Stands for "Serial Advanced Technology Attachment," or "Serial ATA."

SATA is a standard bus interface for connecting storage devices like hard drives, solid-state drives, and optical drives to a computer's motherboard. It replaced the previous standard, parallel ATA, and provides much faster transfer speeds using smaller and simpler cables.

The SATA standard has received several updates since its introduction in 2003. SATA 3, the third and most recent revision, supports a maximum data transfer speed of 6 Gbps (4.8 Gbps, or 600 MB/s, after accounting for data encoding overhead). The specification also allows the hot-swapping of devices so users can connect and disconnect drives without shutting down their computers.

A set of SATA ports on a motherboard
A set of SATA ports on a motherboard

Both SATA drives and parallel ATA drives are IDE devices, which means they integrate the storage controller chip into the drives themselves. This adds more physical size and complexity to the drives but simplifies the connection to the motherboard. SATA cables are significantly thinner than parallel ATA cables, making them easier to organize inside a computer's case. SATA devices each have their own independent bus, unlike parallel ATA devices that share a single bus between two devices (requiring two drives to share one cable, and for the drives to have primary and secondary roles assigned using jumpers).

NOTE: A variant of SATA, called eSATA, exists for external hard drive connections.

Updated January 20, 2023 by Brian P.

quizTest Your Knowledge

Which device contains a component called a fuser unit?

Digital camera
Laser printer
Flatbed scanner
LCD monitor
Correct! Incorrect!     View the Laser Printer definition.
More Quizzes →

The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

The definition of SATA on this page is an original definition written by the team. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, please use the green citation links above.

The goal of is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about this definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.