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Template:Infobox Computer Hardware Bus

The Serial ATA(SATA, Template:IPAEng, Template:IPA or Template:IPA) computer bus is a storage-interface for connecting host bus adapters (most commonly integrated into laptop computers and desktop motherboards) to mass storage devices (such as hard disk drives and optical drives).

Conceptually, SATA is a 'wire replacement' for the older AT Attachment standard (ATA). Serial ATA host-adapters and devices communicate via a high-speed serial cable.

SATA offers several compelling advantages over the older parallel ATA interface: reduced cable-bulk and cost (8 pins vs 40 pins), faster and more efficient data transfer, and the ability to remove or add devices while operating (hot swapping).

As of 2009, SATA has all but replaced the legacy ATA (retroactively renamed Parallel ATA or PATA) in all shipping consumer PCs.

PATA remains dominant in industrial and embedded applications dependent on CompactFlash storage.

SATA specification bodies Edit

There are at least four bodies with possible responsibility for providing SATA specifications: the trade organisation, SATA-IO; the INCITS T10 subcommittee (SCSI); a subgroup of T10 responsible for SAS; and the INCITS T13 subcommittee (ATA). This has caused confusion as the ATA/ATAPI-7 specification from T13 incorporated an early, incomplete SATA rev. 1 specification from SATA-IO.[1] The remainder of this article will try to use the terminology and specifications of SATA-IO.

Advanced Host Controller Interface Edit

As their de facto standard interface, SATA controllers use the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI), which allows advanced features of SATA such as hot plug and native command queuing (NCQ). If AHCI is not enabled by the motherboard and chipset, SATA controllers typically operate in "IDE emulation" mode which does not allow features of devices to be accessed if the ATA/IDE standard does not support them. Windows device drivers that are labeled as SATA are usually running in IDE emulation mode unless they explicitly state that they are AHCI. While the drivers included with Windows XP do not support AHCI, AHCI has been implemented by proprietary device drivers.[2] Windows Vista[3] and Linux with kernel version 2.6.19 onward[4] have native support for AHCI.

Features Edit

The Template:As of SATA rev. 2.x specifications detail data transfer rates as high as 3.0 Gbit/s per device. SATA uses only 4 signal lines; cables are more compact and cheaper than PATA. SATA supports hot-swapping and NCQ. There is a special connector (eSATA) specified for external devices, and an optionally implemented provision for clips to hold internal connectors firmly in place. SATA drives may be plugged into SAS controllers and communicate on the same physical cable as native SAS disks, but SATA controllers cannot handle SAS disks.


SATA 1.5 Gbit/s Edit

First-generation SATA interfaces, also known as SATA/150 or unofficially as SATA 1, communicate at a rate of 1.5 Gbit/s. Taking 8b/10b encoding overhead into account, they have an actual uncoded transfer rate of 1.2 Gbit/s, or 1,200 Mbit/s. The theoretical burst throughput of SATA/150 is similar to that of PATA/133, but newer SATA devices offer enhancements such as NCQ which improve performance in a multitasking environment.

Today's mechanical hard disk drives transfer data at a maximum of about 118 MB/s,[5], within the capabilities of even the older PATA/133 specification. However, high-performance flash drives transfer data at 250 MB/s. SATA/150 does not provide sufficient throughput for these drives.

During the initial period after SATA/150's finalization, adapter and drive manufacturers used a "bridge chip" to convert existing PATA designs for use with the SATA interface.Template:Fact Bridged drives have a SATA connector, may include either or both kinds of power connectors, and generally perform identically to their PATA equivalents. Most lack support for some SATA-specific features such as NCQ. Bridged products gradually gave way to native SATA products.Template:Fact

SATA 3 Gbit/s Edit

Soon after the introduction of SATA/150, a number of shortcomings emerged. At the application level SATA could handle only one pending transaction at a time—like PATA. The SCSI interface has long been able to accept multiple outstanding requests and service them in the order which minimizes response time. This feature, NCQ, was adopted as an optional supported feature for SATA 1.5 Gbit/s and SATA 3 Gbit/s devices.

First-generation SATA devices operated at best a little faster than parallel ATA/133 devices. Subsequently, a 3 Gbit/s signaling rate was added to the physical layer (PHY layer), effectively doubling maximum data throughput from 150 MB/s to 300 MB/s.

