Perhaps the primary interface for connecting hard drives, the SATA ports on a motherboard are hard to miss. The SATA port is essentially a small port measuring 1.5cm x 0.4cm with very specific dimensions and a very recognizable L-shaped seven-pin connector.
The notches, edges, and shape of the SATA port are specially designed in such a way as to better secure the connected SATA cable so that it does not slip off easily.
Most of the time on your motherboard you will find all. The SATA ports lined up next to each other and they will all be the same color. However, on some motherboards you may find SATA ports of different colors indicating a different generation of SATA – this is a very important point to consider when connecting your drive.
Also, there are two primary ports used by the SATA interface. One is the data port on the motherboard and the other is the power port, which originates from the power supply.
In the following text, we will discuss in depth what the SATA port looks like. We’ll touch base on both the SATA data and power ports.
So what is the SATA interface and what is the use of SATA ports?
A SATA hard drive like this one requires a SATA power connector and a SATA data cable.
Basically, SATA is the primary interface in most computers for connecting storage drives such as spinning hard drives, CD/DVD ROM optical drives, and SATA SSD drives.
There are different versions of the SATA interface, the latest being SATA 3. Each new version doubles the transfer speed compared to the previous one. Subsequently:
1 SATA has a supported transfer rate of 1.5Gbps or 187.5MB/s
2 SATA has a supported transfer rate of 3.0Gbps or 375MB/s
3 SATA has a supported transfer rate of 6.0Gbps or 750MB/s
Most hard drives are mechanically capable of reaching speeds of only about 200MB/s. So in the case of an average hard drive, SATA 2 and SATA 3 are sufficient to satisfy these speeds.
For a SATA SSD, you need the best port available. More resources on this topic below:
Does it matter which SATA port you use?
Which is faster, PCIe or SATA?
SATA drive port requirements
Each SATA drive requires a SATA data cable and a SATA power cable. A SATA data cable has one end connected to the motherboard and the other to the drive.
The SATA power cable comes from the power supply unit.
What is the shape of the SATA port?
On any typical motherboard, you’ll find any set of SATA ports grouped together in one corner. As mentioned earlier, these are small outlets about 1.5 x 4 cm in size, have a strange shape with edges, and have a recognizable L-shape connected in the middle.
The single-shaped port is designed to hold SATA data cables securely in place.
SATA versions and port color coding
In general, all SATA ports share the same color on any motherboard. In case the SATA ports are compatible with a different version, they may be color coded. For example, on the motherboard above, the white ports correspond to the newer SATA 3 interface while the blue ports correspond to the older SATA 2.
Your primary drive, or if you have a SATA SSD, will go to the SATA 3 ports perfectly.
If your motherboard has a single SATA version across the board, there may not be any color coding to worry about.
Also read: How to identify SATA 1 2 3 on the motherboard and drive?
SATA ports have replaced the old Parallel ATA
The SATA interface and port have basically replaced the Parallel ATA (PATA) interface. If you have a very old computer, i.e. one that was made before 2003, you may have seen wide and long IDE cables attached to the 40-pin PATA connectors on your motherboard.
Despite being wide and bulkier, at its peak, the PATA interface only offered a maximum transfer speed of 133MB/s.
How many SATA ports do computers usually have?
The motherboard usually has 4-6 SATA ports. This generally depends on the chipset of the motherboard as well as its size.
For example, smaller mini-ITX motherboards generally offer fewer SATA ports than larger ATX boards—there are exceptions, of course.
But the point to note is that the number of SATA ports varies from motherboard to motherboard. You may even find motherboards that have 8 SATA ports.
The more SATA ports you have, the more drives you can connect. For the average user, you don’t need more than two or three SATA ports. However, for professionals and NAS builds, more SATA ports may be required.
How many SATA ports do I have?
How do you add more SATA ports to a motherboard?
Labeling and numbering of SATA ports
It is not uncommon to find SATA ports with a sticker on the motherboard around them to identify the SATA version or speed. SATA 3 connectors can be called SATA3 or SATA 6Gb/s for the speed they support. SATA 2 connectors may have a SATA2 or SATA 3Gb/s label.
Basically, the labeling helps to easily identify the ports to plug your drives into.
It is also common to find numbered SATA ports on the motherboard. On a motherboard with 5 SATA ports, you may have ports numbered 0-4 and 0-5 if you have 6 SATA ports.
Some manufacturers recommend connecting the bootable drive to port 0 and the secondary drive (if you have it) to port 1. This may not be necessary, and you can use your drive to technically any port of the same generation SATA.
In the motherboard above, you can see each SATA port is identified by its number in the system as well as its version, i.e. the port named SATA3_0 has SATA version 3 and 0 is its identification number in the BIOS. Similarly, the SATA2_4 port corresponds to SATA version 2 and has pin 4 in the BIOS.
SATA POWER PORT connector – what does it look like?
As mentioned earlier, a SATA drive requires both a SATA DATA cable coming from the port on the motherboard as well as a distinct SATA power cable.
The SATA power cable originates from the power supply and has a 15-pin connector that connects to another, longer, L-shaped slot on the drive.
ESATA should not be confused with SATA
eSATA is a very old connector that appeared during the time when USB 2.0 was a very popular interface for connecting external devices.
While it has much faster speeds (the same SATA interface speeds) than the 60MB/s transfer speed of USB 2.0, it has lost popularity to the newer USB 3.0.
So while the SATA interface is still widely used for internal hard drives, the eSATA port dedicated to external peripherals is rarely used today.
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The SATA port is hard to miss, and if you’re someone who’s new to installing computers, asking what a SATA port looks like is a completely applicable one.
Being one of the most important ports and interfaces in a computer. It is very important to understand not only how it looks, but also how it works and how it distinguishes itself from the PCIe interface.
The primary purpose of the SATA interface today is to add hard drives to your computer. However, with the much faster PCIe-based NVMe SSDs becoming cheaper and more common. The use of SATA ports in the future for mainstream users may lose interest.