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Do you have your SATA cables handy but just have no idea where to put them? This article is here to help!
SATA cables are some of the building blocks of modern-day computing. If you have a laptop or desktop computer that has an HDD, an SSD, or an optical drive, you are almost guaranteed to have SATA cables in your device right now.
SATA cables are plugged into the motherboard through specific SATA ports. These ports are generally labeled well, so they are relatively easy to find on the right side of the motherboard.
Different SATA cables have different purposes and may attach the motherboard to different core pieces of the computer.
Installing a SATA Hard Drive on Desktop
To install a SATA hard drive on your desktop computer:
- First, you want to turn off or power off your computer and you will want to remove the side panel to view the motherboard. This can be done generally with your hands, but it may sometimes require a screwdriver if the computer is an older model.
- Once you have the computer powered off, the side panel removed, and are ready to begin working on the drive, you must discharge any possible electrostatic that you may have on you. This can be done by touching exposed metal or water. The safest way to go about working on your computer regarding electrostatics is to wear an antistatic wrist strap.
- Next, you will need to locate the hard drive bay. This is generally found beneath the optical drive bay. In the bay, you will find a hard drive if you are upgrading or replacing the hard drive. If not, it will be empty. If you are replacing the hard drive, you will want to disconnect the older hard drive. If you are just adding storage to the hard drive, you may leave it as is.
- After you have found the hard drive bay, you will want to insert the new drive into an empty bay and secure the drive. You will want to space out the drive from the other drives. This is to maintain proper airflow through the computer. Use two screws on the side of the hard drive to secure it. The screws should be short screws so as to not damage the hard drive itself.
How and where to connect the SATA cables on desktop
For the final steps, prior to installation of the software, you will need to connect the SATA cables to the hard drive and to the motherboard.
To do this:
- Connect the power cable to the larger of the two ports on the left-rear of the hard drive because it is the larger of the two connectors. The data cable will fit the smaller port. Be careful that you are connecting the cable with the right side up. If your hard drive is older, you may need a Molex cable or a Molex to SATA adapter.
- To connect the SATA cables to the motherboard, you will need to locate the ports labeled SATA. They are usually found on the right side of the board and are often found together. Connected to your lowest SATA port on the motherboard should be your primary drive. This should be connected to SATA1 or SATA0. After you have completed this step, you may complete the installation of the software.
Installing a SATA Hard Drive on a Laptop
- As with any update or change you would make to your laptop, you will need to make sure that you have backed up any and all important data.
- You will also need to power down the laptop, just like you did with the desktop computer.
- After you have powered down the device, you will need to access and replace the old hard drive. You will likely need to unscrew all the screws and may need to remove some stickers, if you have stickers, from the laptop to find all of the screws.
- When you are replacing the hard drive, make sure that you line up the new hard drive with the connectors. You should not need to force the hard drive to connect. If you have to put a decent amount of force into it, it is likely not lined up correctly.
About SATA Cables
SATA stands for Serial ATA or Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. SATA-compatible products and SATA cables are pretty much industry-standard. There have been revisions to SATA so some of the different SATA generations may have different compatibility.
At their core, SATA cables are used to transfer data at high rates of speed.
SATA cables can be broken down into two categories:
- Data connectors
- Power connectors
In some cases, you will have both data and power connectors.
Data-only SATA Cables
Data-only SATA cables have 7 pins, organized in pairs with one group of 3. The 7 pins of the data-only SATA cables can distinguish it quickly from the power-only cable. mSATA is used for laptops and smaller devices. Additionally, the data-only cables are made from one thick cable and the power-only cable is made from 5 colored wires.
Power-only SATA Cables
Power-only SATA cables have 15 pins. The number of pins on a power-only SATA cable is more than double the amount on the data-only SATA cables. This makes the connector slightly longer or bigger than the connector on the data-only SATA cable. Additionally, the power-only SATA cable is often paired with another connector – the Molex LP4 – that is connected to the computer’s power source.
It can be easy to differentiate Molex LP4 cables and SATA power-only cables. Molex LP4 cables have different wiring and a different number of pins. Molex LP4 cables have 4 pins on the connectors and have 4 wires. Molex cables are an older form of technology. If there are no SATA ports, you can assume the device takes a Molex cable.
Types of SATA Cables
There are many different specific types of SATA cables, including the:
- Micro-SATA or mSATA
- SATA Express
They are often distinguished from one another by their uses. The Micro SATA, or mSATA, is most commonly used with 46mm HDDs. It is smaller than the other cables that you may find for larger devices.
The eSATA is used to connect to external devices and the SATA Bracket increases the compatibility with eSATA drives. The Low-Profile SATA is ultra-thin and can be used with GPU cards. SATA Power and SATA Bridge are both extremely helpful. SATA Power connects various power adapters and SATA Bridge connects different devices.
Finally, in the realm of SATA technology, we have the SATA-SATA cable and the SATA Express cable. The SATA-SATA cable is your traditional SATA cable. The SATA Express is exactly what you might think it is. It transfers data at a faster speed. It also supports SATA and PCIe storage devices.
The speed of the data transfer has increased since its inception in the early 2000s. The first version of SATA transferred data at a rate of 150 MB per second with a bandwidth of 1.5 gigabits (NOT gigabytes). SATA II doubled both the speed and the bandwidth, bringing SATA II to a rate of 300 MB per second with a bandwidth of 3 gigabits.
SATA III, the most recent revision of SATA, doubled everything again. It brought the speed now to 600 MB per second and the bandwidth to 6 gigabits.
The Motherboard and SATA Cables
The motherboard often has SATA cables connected to it. The SATA cables perform various duties depending on the type of SATA cable. Where to connect these SATA cables is very important.
Most of the time, there are specific SATA cable ports. These ports are usually labeled with SATA_1 or SATA_2. If they are not labeled, it gets a bit trickier. You will need to look for L-shaped ports. It may help to look on the sides. Often, the ports are located toward the right side of the board.
Buying SATA Cables For Your Motherboard
When buying SATA cables for your motherboard, you will want to consider a few things. It is generally standard to use SATA III for your cables, but some of you may want an older version of SATA. They may be more difficult to procure than the SATA III cables. You may want to bear that in mind. Additionally, the SATA III cables have the capability to connect to older models, but the older models do not have the capability to connect to SATA III ports.
When connecting a SATA drive to a PC, you may need adapters or adapter cables. This is not the end of the world, and there are many great adapter cables out there. Just be sure that you are buying an adapter cable that fits the cable you already have to avoid any unnecessary hassle.
However, if you are using a SATA to USB adapter, you may find some things are restricted. The speed with which the data transfers may be reduced, and the connection may be weaker. It is recommended to use a standard SATA III cable when at all possible.
Putting computers together can be a lot like building a tower of Legos. Each building block has a specific role and a specific place to go. SATA cables are just another building block for that tower. They easily connect storage devices to your motherboard. Always check the right-hand side first for the ports whenever you are looking to connect HDDs, SSDs, or optical drives!
Good luck with your SATA adventures!