Understanding SATA – CompTIA A+ 220-801: 1.5

Most modern desktop and laptop computers use SATA interfaces to connect to hard drive storage devices. In this video, you’ll learn about the SATA standard and how to properly configure and connect SATA drives.

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If you’re working with a relatively new computer, then it most likely is using SATA connections to plug in the storage devices inside of that computer. Here’s an example of one of those. This is a 256 gig solid state drive that is using SATA connections to be able to communicate, and we’ll look closer at what that might look like.

SATA stands for Serial AT Attachment, that AT Attachment being that older AT computer, one of the regional style computers, and we’ve kept the terminology through the years. Although the original computers are well beyond us, we have this Serial AT Attachment to have some comparison back to the older, Parallel AT Attachment, or PATA.

We have different standards for SATA. One of the original SATA versions was version 1.0. It ran at 1.5 gigabits per second. There’s also another standard, which is the SATA revision 2.0, which is running at 3.0 gigabits per second. The latest SATA standard goes even faster than that. That’s SATA revision 3.0 that runs at 6.0 gigabits per second.

One thing you have to watch for is occasionally you will see people abbreviate 3.0 gigabits per second as 3G, and we can sometimes confuse 3G with third generation. That’s not really the case. I’ve been very careful here to show you SATA revision 1.0, SATA revision 2.0, and SATA revision 3.0, and then the speeds of those being 1.5 gigabits per second, 3.0 gigabits per second, and 6.0 gigabits per second. So if you’re looking at standards for SATA, make sure you don’t confuse any of that terminology. It can become confusing when you’re dealing with different versions and different speeds, but as long as you synchronize those up, you shouldn’t have a problem.

One of the advantages that SATA brings to the table is that the connections are much smaller on the motherboard. You can see one of the older IDE, or PATA, connections on this motherboard, and this motherboard also has SATA connections. One, two, three, four, five, six different SATA connections.

If you were to look at these cables side-by-side, you’d really see the difference. PATA uses these larger ribbon connections. Here’s the SATA connections, a much smaller connector on the motherboard, and a much smaller cable that’s being used to the storage device. So for the purposes of managing cables inside of your computer and making sure that the air flow is maintained through your computer, SATA has some distinct advantages.

This is the back of a SATA drive, very similar to the PATA in that your interfaces are all on this side. It’s actually this very small interface is the SATA data connection. This larger interface is actually the power for SATA. You’ve also got these jumpers, and then you have an older, traditional power connection. This drive was built for a computer that may be transitioning between PATA and SATA, and they gave you the option you could either plug in with the newer SATA power or you could plug in with the older, four pin molex connector onto this drive. You would only choose one of those. You wouldn’t need to plug both of those in.

One of the advantages with SATA, however, is there’s the capability on a number of drives to do hot swapping. You could unplug this drive while your system was powered up and plug it back in. That would be something you would not commonly do, and you would certainly want to take proper precautions when you were doing something like that, but it is part of the SATA standard.

If we were to look at the top of the drive itself, it would give us that documentation of what we just saw with the power on one side, our serial connection which is the data connection to our motherboard, the jumpers that are on the side, there’s a Legacy power connection built in right into the documentation on the top of the drive.

If your power supply had some of the newer SATA connections, you would simply plug the power connection into the SATA power, and you apply your data cable into the SATA connector on the drive. If you have an older power supply, then you would plug it in very much like this picture shows, where you still have the same data connection, but you would use this Legacy molex power connector to make sure the drive was operational.

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