When you buy a motherboard, you will usually receive between two and four SATA cables included in the box. This may not be enough, depending on your needs, in which case you will have to buy more SATA cables separately.
In the rest of the article, we’re going to look at what SATA cables are used for, what the exact situation is with receiving SATA cables when you buy a motherboard, and how you buy SATA cables if you need more.
What Are SATA Cables?
SATA is an interface that connects a computer’s motherboard with data storage and optical devices. This includes hard disk drives, solid-state drives, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray drives. The name is an acronym for “Serial AT Attachment.” There is controversy over what the AT stands for, but some early documentation from IBM expands it to “Advanced Technology.”
The SATA interface succeeds the old ATA one, also known as PATA – “Parallel AT Attachment.” There are many improvements with the new interface, including much higher speeds and the ability to attach and detach drives while the operating system is running, known as hot-swapping.
Each SATA cable can only support one attached drive. This makes them less prone to errors, but the downside is that you are more limited by the number of SATA ports your motherboard has. You will not be able to have more SATA drives in your computer than your motherboard has ports.
Do You Get SATA Cables When You Buy a Motherboard?
It is standard practice for motherboard manufacturers to include SATA cables in the boxes when buying from them. The exact number of SATA cables you receive depends on the manufacturer, but the most frequent number of included cables is two. It is also relatively common for manufacturers to have three or four SATA cables with your motherboard box.
If you have used up all the SATA cables that came with your motherboard and are buying a new drive, be aware that it is not standard practice for these cables to be included in the package when you buy a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, or optical drive.
Can My Desktop Computer Run Without SATA Cables?
You can use a fully functional desktop computer without any SATA cables. Optical drives are optional, and solid-state drives can use different interfaces to connect to your motherboard. SSDs using the M.2 interface will operate faster by connecting directly to your motherboard, for example, and not require any cables. SSDs can also be connected via PCI Express slots.
The limitation of operating without SATA cables is that the other interfaces you can use to attach SSDs will be limited and may not be available depending on your motherboard. M.2, for example, is not found on older motherboards. Using the SATA interface will allow you to connect many more drives, even though only one is needed to run an operating system.
Internal hard disk drives will need SATA or ATA cables to connect to your motherboard. External HDDs can be connected via USB, but this is not advisable for operating systems and should be used primarily for data storage.
How Do You Buy SATA Cables?
You can purchase SATA cables from most retailers that sell computer equipment. These are not expensive and are very easy to connect. Before you buy them, you will need to consider whether your computer will be able to support the new drives that you plan on connecting.
A motherboard will only ever have a fixed number of SATA ports. You can confirm this by looking at your motherboard and counting them, or if you’re struggling to identify them, checking your motherboard’s instruction manual. You will not be able to connect more SATA cables than your motherboard has SATA ports.
Each SATA drive you connect will also need a source of power. You will need to ensure that your power supply unit (PSU) has enough power connectors to attach these drives. The good news is that you can buy power splitters to expand the number of connectors for power.
We’ve learned that motherboards usually come with two to four SATA cables, but we’ve also looked at how to overcome the problem if you don’t have enough.