What Does a SATA Port Look Like?

Atif Liaqat | Last Updated On December 29th, 2021

The mess of cables and components common in every gaming rig can make it difficult to identify each part of your computer, even if you were the one who built it. With all these components, it can be easy to forget about one of the more important facets of your system: the SATA ports.

Beyond knowing that every computer needs them, many don’t know what SATA ports are used for, or even what does a SATA port look like. However, being able to identify and understand the purpose of the SATA ports in your computer can go a long way as you upgrade and switch out components.

The purpose of this article is to explain how to identify a SATA port, understand their functions, and how to distinguish SATA versions from one another. Keep in mind that while there are technically three SATA versions available, the SATA 3.0 is the one you’ll most likely possess.

That being said, let’s get into it.

What is a SATA Port?

SATA ports, commonly known as connectors, are the ports that you plug one end of the SATA cable into, with the other end connecting to a hard drive. Their purpose is to transmit data from the motherboard to the hard drive, and vice versa.

The three versions of SATA ports, 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 all have different speeds at which they transfer data. The newest version, the 3.0, transmits the fastest and is what you most commonly find in modern builds.

There are differences between brands and lengths, but the speeds are almost always the same for each version of cable, regardless of from whom you buy it. In the end, though, you need a SATA port and a SATA cable to connect your hard drive(s) to your computer.

What Does a SATA Port Look Like?

SATA ports are relatively easy to identify on your motherboard, since all versions have the same distinctive shape. SATA ports are, for the most part, rectangular, with a seven-pin L-shaped divider in the middle of the port to secure the cable.

Each motherboard can have different colorings for what version of SATA port it has, but each version of a SATA port on any motherboard is colored the same as the other versions on the board. If there are multiple versions, each version will be assigned a color to help you distinguish them.

You’ll also generally see a label printed onto the board designating each port with the version of SATA it supports. You will need the right version of cable for it to be compatible with the ports, so pay attention to the labels or, if need be, check your motherboard’s manual.

There are three different versions of SATA ports, which I’ll discuss in the next section. The colors will be different for each version on the motherboard, but the structure of the port is largely the same to the naked eye.

Common SATA Port Versions

As the years progress and the technology industry follows suit, newer versions of common components become more advanced. These new versions generally come with faster speeds, higher durability, and more features.

For SATA ports in particular, the speed is the largest change. In this section, I’ll discuss the three varieties of SATA port versions and their associated throughput speeds.

SATA 1.0

SATA 1.0 was released at the beginning of 2003, which made the former Parallel ATA (PATA) ports obsolete. The newer SATA 1.0 ports had a higher throughput rate of 1.5 Gb/s, or 187.5 Mb/s.

At the time, and still true to today, hard drives were only mechanically capable of a throughput rate of 200 Mb/s, so the SATA 1.0 was designed to transmit data almost as fast as possible. It wasn’t long, though, before the ever-progressive technology industry made these ports obsolete as well, in favor of the SATA 2.0.

SATA 2.0

A year after the release of SATA 1.0, the SATA 2.0 ports were released. These new ports were capable of a higher throughput rate of 3.0 Gb/s, or 375 Mb/s. These ports were also enhanced to be a bit more durable than the 1.0 and last longer.

A question I asked myself was: why do SATA port throughput rates exceed the hard drive’s throughput rate? The answer is actually rather simple.

SATA ports past version 2.0 exceed the throughput rate that a hard drive can support, but many people these days use their SATA ports to connect their SSD to the motherboard as well. Since SSD throughput rates are much higher than hard drive rates, the SATA ports are better able to transmit data from SSDs than they are hard drives.

This means that SATA ports 2.0 or later are capable of more than just what a hard drive requires, so they can handle an SSD without bottlenecking like the SATA 1.0 would.

SATA 3.0

SATA 3.0 was released in 2009, about five years after the 2.0 was released. With the upgrade came a throughput rate double that of the 2.0 at 6.0 Gb/s, or 750 Mb/s. It was around this time that hybrid hard drives were being released, and the newer ports were able to handle those speeds best.

SATA 3.0 is the most common version of SATA port these days, and it will likely remain so until the next upgrade is released. The fast throughput rates of these ports can handle any drive without bottlenecking, and they are built to last a long time without degradation.

How SATA Ports Work on the Motherboard

Since there are still great, modern motherboards coming out with SATA 2.0 ports on them, most motherboards will color-code and label the SATA ports so that you don’t have to do a load of research before buying a cable.

However, just knowing where to look isn’t enough. You’ll need to connect the SATA cable to the corresponding port on your motherboard, but you’ll also need to plug the SATA port power cable into the motherboard as well.

There are generally 4-6 SATA ports on modern motherboards, but most people don’t end up using all of them. In fact, most people only use 2-3 of their available SATA ports. You can even connect multiple cables into one port with a SATA multiplier, but you do this at the expense of dividing your bandwidth.

If you want to know how many SATA ports do you have, we have an article here to help you know how many SATA ports does your computer or motherboard have.

What Is eSATA?

connect harddisk of notebook with External Box 2.5 SATA

The eSATA port was popular around the same time as the USB 2.0 was first released. These ports were intended for easily connecting external devices to your motherboard, and it had a faster throughput rate than the USB 2.0 ports did.

However, when the USB 3.0 came out a few years later, it dwarfed the speed of the eSATA port, and now they are rarely used. The main difference between eSATA and SATA ports is that SATA ports are used for connecting internal devices, such as drives, whereas the eSATA ports were used to connect external devices and drives.

While eSATA ports can be helpful for some, their throughput rates are too slow for most modern technology. You’d be better off using a USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt port, or even better off with a SATA 3.0.

In Conclusion

In this article, I explained how to identify SATA ports on your motherboard, the differences between the common versions, and how they work. In the end, the SATA ports you have will depend on the motherboard you purchase, and the ones you use will depend on the cables you buy and the needs of your drives. Always consult a manual if you’re having trouble understanding what your specific motherboard is capable of.

FAQs

Where are the SATA Ports on a Motherboard?

You can most commonly find SATA ports situated on the bottom-right corner of your motherboard. If they are not placed there, simply look for the labels on the motherboard indicating SATA ports, or look for the distinct seven-pin L-shaped connector. You can also always add more SATA ports to the motherboard.

How to Identify a SATA Cable?

Most motherboards come with at least one SATA cable, and even sometimes with hard drives. They are as easy to identify as the SATA ports on your motherboard, since the jack will look like the port does, with an L-shaped gap in the middle of it.

Do All Motherboards Have a SATA Port?

Yes, all computer motherboards will have at least one SATA port. Without them, there wouldn’t be an efficient way to connect your hard drives to your computer, which would leave you in a rough spot. You can check how many SATA ports a motherboard has, as well as their versions, by checking the specifications of a certain motherboard or by consulting its manual.

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