For mechanical hard drives, SATA/300's transfer rate is expected to satisfy drive throughput requirements for some time, as the fastest mechanical drives barely saturate a SATA/150 link. A SATA data cable rated for 1.5 Gbit/s will handle current mechanical drives without any loss of sustained and burst data transfer performance. However, high-performance flash drives are approaching SATA/300's transfer rate.

Given the importance of backward compatibility between SATA 1.5 Gbit/s controllers and SATA 3 Gbit/s devices, SATA/300's autonegotiation sequence is designed to fall back to SATA/150 (1.5 Gbit/s) speed when in communication with such devices. In practice, some older SATA controllers do not properly implement SATA speed negotiation. Affected systems require the user to set the SATA 3 Gbit/s peripherals to 1.5 Gbit/s mode, generally through the use of a jumper,[6] however some drives lack this jumper. Chipsets known to have this fault include the VIA VT8237 and VT8237R southbridges, and the VIA VT6420 and VT6421L standalone SATA controllers.[7] SiS's 760 and 964 chipsets also initially exhibited this problem, though it can be rectified with an updated SATA controller ROM.Template:Fact

This table shows the real speed of SATA 1.5 Gbit/s and SATA 3 Gbit/s; note the bottom row shows megabytes per second (MB/s, not Mbit/s):

SATA 1.5 Gbit/s SATA 3 Gbit/s
Frequency 1.5 GHz 3 GHz
Bits/clock 1 1
8b/10b encoding 80% 80%
bits/Byte 8 8
Real speed 150 MB/s 300 MB/s

SATA II misnomer Edit

Popular usage may refer to the SATA 3 Gbit/s specification as "Serial ATA II" ("SATA II" or "SATA2"), contrary to the wishes of the Serial ATA International Organization (SATA-IO) which defines the standard. SATA II was originally the name of a committee defining updated SATA standards, of which the 3 Gbit/s standard was just one. However since it was among the most prominent features defined by the former SATA II committee, and, more critically, the term "II" is commonly used for successors, the name SATA II became synonymous with the 3 Gbit/s standard, so the group has since changed names to the Serial ATA International Organization, or SATA-IO, to avoid further confusion.

SATA 6 Gbit/s Edit

Serial ATA International Organization presented the draft specification of SATA 6 Gbit/s physical layer in July 2008,[8]

and ratified its physical layer specification on August 18, 2008. The full 3.0 standard is expected to be available in early 2009.[9] While even the fastest conventional hard disk drives can barely saturate the original SATA 1.5 Gbit/s bandwidth, Intel's Solid State Disk drives are close to saturating the SATA 3 Gbit/s limit at 250 MB/s net read speed, and other new drives including Super Talent, Memoright and Samsung are close to that as well. Ten channels of fast flash can actually reach well over 500 MB/s with new ONFI drives, so a move from SATA 3 Gbit/s to SATA 6 Gbit/s would benefit the flash read speeds. As for the standard hard disks, the reads from their built-in DRAM cache will end up faster across the new interface.[10]

The new specification will include a handful of extensions to the command set, especially in the area of data and command queuing. The enhancements are generally aimed at improving quality of service for video streaming and high priority interrupts. In addition, the standard will continue to support distances up to a meter. The new speeds may require higher power consumption for supporting chips, factors that new process technologies and power management techniques are expected to mitigate. The new specification can use existing SATA cables and connectors, although some OEMs are expected to upgrade host connectors for the higher speeds.[11]

Also, the new standard is backwards compatible with SATA 3 Gbit/s.[12]

In order to avoid parallels to the common "SATA II" misnomer, the SATA-IO has compiled a set of marketing guidelines for the new specification. The specification should be called "Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 3.0", and the technology itself is to be referred to as "SATA 6 Gbit/s". A product using this standard should be called the "SATA 6 Gbit/s [product name]". The terms "SATA III" or "SATA 3.0", which are considered to cause confusion among consumers, should not be used.[12]

Cables and connectors Edit

Connectors and cables present the most visible differences between SATA and Parallel ATA drives. Unlike PATA, the same connectors are used on Template:Convert SATA hard disks for desktop and server computers and Template:Convert disks for portable or small computers; this allows 2.5 in drives to be used in desktop computers without the need for wiring adapters (a mounting adaptor is still likely to be needed to securely mount the drive).

