What Does a SATA Port Look Like?

What Does a SATA Port Look Like

You have probably heard the word SATA Ports come up several times if you are a desktop or PC user or hang around techies.

SATA Ports is a simple interface that enables PC/Desktop users to connect external storage devices to their PC. It helps them to facilitate the transfer or collection of data needed for jobs, presentations, etc.

Different types of SATA Ports can be found on a computer system.  In this article, you will learn the basics about SATA Ports, how they function, and how to use them, as well as other additional information.

What Are SATA Ports?

SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) port is a type of connection found on many electronic gadgets, including computers.

These ports link storage devices like hard drives and solid-state drives (SSD) to electric gadgets using SATA connectors.

The SATA ports are usually placed at the back of computers or the side of other electronic devices, clearly labeled “SATA” for easy identification. The SATA setup replaced PATA and IDE connections to transfer data between systems and storage devices.

SATA Port Terminologies

One of the best ways to fully understand SATA Ports’ functions and uses is to grasp the different terminologies associated with them entirely.

Quickly look at some of the most common terms related to SATA Ports.

  • Differential Signaling
  • SATA Versions
  • SATA Connectors
  • IDE

Differential Signaling

Differential signaling is a way of transmitting data using two voltage signals enabled by a pair of conductors. SATA uses differential signaling for transferring data between the computer and the storage devices. 

Voltage signals are transmitted through wires that would enable the storage devices to know what information the conductors are sharing. It determines this information by comparing the voltage differences between the pair.

SATA Versions

SATA has evolved through different versions through the years. Each of these versions has its unique features, characteristics, and capabilities.

The three versions out so far include the following:

SATA Version 1.0

SATA 1.0, also known as SATA 1.5 Gbps, was the first SATA version released in 2001.

The name SATA 1.5 Gbps was to represent its maximum data transfer rate per second. The version had a 7-pin connector to link the computers to external devices.

However, version 1.0 was still a boost compared to the PATA (parallel ATA) system, which existed before it was released.

Some of the improvements could be seen in the faster data transfer rates; connectors came in smaller sizes and could simultaneously link multiple gadgets to one port. Although newer versions have come to replace this one, it is still compatible with some more recent systems.

SATA Version 2.0

The newer and improved 2.0 was to boost the performance of the SATA 1.0.

This was achieved by increasing the transfer rate per second from 1.5Gbps to 3.0Gbps. SATA 2.0 was introduced in 2004. In addition to Version 1.0’s doubled data transfer rate, it included an NCQ (Native Command Queuing) feature.

The NCQ feature improves the performance of the system hard drive by creating an avenue for it to read and write commands in a better way. Although version 2.0 has yet to be released, it is still compatible with many modern-day systems. It is also compatible with SATA 1.0 devices. However, it will operate at the 1.0 data transfer rate.

SATA Version 3.0

3.0 (also known as SATA III) is a SATA (Serial ATA) version that is used to connect external devices to a system’s motherboard. 

SATA 3.0 has a transfer rate of 6 Gb per second, double the speed of the preceding version, but can be paired with older SATA devices.

The improved rate of transfer is helpful for users who carry out a lot of large data transfers.

Like its previous version, SATA 3.0 has the NCQ feature that improves the hard drive performance. In addition, the 3.0 version allows users to disconnect and reconnect their storage devices even while the system is on.

SATA Connectors

SATA connectors are cables that help to link external devices and drives to the computer motherboard.

Although this application is not only restricted to computer systems, you would also see SATA connectors used for media devices and gaming consoles, etc. One thing that makes SATA connectors a popular choice is how quick they transfer information and how compatible they are with not only PCs or Desktops.

SATA connectors are built to improve the data transfer rate of PATA’s, which were used before SATA’s originated. The connectors come in different types depending on their functions, and the different types are:

Power SATA Connectors

As you can deduce by looking at the name, power SATA connectors to storage devices. The power connectors have 2 rows of 7-pins and an extra pin at the bottom, totaling 15-pins. Power ports are located close to the data ports on a system, and the connectors link this port to a parallel port on a storage device.

