SATA vs. mSATA Interfaces

Some PC enthusiasts use solid state drives (SSD) in place of traditional hard disc drives (HDD). Solid state drives are much faster than mechanical hard disks and can reduce load time in your favorite games. Solid state drives are rising in popularity because they can functionally perform everything a hard drive can. What’s the difference? An SSD stores data on an interconnected flash memory chip that retains data without needing power. Chips are either permanently installed on a system’s motherboard or PCI Express (PCIe) card. Solid state drives are inevitably more expensive than hard drives because they can boot up, launch apps, and transfer files faster than the competition. Two of the most common types of solid state drives include the SATA and mSATA interfaces. In this guide, we review the differences between these two drive types, so you can shop and build your new rig with complete confidence.

Beginner’s Guide to SATA vs. mSATA
A Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) interface is the new standard for connecting storage devices to a computer’s system bus. SATA interfaces are often inexpensive and offer large storage capacities. SATA supports hot plugging, or adding and removing components whilst your computer is running. Unlike the IDE forerunner, SATA can also perform a higher rate of data transfers, up to 6GB per second. Each drive connects directly to the motherboard, allowing you to access the settings from your computer’s BIOS software.

Whether building or upgrading just a few core components, you know that size is the secret to any successful build. SATA drives are designed to be compatible with desktops and laptops, but ultra-thin laptops may require a smaller solution. Major vendors designed a miniature solid state drive to accommodate small devices. Miniature Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (mSATA) interfaces do away with shells but keep the same upper data transfer limit as the standard SATA interface. mSATA drives are generally used as 16GB or 32GB cache drives due to their compact size. By caching files for your most frequently used programs and system files, you can speed up performance. Capacities range all the way up to 1TB.

SATA vs. mSATA: Conclusion
One of the primary variances between SATA and mSATA interfaces is that they connect differently. mSATA drives feature no outer casing at all, so they look similar to integrated circuits. If you would prefer a large hard drive for data storage and a speedy solid-state boot drive for your operating system and programs, there are installation hacks you can try. Any notebook with a solid-state cache can be configured to connect to an mSATA drive. Once installed, you can make your mSATA drive your boot drive. Switching from SATA to mSATA has serious performance benefits, so you can spend less time waiting for your PC to complete tasks without compromising on a high-capacity hard drive. You should start by searching for a solid state drive that is rated for SATA speeds.