SATA connectors are not as robust as PATA connectorsTemplate:Fact. For example, the motherboard connector on SATA includes a plastic tab (see the picture above) which can be broken if the connector is bent. This might happen if the cable is pulled to one side. Because such a broken connector is on the motherboard rather than the cable, it is not easy to replace.

Data Edit

Pin # Function
1 Ground
2 A+ (Transmit)
3 A− (Transmit)
4 Ground
5 B− (Receive)
6 B+ (Receive)
7 Ground
- coding notch
A 7-pin Serial ATA data cable.
A 7-pin Serial ATA right-angle data cable.

The SATA standard defines a data cable with seven conductors (3 grounds and 4 active data lines in two pairs) and 8 mm wide wafer connectors on each end. SATA cables can have lengths up to Template:Convert, and connect one motherboard socket to one hard drive. PATA ribbon cables, in comparison, connect one motherboard socket to up to two hard drives, carry either 40 or 80 wires, and are limited to Template:Convert in length by the PATA specification (however, cables up to Template:Convert are readily available). Thus, SATA connectors and cables are easier to fit in closed spaces and reduce obstructions to air cooling. They are more susceptible to accidental unplugging and breakage than PATA, but cables can be purchased that have a 'locking' feature, whereby a small (usually metal) spring holds the plug in the socket.

Parallel ATA uses single-ended signaling. In this system, noise combines with the data signal during the signal propagation. Noise causes significant interference with the data signal at higher speeds. In order to reduce the interference caused by noise, the driving voltage of Parallel ATA reaches as high as 5 V. Although the higher voltage can overcome the noise to mitigate interference, the 5 V is too high for modern high speed silicon devices. Thus the fabrication cost of signal driver ICs is higher, and the speed is limited in comparison to low voltage silicon ICs.

In comparison, SATA systems use differential signaling. In this system, the signal does not use an absolute voltage but a difference between two voltages of opposite polarity (one positive, one negative), and it is easy to filter out the noise from the data signal at the receiving end. The higher noise rejection allows the SATA system to use only 500 mV peak-to-peak differential voltage to carry the signal at higher speeds without distortion or noise interference. (An additional side effect of lower signal voltage is lower radiated RF emissions, which means less noise and interference for other circuits both inside and outside the computer and easier compliance with FCC regulations limiting emitted RFI.)

Compared with the 5 V driving voltage in PATA ribbon cables, the 0.5 V in SATA cables in theory make the SATA system much more power-efficient. However most SATA chipsets need significantly more power than PATA chipsets, due to the faster required encoding per wire. Power usage in signalling is generally proportional to the signalling rate, since faster signalling requires shorter transition times, meaning faster change of voltage levels, and faster voltage change in turn requires higher current. Since all wires have greater than zero resistance, current directly corresponds to power dissipation. Further, silicon technology generally dissipates power mainly when transitioning between voltage states, so a faster rate of state change (more bits per second) dissipates more power as heat. (For the same reason, faster microprocessors produce more heat and require larger fans and heat-sinks.) It is inevitable that a much higher signalling rate would be required to achieve the same data rate with a serial system as with a parallel system, because all of the 16 bits (the number for ATA) plus control bits (register address, read/write selection, etc.) of a transfer cycle have to be sequentially transmitted by the serial system in the same time that the parallel system completes one cycle. In fact, if SATA could and did use the same voltage as (Parallel) ATA, then SATA's power consumption would be much higher than currently.

Power supply Edit

Standard connectorEdit
Pin # Mating Function
coding notch
1 3rd 3.3 V
2 3rd
3 2nd
4 1st Ground
5 2nd
6 2nd
7 2nd 5 V
8 3rd
9 3rd
10 2nd Ground
11 3rd Staggered spinup/activity
(in supporting drives)
12 1st Ground
13 2nd 12 V
14 3rd
15 3rd
A 15-pin Serial ATA power connector.
A 15-pin Serial ATA power receptacle. This connector does not
provide the extended pins 4 and 12 needed for hot-plugging.

