Serial ATA is a developing PC disk drive serial interconnect standard, which has been parallel since its inception in 1986, that is intended to replace Ultra ATA66/100 conductor ribbon cable interface with a much smaller, higher data rate cable.
Ratified by ANSI in 2002, Serial ATA (SATA) provides a point-to-point channel between motherboard and drive rather than the Parallel ATA (PATA) master-slave architecture that supports two drives on the same cable.
Traditionally, data cable connecting the hard drives and CDROMs to the motherboard has been flat 40-wire parallel cables called Parralel ATA (PATA) interface. The PATA has its own limitations, such as its limition of maximum of 18 inches in length of cable which often results in cables cramping in the CPU cabnet hampering the airflow and slower data transfer rates which even in most advanced PATA drives (Ultra ATA/133) can only deliver speed of 133 Mbps as compared to SATA’s several Gbps data transfer speed.
The Serial ATA (SATA I) standard supports 1.5 Gbps data transfer rates over one meter copper cabling, in one direction. SATA II introduced in 2003 now offers support increased speed of 3.0 Gbps, and 6.0 Gbps. Spectra-strip is supporting the developing Serial ATA standard with a family of low skew, 100 ohm differential twin-axial constructions.
Serial ATA (SATA) cabling system uses a four-wire cable up to one meter (3-feets) in length compared to the 18-inch wide, flat PATA cable used with Parallel ATA (PATA) drives and is very thin with 7-pin connectors. Consequently, the cables and connectors used in SATA are considerably smaller than their PATA and take up a lot less space in the CPU cabnet.
SATA also has a far lower power requirement of just 250 mV compared to PATA’s 5-volt requirement. In addition, Serial ATA (SATA) does away with traditional Master/Slave configurations and drive jumpers used in PATA interface making installation and setup greatly simplified. Besides SATA’s biggest advantage is its ability for hot-swapping enabling removing and plugging back drives without complete system power down resulting in fast and hassle free system maintenance.
Serial ATA power cables currently use an IDE/ATAPI to SATA power adaptor whos one end is a typical 4-pin IDE/ATAPI power connector which gets connected to an unused power cable from the power supply while the other end is a 15-pin connector which gets connected to the SATA hard drive.
For a existing system which does not have Serial ATA support on the motherboard, there are third party SATA controllers which can easily be placed in any PCI slot on motherboard to support SATA hard drives.