What Is SATA 6GB/s


Hence, the third generation of SATA released in 2009 ended up being the SATA 6Gb/s because it transferred data at a speed of 6 gigabits per second. This naming process makes everything clear. SATA 6Gb/s drives are backward compatible...

Author: Collins Okoth
Category: Hardware
Author: Collins Okoth
Category: Hardware



The abbreviation SATA stands for Serial ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment), which is a modern generation drive interface preceded by the traditional wide and inconvenient Parallel ATA or PATA which is also known as IDE. These technologies, PATA and SATA describe the technology involved in data transmission rate or transfer rate between the hard drive, CD ROM as well as other devices to their controllers. PATA was standard and handled data transfer remarkably well. But as time went by, it continued to face challenges that later became drawbacks in the computing world. Some of these challenges were;

  • PATA had flat cables that were limited to 46 cm, approximately 18 inches long. These cables made connections cumbersome. 
  • The cables clogged the cases hindering proper air circulation. This became a major disadvantage since cooling was already a crucial topic in the computing world.
  • Even though rounded cables became part of PATA, the most advanced PATA drives, that is, (Ultra ATA 133) only managed to clock 133 MB per second as its maximum parallel transfer rate. This was a huge drawback since the speeds of CPUs, system buses and RAM were increasing. A new architecture was needed and thus the birth of SATA.

Distinct Advantages of SATA?

  1. Improved data transfer rate (DTR) 

SATA drives primarily succeeded PATA drives because of their ability to offer faster data transfer speeds. When SATA drives were introduced, they could handle DTRs of 150, 300 and 600 MBs/ second. It is important to note that the slowest speed that SATA offers is still above the maximum speed than PATA ever managed. As a result of these speeds, computers became faster. The overall computer user experience was improved due to faster loading of pictures, documents, and even better experiences while playing games or using heavy computer software.

  1. Better cable management and cable length

As mentioned above, PATA cables became a nuisance over time. The maximum length for PATA cables is 18 inches while SATA cables can be up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) long. This difference in length allows for more flexibility in the location of a hard drive in a computer case which in turn, greatly impacts the design.

  1. Offers support for multiple drives

Only two PATA connections are available on a computer’s motherboard. This supports only four PATA hard drives. Unlike PATA drives, SATA drives normally have 4 – 6 connections on a computer’s motherboard. This allows for hooking of multiple SATA drives.

  1. Improved airflow

SATA cables are smaller in size than PATA cables, this means that they offer more room for air circulation in the computer casing. It results is a slower rate of overall heat buildup and hence increasing the overall lifespan of a computer.

Disadvantages of SATA 

Although SATA drives were revolutionary, they also have a few disadvantages. Some notable disadvantages are listed below

  • Single drive per cable:

With SATA, the cable only allows for one connection at a time to one SATA hard drive. This is unlike PATA, where a single cable allows for up to two PATA hard drives.

  • Drivers

SATA hard drives often require specific device drivers to enable the computer to detect and make use of the drive. However, this is a solvable problem since SATA hard drives can act as PATA hard drives hence disregarding the need for special drivers. If SATA is used as PATA in this scenario, some SATA functionality is lost.

  • Operating System Support 

Operating systems that were developed and released before the introduction of SATA, certainly do not support SATA hard drives. Some of the affected operating systems are Windows 95 and Windows 98. 

What Is SATA 6Gb/s?

I’m sure the answer to this question seems obvious. You must be thinking SATA 6Gb/s are SATA hard drives that offer DTRs of up to 6GB per second, Yes? Well, yes, you’re right. Can you imagine 6 gigabytes of data being transferred in a second, isn’t that ridiculously fast? Again, yes that is too fast for a regular computer. It is therefore important to point out that the “6Gb/s” refers to the DTR of 6 gigabits per second.

In 2009, SATA 6Gb/s was the most modern generation architecture in the world of platter-based hard drives. The transition from parallel technology to full-duplex serial communication led to a significant increase in speeds, opened more room in the computer cases allowing for better air circulation which is important for the cooling process and hence overall computer speed and higher capacity hard drives.

The first-generation SATA 150 also known as the original SATA or SATA/150 recorded a maximum data transmission rate of 1.5Gb/s, approximately 150 Megabytes per second. This was developed on the SATA architecture, which was just getting started, and it was already competing with the fastest PATA disk drives yet PATA’s architecture was already maxed out.

SATA released the second-generation disk drives that were known as SATA II. These hard drives were an improvement from the original SATA 150. They successfully doubled the speeds to 3Gb/s- approximately 300 MBs per second. Following the traditional nomenclature, these hard disks were also referred to as SATA 3, SATA/300 and even SATA 300. This naming system became controversial and confusing since "SATA II" and SATA 3 were now the same thing.

As a result of this confusion in the naming of SATA products, the SATA-IO (The Serial ATA International Organization), the organization responsible for designing SATA standards suggested a change in the naming process during the release of the third generation SATA. The third iteration would have been referred to as SATA III, third-generation SATA or even SATA 3 which would still be confusing. SATA –IO named its third-generation release based on its DTR. Hence, the third generation of SATA released in 2009 ended up being the SATA 6Gb/s because it transferred data at a speed of 6 gigabits per second. This naming process makes everything clear.

SATA 6Gb/s drives are backward compatible. It means that they are fully compatible with the previous versions of SATA hard drives, using the same connectors and cables. This is a huge advantage since almost every computer today uses a certain type of SATA hard drives, it’s easy to upgrade from any of the SATA disk drives to the new SATA 6Gb/s. You simply just purchase and install the new SATA drive. The SATA standard supports both forward compatibility and backward compatibility, implying that all SATA peripherals work smoothly with all SATA-compatible motherboards. Note that despite this capability, the motherboard and other devices will automatically down-scale to the highest, yet commonly supported standard and it will operate at its transfer rate.

Coincidentally, this new SATA 6Gb/s was introduced around the same time as USB 3.0. This new standard USB promised to support a theoretical speed of 600 MB/s. Which was a perfect match for the new generation SATA 6Gb/s. This combination revolutionized data transfer speeds and saved a lot of time. Picture a combination of multiple SATA 6Gb/s hard drives and an external hard drive that supports USB 3.0. The speeds during the disk-clone backups would be way faster and save a lot of time.

There is also an e-SATA. This type of SATA is useful in the connection of external devices. The external SATA, “eSATA" is an additional standard that can support longer cables of up to two meters, longer than the standard one-meter length for internal SATA cables described earlier.

Conclusion

In the computing world, there are thousands of technologies that have been created to solve a specific problem but end up creating several others. This, however, is not the case with SATA technology. The computing world has accepted SATA technology, ditched PATA and all that is left is improving on SATA or developing an entirely different yet better infrastructure. SATA 6Gb/s is the fastest SATA and most common form of SSD. Due to other factors involved in data transfer such as data encoding, the practical transfer rate often cuts down to an average of 4.8 Gb/s- approximately 600 MB per second.