The SATA standard also specifies a new power connector. Like the data cable, it is wafer-based, but its wider 15-pin shape prevents accidental mis-identification and forced insertion of the wrong connector type. Native SATA devices favor the SATA power-connector over the old four-pin Molex connector (found on most PATA equipment), although some SATA drives retain older 4-pin Molex in addition to the SATA power connector.

SATA features more pins than the traditional connector for several reasons:

  • A third voltage is supplied, 3.3 V, in addition to the traditional 5 V and 12 V.
  • Each voltage transmits through three pins ganged together, because the small pins by themselves cannot supply sufficient current for some devices. (Each pin should be able to provide 1.5 A.)
  • Five pins ganged together provide ground.
  • For each of the three voltages, one of the three pins serves for hotplugging. The ground pins and power pins 3, 7, and 13 are longer on the plug (located on the SATA device) so they will connect first. A special hot-plug receptacle (on the cable or a backplane) can connect ground pins 4 and 12 first.
  • Pin 11 can function for staggered spinup, activity indication, or nothing. Staggered spinup is used to prevent many drives from spinning up simultaneously, as this may draw too much power. Activity is an indication of whether the drive is busy, and is intended to give feedback to the user through a LED.

Adaptors exist which can convert a 4-pin Molex connector to a SATA power connector. However, because the 4-pin Molex connectors do not provide 3.3 V power, these adapters provide only 5 V and 12 V power and leave the 3.3 V lines unconnected. This precludes the use of such adapters with drives that require 3.3 V power. Understanding this, drive manufacturers have largely left the 3.3 V power lines unused.

Slimline connector Edit
Pin # Function
1 Device Present
2–3 5 V
4 Manufacturing Diagnostic
5–6 Ground
A 6-pin Slimline Serial ATA power connector.
A 6-pin Slimline Serial ATA power connector.

SATA 2.6 first defined the slimline connector, intended for smaller form-factors; e.g., notebook optical drives.

Micro connectorEdit
Pin # Function
1–2 3.3 V
3–4 Ground
5–6 5 V
7 Reserved
8–9 Vendor Specific

The micro connector originated with SATA 2.6. It is intended for Template:Convert hard drives. There is also a micro data connector, which it is similar to the standard data connector but is slightly thinner.


File:Sata host expansor en.gif

SATA uses a point-to-point architecture. The connection between the controller and the storage device is direct.

Template:As of PC systems usually have a SATA controller on the motherboard, or installed in a PCI or PCI Express slot. Some SATA controllers have multiple SATA ports and can be connected to multiple storage devices. There are also port expanders or multipliers which allow multiple storage devices to be connected to a single SATA controller port.

Encoding Edit

These high-speed transmission protocols use a logic encoding known as 8b/10b encoding. The signal uses non-return to zero (NRZ) encoding with LVDS.

In the 8b/10b encoding the data sequence includes the synchronizing signal. This technique is known as clock data recovery, because it does not use a separate synchronizing signal. Instead, it uses the serial signal's 0 to 1 transitions to recover the clock signal.

External SATA Edit


File:ESATA Logo.png

eSATA, standardized in 2004, provides a variant of SATA meant for external connectivity. It has revised electrical requirements in addition to incompatible cables and connectors:

  • Minimum transmit potential increased: Range is 500–600 mV instead of 400–600 mV.
  • Minimum receive potential decreased: Range is 240–600 mV instead of 325–600 mV.
  • Identical protocol and logical signaling (link/transport-layer and above), allowing native SATA devices to be deployed in external enclosures with minimal modification
  • The external cable connector equates to a shielded version of the connector specified in SATA 1.0a with these basic differences:
    • The external connector has no "L" shaped key, and the guide features are vertically offset and reduced in size. This prevents the use of unshielded internal cables in external applications and vice-versa.
    • To prevent ESD damage, the design increased insertion depth from 5 mm to 6.6 mm and the contacts are mounted farther back in both the receptacle and plug.
    • To provide EMI protection and meet FCC and CE emission requirements, the cable has an extra layer of shielding, and the connectors have metal contact-points.
    • The connector shield has springs as retention features built in on both the top and bottom surfaces.
    • The external connector and cable have a design-life of over five thousand insertions and removals, while the internal connector is only specified to withstand fifty.

