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SATA ports connect hard disk drives, solid-state drives, and optical drives to a computer.
Whether you need additional optical drives or hard drives on your computer, adding extra SATA ports is especially easy. All you need to do is install a SATA expansion card into your motherboard. The expansion card will then increase the number of available SATA ports.
The most effective method of adding SATA ports to a motherboard is with a SATA port PCIe expansion card.
While most modern motherboards come equipped with four to six SATA ports, this may not be enough for specific individuals. There are always situations where more you need more SATA ports on your computer.
SATA expansion cards only take up one PCIe slot and provide an additional two to eight SATA ports.
So, I’ll discuss how to add more SATA ports to a motherboard and which expansion card you need to purchase.
Adding more SATA ports to your motherboard requires the usage of a SATA expansion card. However, there are a few different types of expansion cards.
Let’s discuss the different types of SATA expansion cards.
For most users, I highly recommend using a SATA PCIe expansion card to add more SATA ports to your motherboard. This is a quick and easy solution for anybody looking to beef up their computer.
Furthermore, you’ll typically be able to find two to eight SATA ports on a PCIe expansion card. However, you’ll need to be aware of which PCIe slot (learn what else can be plugged into a PCIe slot here) is available on your motherboard and if it comprehends with the SATA PCIe expansion card.
I’ll discuss why PCIe lanes and the version are so important below.
SATA PCIe expansions cards also do not feature a RAID controller.
SATA hub port multipliers are typically considered inexpensive and inefficient. This is because a SATA hub port multiplier uses one SATA port and turns it into many.
Usually, you’ll be able to turn one SATA port into five SATA ports.
However, an issue arises because the downstream bandwidth from a single SATA port isn’t divided effectively and can potentially bottleneck the connected drives.
If you run five total drives on a single SATA port through a SATA hub port multiplier, there won’t be enough bandwidth for each drive to run efficiently.
For this reason, I don’t recommend using this method unless you’re really in a pinch and don’t mind sacrificing performance.
A SAS SATA Expansion Card is recommended for professional and enterprise users because it offers excessive transfer speeds for average PC users. It’s also more complex to install.
However, if you’re a NAS user, I highly recommend using a SAS SATA expansion card.
These expansions card offer excellent downstream and upstream bandwidth as well as a hardware RAID controller.
Furthermore, SAS SATA expansion cards require special SAS to SATA cables. To know how many SATA cables you’ll need, read this article.
If you’re adding additional SATA ports to your motherboard, it’s essential to understand how the SATA expansion card works.
There are four key elements you need to look out for when choosing your SATA PCIe expansion card.
As you’re searching for a SATA expansion card, you should confirm that the card is equipped with the new SATA 3.0 ports. It’s common to find SATA 2.0 ports on older expansion cards, so be sure to get the latest version.
SATA 2.0 ports have a speed of 3.0 GB/s and a data transfer rate of 300 MB/s. On the other hand, SATA 3.0 ports have a speed of 6.0 GB/s and a data transfer speed of 600 MB/s.
As you can see, SATA 3.0 offers double the speed of SATA 2.0.
You should choose a SATA expansion card that has the right amount of slots you need. SATA expansion cards usually range from two to eight additional SATA ports.
Furthermore, you’ll need to be aware of the expansion card’s size and PCIe version to ensure it can deliver enough bandwidth to each SATA port.
Let’s talk about PCIe specifications when buying a new SATA PCIe expansion card.
The most important part of your new SATA PCIe expansion card search is what version PCIe the card uses and how many lanes it needs to occupy.
Usually, SATA expansion cards utilize 1, 4, or 8 lanes. These are labeled as PCIe x1, PCIe x4, and PCIe x8.
Each singular lane offers a specific transfer speed depending on which PCIe generation it’s from. The PCIe generations are PCIe 1.0, PCIe 2.0, PCIe 3.0, and PCIe 4.0. PCIe 5.0 is planned on releasing in 2022.
So a single lane on a PCIe 2.0 slot has a transfer speed of 500 MB/s. On the other hand, a single lane on a PCIe 3.0 slot has a transfer speed of 985 MB/s.
