loss.
It’s important to use high-quality cables and ensure they are properly connected to your devices and motherboard.
5. What should I look for when purchasing a SATA cable?
When purchasing a SATA cable, you should look for a cable that is the appropriate length for your needs, has a secure connector, and is made from high-quality materials.
You should also consider the speed of the cable, as faster cables can improve the performance of your storage devices.
Finally, you may want to look for cables that have additional features such as locking connectors or angled connectors to make cable management easier.