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Definition: SATA

(Serial ATA) The standard hardware interface for connecting storage and CD/DVD drives to the computer. Introduced in 2001, most computers for consumers use the SATA interface for hard drives. However, servers and high-end workstations may use SCSI (see serial attached SCSI), and solid state drives (SSDs) increasingly employ the NVMe interface rather than SATA (see NVMe).

SATA is the faster serial version of the parallel ATA (PATA) interface. Both SATA and PATA are "integrated drive electronics" (IDE) devices, which means the controller is in the drive, and only a simple circuit is required on the motherboard. See IDE, mSATA and SATA Express.

   SATA                     Data
   Version         Year   Transfer

   1.0  I          2001    1.5 Gbps
   2.0  II, 3G     2004    3.0 Gbps
   3.0  III, 6G    2009    6.0 Gbps
   3.2  Express    2013   16.0 Gbps
   3.3**           2016   16.0 Gbps

   ** support for SMR (see SATA 3.3)

External eSATA and eSATAp Drives
Some computer motherboards have eSATA ports for external SATA drives. The hybrid port (right) supports both SATA power and USB devices (see eSATA USB Hybrid Port).

SATA and PATA Cables
SATA was welcomed by PC builders because the earlier PATA cables usurped most of the room inside the case. PATA connectors were also much larger. This transition motherboard supported both SATA and PATA drives.

External SATA Drive
External and laptop drives use 2.5" platters, whereas desktops typically use 3.5". The 2.5" drive (top) plugs directly into the sockets on this external case without extra wires. "Powered eSATAp" ports include the power, and the drive does not plug into an AC outlet.