SATA is a common term that is used when it comes to PC building. For many people who are new to building a PC some common questions that come up are what is a SATA cable and what are SATA cables used for?
SATA cables are most commonly used to connect your storage devices to your computer. This includes your hard drive (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD). The SATA cable can also be used to connect optical drives such as CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray drives, but this is less common.
SATA’s primary use is to connect your storage devices to your PC and in this article, we will go more in-depth on that.
What is a SATA Cable?
SATA is short for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. Which is meant to connect storage drives and optical drives to your PC.
There are also eSATA cables that are meant to connect external devices outside of your computer case. These cables will allow data transfer between the external device and the computer, but unlike the normal SATA cable, it will not help with powering the device.
What To Keep In Mind When Buying a SATA Cable for Your Storage Devices
When you are looking to purchase a new SATA cable for your SSD or hard drive there are some things you need to look out for.
There are 3 different versions of SATA cables SATA 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 each generation of SATA doubles the previous in speed, so most of the time you will be looking for SATA 3.0 which is the latest version of SATA.
If you want more information on this check out Does The SATA Cable, you Use Matter?
Do You Need a SATA Power Cable For All SSDs?
People can become very confused when it comes down to buying a SATA SSD and an NVMe PCIe SSD because even though they are both SSDs and work practically the same, they have different ways of connecting to your computer.
SATA SSDs use a SATA cable to connect to your motherboard, which creates a bottleneck due to the information only being able to be transferred as fast as the SATA cable allows.
Therefore, if you are using the latest version of SATA, SATA 3, then you will get a maximum transfer speed of 750 MB/s.
Then you have NVMe SSDs, that use the PCi-e port to connect to the motherboard and PC. This means you will be getting speed much faster than a SATA SSD because the connection of the PCi-e is around 5 times faster than SATA.
Another thing to note is that NVMe SSDs are also known as M.2 drives because they use an M.2 form factor to plug into the PCI-e slot.
This also means that it is unable to connect via SATA. Therefore, not all SSDs need a SATA cable to work.
It is important to figure out what type of SSD you are looking to have before purchasing a SATA cable just in case you don’t need one.
Do Hard Drives Only Need SATA Cables?
When we discuss hard drives we are talking only about HDDs which are the traditional hard drives that read and write via spinning disk.
These hard drives only use SATA cables to transfer data. They will also need a power SATA cable that plugs in right beside the data SATA cable in order to keep it on and running.
With a normal hard drive, you will not need to worry about the SATA cable bottlenecking the hard drive as these are much slower than SSDs and the SATA cable speed itself.
Where Do SATA Cables Plug Into?
The SATA cable will plug into first, your storage drive or optical drive. Then, it will need to connect to your motherboard by plugging into one of the SATA ports.
These SATA ports are located everywhere on your motherboard, but you should try to plug them into one that is most convenient and that won’t get in the way of other cables.
Do SATA Cables Provide Power?
There are two types of SATA cables there is the power cable and the data cable. Although these two cables are considered SATA cables, only one of the cables is able to transfer data and the other one is able to power your drives.
The power SATA cable connects to your power supply to bring in power. Whereas the data SATA cables connect to your motherboard to store information.
The SATA cable most people talk about is the data cable and when people mention SATA cable that is what we are talking about.
This brings us back to the original question. Does a SATA cable provide power? No, it doesn’t. The SATA cable is used to transfer data. However, there is a SATA power cable that is used to provide power to your drives, that use a SATA connection.
How Many SATA Cables Do You Need?
The amount of SATA cables you need is determined by how many drives you want to use. For each drive, you will need one SATA data cable and one SATA power cable. Most people only use 2 drives one HDD to store most of their files and an SSD to install their OS and store their most used applications.
Some people have multiple SSDs and HDDs as well as optical drives for these people you will need a lot more SATA cables.
However, for most computer users will only need 2 SATA cables, but it is recommended to purchase 3 just in case you need the extra one for emergency purposes.