SATA ports are some of the most important connections on your computer’s motherboard. These ports provide high-speed connections for important components like motherboards. The good thing is that the connections are an industry standard, which is what allows you to easily swap nearly any hard drive without finding an exact match.
While SATA ports today are commonly used for hard drives and solid state drives, they can also be used for other memory systems like optical drives. It’s also worth noting that SATA ports are used on both desktops and laptops. In addition to regular SATA ports, there are other variations like eSATA, which we will cover.
What Does a SATA Port on a Motherboard Look Like?
SATA ports aren’t always easily identifiable. Motherboards are filled with all different types of connectors, and SATA ports easily blend in. Even worse is that laptop motherboards do not have standard-looking SATA ports because they use special adapters.
But don’t panic, there are some key things to look for that will help you find SATA ports on your PC or Laptop.
Where is SATA Port on a Motherboard?
When you first glance at a standard ATX motherboard, you will be overwhelmed by all of the connections. The most important is in the center of the board, and that is where the processor plugs into. Then toward the bottom left will be the PCI-e connections. At the top right will be the RAM slots, and top left are the external connectors.
However, the SATA ports aren’t always in the same spot. This is especially true on laptops because components are never in the same location. A common place to find the SATA ports are on the bottom right of the motherboard, near the edge. But laptop SATA ports will typically be located near the hard drive bay.
Identifying SATA Ports
SATA ports are located directly on a computer’s motherboard. This is true of both laptops and desktops, as well as other devices such as servers. However, in rare cases, a SATA port may be available on the outside of a device. To find your computer’s SATA port, you will first need to open the casing and access the motherboard.
The easiest and most obvious way to identify a SATA port is simply by looking at a diagram of the motherboard. This will help you locate all of the components on the motherboard. If you don’t have the book, then you can look up the diagram online. But even without any of that info, you can still easily locate the SATA ports.
If your hard drive or solid-state drive is still attached, then trace its wires back to the motherboard. Otherwise, look for a plastic connector that doesn’t have pins sticking out of it. Instead, it will have an L-shaped piece of plastic right in the center. On most motherboards you can purchase, there will be at least two SATA ports next to each other.
Differentiating SATA From PCI-e and USB
SATA ports are similar in function and size to USB ports. However, their placement and use set them apart. USB ports are found outside of the computer and allow you to connect a range of accessories and other devices. In comparison, a SATA connection is almost always found inside the computer on the motherboard.
Another common connection that often gets confused with SATA is PCI-e. The PCI-e connectors are usually found on the bottom left side of the motherboard and are used to connect graphics cards and WiFi/Ethernet cards. To confuse matters further, the latest PCI-e slots are where you will connect NVME solid-state drives.
Computers Without SATA
If you are looking at a motherboard from the early 2000s or prior, then you probably won’t find a SATA port. SATA was created in 2000 and was quickly adopted by most computer manufacturers. Prior to this, computers used IDE ribbon cables to connect components like hard drives and optical drives.
The older IDE ribbon cables were very bulky, and their widths could vary depending on what was being connected. However, the most common was a 40-pin cable. In addition to the ribbon cable, these devices also used larger power cables known as MOLEX or ATA power cables. Fortunately, newer drives also use a SATA power cable which is much smaller.
Can I Add Additional SATA Ports to a Motherboard?
Now it’s time to go over the complicated part, and that is adding a SATA port to a motherboard. There are a couple of ways that you can achieve this, depending on whether you have a desktop or laptop. However, there are also other considerations, such as the location where the drive will sit and whether or not you have extra power connections for the drive.
How To Add SATA Ports to a Desktop?
Desktops usually have a few SATA ports, so it is best to check if your computer has another port available before going any further. Additionally, you could remove any extra drives that you no longer use to gain an extra port. Also, keep in mind that you need to have enough physical space to hold the extra drive, as well as an extra power cable.
These are common problems that you will encounter if trying to upgrade a pre-built PC. Fortunately, you can get a power splitter if you don’t have an extra available. However, it’s not really possible to add an extra bay if one doesn’t exist. In this situation, you may have to zip-strap the drive out of the way.
As for the SATA ports, adding more is pretty easy to do. All you need is a PCI-e to SATA adapter and an open PCI-e slot. Unlike some PCI-e cards, the SATA ones have their ports on the inside. This way, you will be able to connect internal drives to it. However, there are other PCI-e to SATA cards that do have external ports.
How To Add SATA Ports to a Laptop?
SATA ports on laptops are essentially the same as the ones on desktops. However, these use an adapter that goes from the connector on the motherboard and adapts it to a standard SATA connector. Many laptops used to come with room for two hard drives, which were oftentimes located beneath the palm rests.
Unfortunately, as laptops have become thinner, there is no longer any space for the two drives. Because of this, laptop manufacturers have left off the extra SATA port since it would not be useful. Not to mention, most laptop manufacturers are now using NVME storage since it is both faster and much smaller.
The solution to getting adding a SATA port on a laptop is to use a USB adapter. There are adapters that allow you to connect hard drives to a laptop or desktop via USB. The limitation is that they will not be as fast as if it was directly plugged into the motherboard’s SATA port. However, it is a quick, easy, and cheap workaround.
You should now know what a SATA port is and how to identify one on a motherboard. If you are still worried that you haven’t found the right port, look closely at the motherboard. Nearly all boards will have small print next to connections that indicate what they are for. The good news is that SATA connectors are unique, so you are unlikely to accidentally use the wrong port.
Another great thing is that you can easily add SATA ports to desktops with an open PCI-e slot. But a better option for hard drive storage is to use an NVME slot if your motherboard is equipped. This provides a much faster storage option, plus it is very compact and reliable since there are no moving parts.
The easiest way to get the benefits of an extra SATA port is by using a USB adapter for a specific device. For instance, hard drive adapters are cheap and work with any computer. Similarly, external optical drives remove the need for an extra SATA port by connecting directly to a USB port.