File:SATA2 und eSATA-Stecker.jpg

Aimed at the consumer market, eSATA enters an external storage market already served by the USB and FireWire interfaces. Most external hard-disk-drive cases with FireWire or USB interfaces use either PATA or SATA drives and "bridges" to translate between the drives' interfaces and the enclosures' external ports, and this bridging incurs some inefficiency. Some single disks can transfer almost 120 MB/s during real use,[5] more than twice the maximum transfer rate of USB 2.0 or FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394a) and well in excess of the maximum transfer rate of FireWire 800, though the S3200 FireWire 1394b spec reaches ~400 MB/s (3.2 Gbit/s). Finally, some low-level drive features, such as S.M.A.R.T., may not operate through USB or FireWire bridging.[13]

eSATA does not suffer from these issues.

File:Sky HD Box.jpg

CommentatorsTemplate:Who expect that eSATA will co-exist with USB 2.0 and FireWire external storage for several reasons. As of early 2008 the vast majority of mass-market computers have USB ports and many computers and consumer electronic appliances have FireWire ports, but few devices have external SATA connectors. For small form-factor devices (such as external Template:Convert disks), a PC-hosted USB or FireWire link supplies sufficient power to operate the device. Where a PC-hosted port is concerned, eSATA connectors cannot supply power, and would therefore be more cumbersome to use.

Owners of desktop computers that lack a built-in eSATA interface can upgrade them with the installation of an eSATA host bus adapter (HBA), while notebooks can be upgraded with Cardbus[14] or ExpressCard[15] versions of an eSATA HBA. With passive adapters the maximum cable length is reduced to Template:Convert due to the absence of compliant eSATA signal-levels. Full SATA speed for external disks (115 MB/s) have been measured with external RAID enclosures.Template:Fact

eSATA mayTemplate:Or attract the enterprise and server market, which has already standardized on the Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) interface, because of its hotplug capability and low price.

Prior to the final eSATA specification, a number of products existed designed for external connections of SATA drives. Some of these use the internal SATA connector or even connectors designed for other interface specifications, such as FireWire. These products are not eSATA compliant. The final eSATA specification features a specific connector designed for rough handling, similar to the regular SATA connector, but with reinforcements in both the male and female sides, inspired by the USB connector. eSATA resists inadvertent unplugging, and can withstand yanking or wiggling which would break a male SATA connector (the hard-drive or host adapter, usually fitted inside the computer). With an eSATA connector, considerably more force is needed to damage the connector, and if it does break it is likely to be the female side, on the cable itself, which is relatively easy to replace.Template:Fact

Backward and forward compatibility Edit

SATA and PATA Edit

At the device level, SATA and PATA devices remain completely incompatible—they cannot be interconnected. At the application level, SATA devices can be specified to look and act like PATA devices.[16] Many motherboards offer a "legacy mode" option which makes SATA drives appear to the OS like PATA drives on a standard controller. This eases OS installation by not requiring a specific driver to be loaded during setup but sacrifices support for some features of SATA and generally disables some of the boards' PATA or SATA ports since the standard PATA controller interface only supports 4 drives. (Often which ports are disabled is configurable.)

The common heritage of the ATA command set has enabled the proliferation of low-cost PATA to SATA bridge-chips. Bridge-chips were widely used on PATA drives (before the completion of native SATA drives) as well as standalone "dongles." When attached to a PATA drive, a device-side dongle allows the PATA drive to function as a SATA drive. Host-side dongles allow a motherboard PATA port to function as a SATA host port.

The market has produced powered enclosures for both PATA and SATA drives which interface to the PC through USB, Firewire or eSATA, with the restrictions noted above. PCI cards with a SATA connector exist that allow SATA drives to connect to legacy systems without SATA connectors.

