When buying a new hard disk drive or HD DVD, Blu-ray, DVD or CD drive for your computer it’s crucial that you choose the most appropriate Serial ATA (SATA) data cable to connect your drive to the motherboard securely allowing for a direct path without bending the cable too much.
I’m going to describe the most common kinds of SATA cables you can purchase and which ones are appropriate for different situations.
Often abbreviated SATA or S-ATA, an evolution of the Parallel ATA physical storage interface. SATA is a serial link — a single cable with a minimum of four wires creates a point-to-point connection between devices. Transfer rates for Serial ATA begin at 150MBps. One of the main design advantages of SATA is that the thinner serial cables facilitate more efficient airflow inside a form factor and also allow for smaller chassis designs.
SATA supports all ATA and ATAPI devices.
When compared to the older type IDE drive cable which were quite wide and limited to a length of 40cm, SATA cables are much thinner and can be upto 1m in length (internal) or 2m in length (external eSATA cables only).
In addition there are 2 speed levels for SATA devices: SATA= upto 1.5Gb/s and SATA II= upto 3Gb/s. In reality as with all speed specifications, the real life speed will be much less but a SATA II device will allow greater throughput if the rest of the computer system can keep up with it.
The term SATA II has grown in popularity as the moniker for the SATA 3Gb/s data transfer rate, causing great confusion with customers because, quite simply, it’s a misnomer.
The first step toward a better understanding of SATA is to know that SATA II is not the brand name for SATA’s 3Gb/s data transfer rate, but the name of the organization formed to author the SATA specifications. The group has since changed names, to the Serial ATA International Organization, or SATA-IO.
The 3Gb/s capability is just one of many defined by the former SATA II committee, but because it is among the most prominent features, 3Gb/s has become synonymous with SATA II. Hence, the source of the confusion.
Straight Both Ends SATA cable
This cable is the most commonly sold and has the same straight connectors at both ends so it’s most often the cheapest as well. There are no problems with using this cable as long as the cables path between the drive and the motherboard is reasonably stright or just curved.
However it is inappropriate if the cable has to be really bent around an obstruction within the case.
Straight Both Ends with Latches SATA cable
This is a variation on the Straight Both Ends cable and will only connect to newer motherboards that support latched SATA cables. It has the benefit of a more secure connection, but the downside that if it’s used in a cramped area, it can be hard to get your fingers in to unlatch the cable.
One of the complaints users had about SATA when it first launched, was the connectors. Yes, the new cable design was great for airflow and plugging the connectors in was a doddle. However, they did feel a little insecure, fragile, and left you wondering whether you’d plugged them in properly.
With a new generation of SATA products surfacing, a solution to this has been devised. New SATA sockets and connectors feature a latching system. Plug in the cable and a metallic latch clicks into place, securing the cable. To remove the cable, you press the latch against the connector and pull it out.
Right Angled (90 °) Drive Connector SATA cable
When plugged into a drive the cable connector points downwards (as seen in the photo at right). This makes it unsuitable for use in drives which are near the floor of a computer case because the cable would have to be bent upwards to be plugged into the motherboard at the other end. However it’s perfect for drives mounted high up in a case.
270° Drive Connector SATA cable
When plugged into a drive the cable connector points upwards (as seen in the photo at right). This makes it perfect for use in drives that are near the floor of a computer case but not good for use with drives mounted high up in a case.
External SATA (eSATA) cables
The odds are that if you buy a device which supports eSATA connection, (such as a external hard disk drive enclosure) than it will be supplied with all the necessary cables.
External SATA (eSATA) applications range from a single disk external drive to multi-disk external storage/backup with RAID/Port multiplier features. New generation Set top box (STB) and motherboard (MB) product releases have also added eSATA connectors. The market demand for eSATA external storage is on the rise.