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Everything You Need to Know About SATA Hard Drives

SATA Hard Drives

HDD, SSD, RAID, ATA — the list goes on. There’s no shortage of acronyms in the tech world, but this can make it challenging for those less experienced with hardware to understand just what we’re all going on about, leaving them confused by the absolute barrage of alphabet soup. 

To help decode some of the jargon, in this post, we will take a closer look at the serial advanced technology attachment, or SATA for short. This device is a type of hard drive used in popular consumer electronics. SATA drives are just one of the many hard drives on the market today. We’ll also give you all the information you need to know about SATA drives, including what a SATA drive is, how they work, why they’re used, and how they compare to other data storage solutions. 

What Is SATA?

SATA is the interface of a hard drive used to read and write data to and from the data storage and the computer. Also commonly referred to as serial ATAs, they are used on both hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) and are found in a variety of electronic devices, from laptops and computers to servers.

There are different sizes of SATA devices based on their intended use. Desktop SATA drives are 4 inches wide, 1.03 inches tall, and 5.79 inches long. They are often called 3.5-inch hard drives. A more compact version of the desktop SATA drive is available for laptops. Laptop SATA hard drives are usually 2.7 inches wide, 0.37 inches tall, and 3.96 inches long. These are typically referred to as 2.5-inch hard drives.

How Were SATA Hard Drives Developed?

Before SATA hard drives were introduced, parallel ATA (PATA) interface hard drives were most commonly used. Originally developed in 1986, these drives were much larger and slower than SATA drives, writing at only 66 to 133 megabytes per second, compared to their successor, which writes at 600 megabytes per second. 

SATA hard drives were introduced in February 2000 by the Serial ATA Working Group, a non-profit group of representatives from the world’s largest tech companies at the time, including Dell, Intel and Seagate. The organisation went on to become the Serial ATA International Organization (SATA-IO), which continues to provide guidance and support for SATA hard drives to the tech industry.

Why Use SATA Drives?

There are several advantages to using a SATA hard drive. Firstly, this type of interface is significantly faster than its predecessor, writing data at around 600 megabytes per second. While its recently introduced successor, the non-volatile memory express (NVMe) drive, is even faster, SATA drives remain a popular choice thanks to their significantly lower cost.

Another advantage of using a SATA drive is compatibility. SATA devices can be used in almost any configuration and across different manufacturers (even Apple) with no difficulties. What’s more, users can hot-swap most SATA hard drives. Hot-swapping is adding or removing a hard drive without powering off the device that is in use.

Ultimately, SATA drives are a good option for users who need a decent amount of storage at a lower price than the newer NVMe drives. They’re great all-around hard drives for everyday users.

Use SATA Drives

Is a SATA Drive an HDD or SSD?

The short answer is a SATA Drive can be both an HDD or an SSD. Both types of SATA hard drives have the same function: to store and access data on an electronic device. However, they use drastically different technology to store data. SATA-enabled HDDs take a little longer to boot than SSDs, but their transmission speed is the same. That being said, HDDs have a shorter lifespan of as little as two years and often fall victim to mechanical problems.

In contrast, SSDs have a much longer lifespan, lasting many years, making their longevity far superior to HDD drives. SSDs are also much faster, both in boot times and read and writing speeds. However, SSDs remain an expensive option compared to HDDs, which are much more affordable for a similar amount of storage space.

Common SATA Hard Drive Problems

In this final section, let’s outline the most common problems with SATA hard drives and how to resolve them.

Physical Damage

Symptoms of physical damage to your SATA hard drive include hearing clicking, buzzing or grinding noises coming from the drive or the drive not being detected by your device. Damage could have occurred due to mishandling of the drive or environmental factors such as excessive heat or moisture. 

Unfortunately, physical damage is often irreversible. The best course of action is to prevent it by handling drives carefully and using protective casings. If you suspect physical damage, it’s crucial to stop using the drive to avoid further damage. You could then utilise a data recovery service to ensure your files are not lost, especially if the drive contains critical data. 

Bad Sectors

Bad sectors are tiny defective clusters on a section of the hard drive. They can develop over time due to wear and tear or power failure, so unfortunately, they are not entirely preventable. If your device is loading slowly, crashing, or you’re struggling to access files, a bad sector could be the cause.

If you suspect there is a bad sector on your hard drive, your first step should be to use disk-checker tools such as Windows’ CHKDSK feature to scan and repair them. However, if the number of bad sectors is continually increasing, it’s a sign the drive may fail soon, so you should consider replacing it.

Firmware or Manufacturer Faults

Firmware issues can arise from bugs in the drive’s software, conflicts with other hardware or incomplete firmware updates, and they could be the cause of your hard drive struggling to boot up. 

You can resolve firmware faults by checking the hard drive manufacturer’s website for updates, as well as repair tools for the issue you’re experiencing. If this doesn’t solve the problem, and your drive is still under warranty, contact the manufacturer for more support.


Overheating is likely the cause if you notice excessive heat coming from your SATA hard drive or are experiencing frequent crashes during resource-intensive operations. Poor ventilation is one of the most common causes of overheating, so improving this could resolve the problem. You should prioritise cleaning your computer’s internal fans and filters to improve airflow, which will help to keep the temperature down. Additionally, avoid placing the computer near heat sources such as a radiator.

What to Do If Your SATA Hard Drive Fails

While there are steps you can take to extend the life of your hard drive, failure is an inevitable outcome with every piece of technology. If you are experiencing SATA hard drive failure, our team of data recovery experts can help — we’re worldwide leaders in our field and have helped countless customers recover their precious data from failing devices.

 Contact us today for a free evaluation.

Mike Cobb, Director of Engineering and CISO
As Director of Engineering, Mike Cobb manages the day-to-day operations of the Engineering Department, including the physical and logical recoveries of rotational media, SSDs, smart devices and flash media. He also oversees the R&D efforts for past, present, and future storage technologies. Mike encourages growth and ensures that each of the departments and their engineers continues to gain knowledge in their field. Each DriveSavers engineer has been trained to ensure the successful and complete recovery of data is their top priority.

As Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Mike oversees cybersecurity at DriveSavers, including maintaining and updating security certifications such as SOC 2 Type II compliance, coordinating company security policy, and employee cybersecurity education.

Mike joined DriveSavers in 1994 and has a B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside.

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