Each newer generation of PCIe offers double the speed of the previous generation.
A standard hard disk drive that operates at max speeds needs about 200 MB/s. Thus, you will have severe bottlenecking if your SATA port uses an x1 connector and has all four drives connected, working at full load simultaneously.
Let’s walk through this process with a few examples.
So, the SATA expansion card uses an x1 lane and is of the PCIe 3.0 generation. Therefore, it has a maximum transfer speed of 985 MB/s. Keep in mind, this is the max transfer speed that usually isn’t fully utilized. The actual transfer speeds are lower on average. However, let’s pretend the transfer speed is 985 MB/s for this example.
Now, after installing the SATA PCIe expansion card, you have an additional 6 SATA ports on your motherboard. Remember, a regular hard drive disk running at total capacity can occupy 200 MB/s of bandwidth.
If all six SATA ports have hard drive disks inserted and are running at maximum capacity, the total needed transfer speed is 1200 MB/s. However, the x1 lane only has a capacity of 985 MB/s.
In this case, the hard drive disks performances would suffer due to bottlenecks.
The bottlenecks would be even more severe if the PCIe slot was from generation 2.0 and only offered 500 MB/s.
As you can see, it’s essential to take note of which PCIe slot you have on your computer before making a SATA PCIe expansion card purchase.
Let’s walk through another example with a PCIe 3.0 x4 expansion card with five additional SATA ports.
It’s typical for this kind of expansion card only to utilize 2 PCIe despite the x4 connector. Therefore, it can reach max transfer speeds of 2000 MB/s with PCIe 3.0.
Compared to the previous SATA PCIe expansion card, this version has double the bandwidth and will be able to support all five hard drive disks without any bottlenecks.
However, there may be problems if you attempt to connect SATA solid-state drives to them.
SATA solid-state drives offer transfer speeds of 550 MB/s, which is double the transfer speed of normal hard drive disks.
For this reason, you’ll need to make sure your expansion card can deliver enough downstream bandwidth to avoid bottlenecks.
In our previous example, if you were to connect SSDs to the SATA ports instead of hard drive disks, you would face severe bottlenecks.
Even though there are always potential bottlenecks when bandwidth is over capacitated, you don’t have to worry most of the time.
This is because it’s uncommon for the drives to be all running at full transfer speeds at the same time.
Hard disk drives and solid-state drives will be at an idle state until they are accessed on your computer.
The last thing you need to consider when purchasing a new SATA PCIe expansion card is if it has RAID controller built-in or not.
SATA port expansion cards with RAID controller require more PCIe bandwidth and are more expensive.
If you’re not sure what RAID controller is, it’s essentially multiple physical hard drives acting as a single virtual hard drive. RAID controller functionality is vital for users who want to safeguard their data, increase their storage, and improve their transfer speeds.
They are typically only used by NAS builders and professionals. So, the average PC enthusiast doesn’t need to worry about shelling out extra money for a SATA PCIe expansion card with RAID controller.
The exact cost of the PCIe expansion card will depend on how many additional ports you need. However, they are usually affordable regardless of which size you get.
PCIe expansion cards with two additional SATA ports cost around $20. PCIe expansion cards with four additional SATA ports cost approximately $40.
Furthermore, it will cost about $60 for a PCIe expansion card with six additional SATA ports.
If you’re really looking to increase the drive space on your computer, you can find PCIe expansion cards with ten additional SATA ports for around $100.
Either way, SATA PCIe expansion cards won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
Well, there you have it! A complete guide on how to add more SATA ports to your computer’s motherboard.
If you’re out of SATA ports on your motherboard and are unable to upgrade the existing disk sizes, it’s easy to add more SATA ports.
Even though there are several solutions, the best method is using a SATA PCIe expansion card. These expansion cards offer two to eight additional SATA ports and can be easily inserted into a PCIe slot on your motherboard.
However, you’ll need to make sure your PCIe slot has enough bandwidth for the number of drives you want to install.
Furthermore, you’ll need to ensure that your motherboard actually has spare PCIe slots.
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