You’ll need SATA cables to attach all of your drives to your motherboard. These days new motherboards usually come with at least 2 – 4 SATA cables in the box. You can get a mix of different cables, such as SATA 2 and SATA 3 cables as well as straight or angled cable connectors.
You’ll usually get new SATA cables when you buy a motherboard, as most motherboards these days ship with a few cables. Sometimes, you’ll find a hard drive that comes with its own SATA cable but that’s rare. SSD and CD Drive manufacturers know people generally already get cables with their motherboards so they don’t bother to add any themselves.
These cables are designed to be lightweight and small so that they don’t bulk up your computer or restrict airflow. It’s best to stick with the cables you get with your motherboard as they’ll typically be good quality ones that you can keep using as you replace components. It’s normally unnecessary to buy additional SATA cables.
What are SATA Cables used for?
SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, and you use these cables to connect your drives (SSD, HDD, CD Drive) to the motherboard. These are also informally known as SATA data cables to differentiate them from SATA power cables – but more on that in a bit. SATA cables have pins that relay information from drives to the motherboard and vice versa.
Types of SATA Cables
You’ll likely get different type of SATA cables along with your motherboard. The types you get depend on the manufacturer’s preferences and the type of motherboard you buy. You should be able to see which types of SATA cables come with the motherboard on its store page before you buy it. Make sure these match the requirements of your hard drives.
SATA cables come in different versions and with different connectors. You’ll also usually find a combination of different lengths. While SATA cables can be up to a metre (3.3 feet) long, they’re typically much shorter. Here are the types of SATA cables you’ll normally find in the box:
Straight SATA Cables
These are your run of the mill SATA cables with straight connectors that plug into the motherboard and hard drive slots.
Angled SATA Cables
SATA cables can come with either left or right-angled connectors. They work exactly the same as the straight connectors but they’re bent to accommodate different PC builds. With a left-angled connector, your cable will be facing up when you plug it in whereas with a right-angled connector the cable will be facing down. That’s the only difference.
You can have a combination of left/right and straight connectors on one cable. A lot of cables have one angled connector at one end and a straight connector at the other to give people more options.
SATA 1 / SATA 2 / SATA 3 Cables
These are the different versions of SATA cables that have sprung up over the years. The latest version is the SATA 3 cable and it’s also becoming the industry standard for use with most drives. They’re also known as SATA 1.5Gb/s, SATA 3Gb/s, and SATA 6Gb/s cables respectively.
SATA Power Cables
These cables don’t come with your motherboard but with your power supply (PSU). They’re used to connect your drives to your power supply.
Is it Ever Necessary to Buy More SATA Cables?
While I personally don’t care one way or another, many people have a preference for the type of SATA cable they use. I find it usually depends on what will fit in your build, as things can get pretty tight – especially with micro cases. For the most part, it shouldn’t be a problem to fit the SATA cables you get with your motherboard into your PC chassis.
There may be times when you want to buy more cables, though. For one, you sometimes don’t get enough SATA cables with your motherboard to cover everything you want to connect. You may also get cables that don’t work as well for your build. Other components can get in the way, forcing you to use another type of connector, or the cables could be too short.
You might have a few old ones lying around the house and be tempted to just use them instead of buying new ones, which should be fine. The different versions of SATA cables are mostly the same, and older versions’ connectors should still work on today’s SSDs. According to the SATA-IO FAQ, it doesn’t matter which cable version you use, the transfer rate will stay the same.