The voltage for the storage devices is 3.3V and 5V supply and an additional connection at the bottom row. The newer power connectors use 5V, while older versions use 3.3V. This connection can isolate electrical noise during its operations with the help of the extra pin on the last row.

SATA power connectors can also be used to supply power to other devices outside of providing power for storage devices linked to a computer.

eSATA

Developed as an alternative to USB, eSATA is a high-speed data transfer interface that connects external storage devices to a computer. They differ from USB connectors in appearance, as they are more significant with a different pin configuration and speed, as eSATA provides faster data transfer speeds. 

eSATA connectors are of two types: external and internal. The external connectors connect external storage devices to a computer, while the internal connectors connect internal storage devices to a motherboard. eSATA connectors are typically found on the back of desktop computers and some laptops. They are no longer as common as before due to the development of new technologies.

Data SATA Connector

Data SATA connectors come in a flat shape that enables fast data transfer between the storage device and the system. Data connectors usually have 7 pins and two ends, which are meant to be connected to the connector port linked to the motherboard. The second end is to be linked to the hard drive or storage device.

One of the connector ends is straight and flat, while the other, which will most likely be linked to the storage device, may be angled at 90° or have an L-shape. Data connectors usually have a thinner design than power connectors.

mSATA

Micro and mini serial ATA (mSATA) is a more minute version of regular SATA connectors. It works on computers and other electronics requiring data transfer. It has a high transfer rate like the regular-sized versions. However, the connection ports for this mSATA defer are located in a system’s motherboard. The connectors are small drives known as SSD (solid state drives).

The power consumption of mSATA is relatively low, and it’s easy to manage and move about and is durable like its normal-sized counterparts. Hence, it’s wide use as a replacement for bulky hard drives and external storage devices.

SATA Express

After SATA 3.0 was created and limited to a transmission speed of 6.0Gbps, SATA express – SATA 3.2 was made to bridge the gap and speed up connectivity. It uses two SATA 3.0 connectors and another single connector to facilitate the need for speed.

SATA USB Connector

A SATA USB connector allows you to connect a SATA storage device to a computer using a USB port. They are used when your computer lacks a SATA port or if you wish to connect a SATA device to another device with only a USB port. They are utilized for a variety of data-related transfer operations.

SATA USB connectors are of two types: internal and external. The external connector is connected outside the computer, while the inner is installed inside the computer. While both perform the same function, the outer is more portable and can be used on any computer with a USB port. 

IDE

IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) comes up in conversations related to SATA because it is also an interface for data transfer. IDE is another name for PATA, the older interface that SATA was created to replace. 

The IDE interface is much bigger than SATA, with a 40-pin ribbon cable that helps to link storage devices to a system. The IDE is much slower than SATA. However, the EIDE (enhanced IDE) can transfer data faster than the regular connector.

What Does A SATA Port Look Like?

A SATA (Serial ATA) port is a rectangular-shaped port with pins that can be found at the back or sides of an electronic device attached to the motherboard. It is used to connect to storage devices and requires a connector with pins and a thin wire that will link the SATA port in the computer to the device’s port.

The ports are an improvement on earlier models and, like the IDE or PATA interface, have had different versions over the years, and SATA III is the latest.

Conclusion

SATA ports are one of the most valuable electronic transfer and computation features. The ports enable the easy transfer of data from one device to another with the aid of hard drives, flash drives, SSD cards, and much more.

From the first time it was introduced as a replacement for IDE/PATA in 2001, its characteristics and features have evolved to enable better performance. Some things that would be noticed would be faster data transfer rates, lower power consumption, etc.

Understanding the workings of SATA ports, their versions, and associated terms and features are necessary to guide informed decisions.

Author:
I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...