SATA 1.5 Gbit/s and SATA 3 Gbit/s Edit

The designers of SATA aimed for backward and forward compatibility with future revisions of the SATA standard.[17]

According to the hard drive manufacturer Maxtor, motherboard host controllers using the VIA and SIS chipsets VT8237, VT8237R, VT6420, VT6421L, SIS760, SIS964 found on the ECS 755-A2 manufactured in 2003, do not support SATA 3 Gbit/s drives. To address interoperability problems, the largest hard drive manufacturer, Seagate/Maxtor, has added a user-accessible jumper-switch known as the Force 150, to switch between 150 MB/s and 300 MB/s operation.[6] Users with a SATA 1.5 Gbit/s motherboard with one of the listed chipsets should either buy an ordinary SATA 1.5 Gbit/s hard disk, buy a SATA 3 Gbit/s hard disk with the user-accessible jumper, or buy a PCI or PCI-E card to add full SATA 3 Gbit/s capability and compatibility. Western Digital uses a jumper setting called "OPT1 Enabled" to force 150 MB/s data transfer speed. OPT1 is used by putting the jumper on pins 5 & 6.[18]

Comparisons with other interfaces Edit

SATA and SCSI Edit

SCSI currently offers transfer rates higher than SATA, but it uses a more complex bus, usually resulting in higher manufacturing costs. SCSI buses also allow connection of several drives (using multiple channels, 7 or 15 on each channel), whereas SATA allows one drive per channel, unless using a port multiplier.

SATA 3 Gbit/s offers a maximum bandwidth of 300 MB/s per device compared to SCSI with a maximum of 320 MB/s. Also, SCSI drives provide greater sustained throughput than SATA drives because of disconnect-reconnect and aggregating performance. SATA devices generally link compatibly to SAS enclosures and adapters, while SCSI devices cannot be directly connected to a SATA bus.

SCSI, SAS and fibre-channel (FC) drives are typically more expensive so they are traditionally used in servers and disk arrays where the added cost is justifiable. Inexpensive ATA and SATA drives evolved in the home-computer market, hence there is a view that they are less reliable. As those two worlds overlapped, the subject of reliability became somewhat controversial. Note that generally a disk drive has a low failure rate because of the quality of its heads, platters and supporting manufacturing processes, not because of having a certain interface.

eSATA in comparison to other external buses Edit

Name Raw bandwidth (Mbit/s) Transfer speed (MB/s) Max. cable length (m) Power provided Devices per Channel
SAS 150 1500 150 8 Template:No 1 (16k with expanders)
SAS 300 3000 300 8 Template:No 1 (16k with expanders)
eSATA 3000 300 2 with eSATA HBA (1 with passive adapter) Template:No[19] 1 (15 with port multiplier)
SATA 300 3000 300 1 Template:No 1 (15 with port multiplier)
SATA 150 1500 150 1 Template:No 1 per line
PATA 133 1064 133 0.46 (18 in) Template:No 2
FireWire 3200 3144 393 100; alternate cables available for 100 m+ Template:Yes 63 (with hub)
FireWire 800 786 98.25 100[20] Template:Yes 63 (with hub)
FireWire 400 393 49.13 4.5[20][21] Template:Yes 63 (with hub)
USB 2.0 480 60 5[22] Template:Yes 127 (with hub)
USB 3.0* 5000 625 3[23] Template:Yes 127 (with hub)[23]
Ultra-320 SCSI 2560 320 12 Template:No 15 (plus the HBA)
Fibre Channel
over copper cable
4000 400 12 Template:No 126
(16777216 with switches)
Fibre Channel
over optic fiber
10520 2000 2–50000 Template:No 126
(16777216 with switches)
12X Quad-rate
120000 12000 5 (copper)[24][25]

<10000 (fiber)

Template:No 1 with point to point
Many with switched fabric

* USB 3.0 not to be released until mid 2009.

Unlike PATA, both SATA and eSATA support hot-swapping by design. However, this feature requires proper support at the host, device (drive), and operating-system level. In general, all SATA/devices (drives) support hot-swapping (due to the requirements on the device-side), but requisite support is less common on SATA host adapters.Template:Fact

SCSI-3 devices with SCA-2 connectors are designed for hot-swapping. Many server and RAID systems provide hardware support for transparent hot-swapping. The designers of the SCSI standard prior to SCA-2 connectors did not target hot-swapping, but, in practice, most RAID implementations support hot-swapping of hard disks.

Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) is designed for hot-swapping.

See also Edit


Notes and references Edit

External links Edit

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