SATA Cable

Until recently, the Parallel ATA (PATA) interface was the most common way of connecting hard drives and CD/DVD drives to the motherboard inside a computer. It was based on the Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) interface that was introduced in 1986. Many people still refer to PATA as IDE, despite it being faster than the original version. The original PATA ribbon cables had one wire for each of the forty pins in the socket. Later versions had an extra ground wire for each pin that reduced interference and improved data transfer speeds. The end result was a two-inch wide ribbon cable that contained an incredible eighty wires that seriously reduced air flow inside a case.

The Serial ATA (SATA) interface was introduced in 2003, but it was several years before SATA finally overtook PATA as the most common interface. With widespread support for SATA today, there are few reasons to use the slower PATA anymore. SATA originally had a transfer data rate of 150 megabytes per second, which was not much faster than the best PATA speed at the time. The rate jumped to 300 megabytes per second in the next generation, called SATA II. However, this was not a great improvement either because few devices could operate at that speed. The next generations of SATA will be even faster and hopefully, future devices will be capable of operating at those speeds.

PATA devices use a ribbon cable for data transfer and a Molex cable for power. Molex cables come from the power supply unit (PSU) and consist of four wires and a white plug, so there is no risk of confusing them with ribbon cables. SATA devices also use separate cables for data and power but they look very similar. Generic SATA cables are narrow and red, with a black plug at each end. The plug on the data cable is about half the width of the plug on the power cable. The SATA sockets on a motherboard are often a different color to the plugs, usually bright red or yellow. They also have a small leg at one end of the tab to prevent other plugs from being inserted.

Proper cooling is vitally important to the well being of every computer. Ribbons cables are the bane of computer builders because their wide profile restricts air flow inside a case. This can lead to heating problems that shutdown or even damage a computer. SATA cables are thinner than ribbon cables and are much better for cooling. There are many different types and styles of SATA cables available, as well as SATA adapters with no cables. Of course, choosing the right ones requires a good knowledge of how they works, plus the ability to identify the various cables and connectors.

Many computer builders like to customize the appearance of their cases, both inside and outside. To cater for this niche market, SATA cables are available in colors other than the standard red and black. Some cables have a clear exterior that show the wires inside them, and there are even cables with special coatings that glow when exposed to ultraviolet light. When combined with glowing cooling fans and neon tubes, they produce a dazzling light show that attracts a lot of attention at LAN parties. Of course, these special SATA cables are more expensive than the generic ones, and they are only useful if the case has a viewing window on the side.

Besides the generic SATA cables, there are also cables with adapters that fit others sockets. One of these has a SATA power plug at one end and a Molex socket at the other end. It is useful when the PSU does not have enough SATA power cables for all the hard drives and CD/DVD drives. Another type of adapter cable has a PATA plug and a SATA data plug. This can be used when there are not enough SATA sockets on the motherboard for all the drives being used. There are also cables for changing SATA to USB, and eSATA cables for external devices.

This SATA Cable Review is Written/Updated on Mar 28th, 2010 and filed under Computer Hardware. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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