How many drives does a SATA port have?

A SATA port typically has the capability to connect to a single drive. SATA, which stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, is a standard interface used to connect storage devices like hard drives and SSDs to a computer’s motherboard. SATA ports and cables provide a point-to-point connection, meaning each SATA port connects to a single storage drive.

What is a SATA port?

A SATA port is an interface on a computer’s motherboard that is used to connect storage drives using SATA cables. SATA was designed as the successor to the older Parallel ATA (PATA) standard, offering faster transfer speeds and other advantages.

Some key characteristics of SATA ports include:

  • Point-to-point connectivity – Each SATA port connects to a single drive
  • Serial interface – SATA is a serial interface, unlike PATA which was parallel
  • Transfer speeds – SATA interfaces offer faster speeds than PATA, with SATA III providing up to 6 Gb/s
  • Physical connectors – SATA ports use a thin, 7-pin data connector and a separate 15-pin power connector
  • Hot swappable – SATA drives can be connected and removed without shutting down the system

Motherboards typically have multiple SATA ports to allow connection of several drives. Common configurations include 4 to 8 SATA ports, but high-end boards can have 10 or more.

Point-to-Point Connectivity

One of the defining characteristics of SATA is its point-to-point architecture. This means that each SATA port on a computer’s motherboard connects to a single drive.

In contrast, the older PATA standard used a bus topology where one flat ribbon cable could connect multiple drives. PATA cables had two connectors for devices, meaning you could plug two drives into one ribbon cable that connected to a single PATA port.

SATA does away with daisy-chaining multiple devices on one cable. The SATA standard specifies that a SATA port provides a dedicated connection for a single drive through a cable with connectors on each end rather than two connectors in the middle.

The point-to-point design offers some advantages over PATA’s shared bus approach:

  • Improved signal integrity since each device has a dedicated cable
  • Full transfer speeds are available to each drive rather than shared bandwidth
  • Ability to hot swap drives more easily as no daisy-chaining
  • Simpler cabling with no need for ribbon cables

In summary, the point-to-point architecture of SATA means each SATA port on your motherboard can support connecting to one and only one SATA drive.

Are there any exceptions?

While each SATA port is designed to connect to a single drive, there are some exceptions where a SATA port can provide connectivity to multiple drives:

Port Multipliers

SATA port multipliers allow connecting multiple drives to a single SATA port. A port multiplier is a hardware device that acts as a hub, allowing up to 15 SATA drives to connect to one SATA port on the motherboard.

Port multipliers work by functioning as an intermediary between the drives and SATA port. The motherboard still sees only one SATA device connected, while the port multiplier handles the connections for up to 15 drives behind it. This allows expanding the drive connectivity capabilities of a single SATA port.

RAID Controllers

RAID controllers also allow connecting multiple drives to a single SATA port via an expansion card. The RAID card presents the multiple drives as a single logical volume to the operating system.

For example, a PCIe RAID card could allow connecting four SATA SSDs to it. While physically connected to one SATA port on the motherboard, the RAID controller makes the four SSDs appear as a single large volume for improved performance or redundancy.


SATA backplanes are commonly used in servers and storage arrays. A backplane is a printed circuit board that SATA drives can be plugged into. The backplane includes SATA connectors for the drives.

The backplane connects externally to a SATA port on the motherboard. So while there are multiple drive slots on the backplane itself, it appears as a single SATA device from the perspective of the SATA port.

Maximum number of drives per SATA controller

Most commonly available consumer motherboards with integrated SATA ports have between 4 to 8 SATA ports. This allows connecting 4 to 8 SATA drives without any additional hardware.

To go beyond the built-in ports, adding a SATA expansion card can allow connecting more drives. These cards commonly add 2, 4, 8 or more additional SATA ports via a PCIe x1 or x4 slot.

When using port multipliers, a single SATA port can connect up to 15 drives. So for example, if your motherboard had 6 SATA ports, you could connect 6 port multipliers for connectivity up to 90 drives.

In enterprise and server environments, large external direct attached storage (DAS) arrays are also common for mass SATA drive connectivity. These enclosures can house dozens of drives and connect through wide ports like SAS to provide massive storage expansion.

Ultimately, there is no hard limit on the total number of SATA drives supported per controller. This limit depends on factors like:

  • Number of built-in SATA ports on the motherboard
  • Number of SATA expansion slots available
  • Whether port multipliers are used
  • Type of external storage enclosures connected

Consumer motherboards typically support 4 to 8 SATA ports on the board itself. Adding expansion cards and port multipliers can expand this to support dozens of drives off a single controllers. Large storage arrays scale to hundreds of SATA drives connected via external connections to the controllers.

Power Constraints

While there are no definitive limits to how many SATA drives can be connected, other practical constraints come into play with large drive counts. One such consideration is providing adequate power to support dozens or hundreds of drives.

Each SATA drive requires both a data connection to the SATA port, as well as a separate power connection, typically using a 15-pin Molex or SATA power connector from the power supply.

Supporting a large number of drives requires having adequate power supply wattage and available power connectors. This may require higher wattage server-grade power supplies with many SATA power connectors.

Port multipliers and backplanes must also be designed to deliver sufficient power for maximum drive counts. Careful planning is needed to ensure power requirements are met when working with large SATA drive arrays.

Bandwidth Constraints

In addition to power, available bandwidth can also become a limiting factor when connecting many SATA drives to a single controller. Each drive you add contributes to loading on the SATA bus and controller.

SATA revision 3.0 provides a maximum bandwidth of 6 Gb/s. This capacity must be shared by all connected drives, so performance can suffer if too many drives are connected beyond what the SATA controller and bus can reasonably support.

For example, 24 SSDs each capable of 500 MB/s sequential reads would theoretically require 12 GB/s of total bandwidth, beyond what SATA 3.0 can provide. Performance would suffer due to bandwidth saturation.

Spreading drives over multiple SATA controllers via port multipliers or expansion cards can help alleviate bandwidth constraints. Enterprise solutions like SAS backplanes also bump up bandwidth significantly.

Compatibility Factors

When connecting many SATA drives, compatibility between drives, cables, connectors and controllers also becomes important. Here are some compatibility factors to consider:

  • Mixing SATA port and cable generations – e.g. SATA I drives on SATA III ports
  • Using the right cables for the SATA generation
  • Updating firmware and drivers for controllers and drives
  • Watch out for mechanical constraints like connector placements
  • Choose reliable components from reputable vendors

Checking for hardware compatibility issues helps avoid problems like system instability, poor drive performance, and connection failures. Consult documentation and use components that are designed to work together.

Other Considerations

Some other things to keep in mind when connecting many SATA drives:

  • Heat and airflow – Many drives in close proximity can result in overheating issues. Ensure adequate cooling and airflow.
  • Cables – A clean cable routing approach avoids messy rat’s nests of cables. This improves cooling and makes swapping drives easier.
  • Power connections – Use SATA drives and power supplies with the right number of connectors to avoid adapters.
  • Operating system support – Check OS drive limits and use 64-bit systems when approaching very high drive counts.
  • Backup and recovery – More drives means greater risk of failure. Have rock-solid backup solutions when using large drive arrays.


In summary, SATA ports are designed to connect a single drive, but can support multiple drives using methods like port multipliers and RAID cards. Consumer motherboards typically max out at around 8 SATA ports, but dozens to hundreds of drives can be supported with the right enterprise-grade equipment.

When working with large arrays of SATA drives, care must be taken to provide adequate power and bandwidth, check compatibility across components, and address physical constraints like heat dissipation. With robust solutions, virtually unlimited SATA drive arrays are possible for truly massive storage capacity.