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Plugging into external SATA

Although the protocol remains the same and the same drives can be used in internal and external SATA applications, eSATA connections are very different from their predecessors.

The original versions of the Serial ATA (SATA) disk interface were designed for internal use only, e.g., they were...

supposed to connect drives inside the system box.

However, SATA proved so popular that another version of the specification, called External SATA, or eSATA, was created for arrays and disks up to two meters away from the system. The eSATA specification includes EMI (electro magnetic interface) protection and other features needed to support external storage. For example, the eSATA connector is designed to withstand more than 5,000 plug-unplug cycles; the SATA connector is only designed for 50.

Although the SATA protocol remains the same and the same drives can be used in internal and external applications, the cables -- especially the plugs -- are very different. You cannot plug an external SATA device into an internal SATA connector or vice versa. Connections are further complicated because PC-type motherboards with onboard support for eSATA are still relatively rare. To connect an external SATA device to a conventional motherboard, you need a SATA HBA card with an eSATA connector.

The Serial ATA International Organization (SATA-IO, which promotes SATA, has established an eSATA logo to distinguish eSATA products from SATA ones. Furthermore, although the two types of connectors are similar, you can tell them apart by  closely looking at them.

Serial ATA (SATA) is a drive interface designed to replace the Parallel ATA physical storage interface. The storage world has been buzzing about SATA drives for years, debating how it stacks up against other technologies.

Users of the SATA interface are benefiting from greater speed, simpler upgradeable storage devices and easier configuration. While SATA drives don't match the performance of Fibre Channel (FC) hard drives, they provide the low cost per gigabyte and high storage densities crucial for "near-line" storage tasks such as performing backups and archiving.

This Fast Guide is a compilation of SATA-related tips that have appeared on As our site devotes more coverage to SATA, expect to see more tips related to upgrades and configuration.

Fast Guide: Managing SATA drives
  Balancing SATA and SCSI
  Fixing conflicts between older and newer SATA drives
  SATA technology advances and expands in the enterprise
  Plugging into external SATA
  Choose SCSI over SATA for enterprise servers
  SATA can fill storage upgrade for older computers


Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in issues related to storage and storage management.

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This was last published in January 2006

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