SATA 3 is the latest, and by far the greatest, SATA specification and was agreed upon by a large group of companies in 2009. After a year or so of extensive engineering efforts by these companies, we’re beginning to see the fruits of those labors.
In a very small nutshell – the SATA 3 specification delivers twice the performance of SATA 2 devices. SATA 3 devices can transfer data at 6 Gbit/s. What this would mean to many users is simple – they will be able to write files to their storage devices like hard drives more quickly, and their computers will be able to read data from their devices even faster than they do now.
However, this simple assumption bears some further examination. True, speeds have doubled – but what does this really mean? It means that multimedia files stored on your hard drives will load onto your system more quickly than they did when written to a SATA 2 drive using the current SATA 2 interface. And, by extension, this also means that the video or image editing that you’ve been doing can be saved onto a SATA 3 drive much faster than it takes to move the same file to SATA 2.
One of the major concerns of the group developing SATA 3 was to support backward compatibility. This means that your SATA 2 drives can be connected to a SATA 3 computer port, using the same cables that have been in use since the original SATA came out – and will work. A SATA 2 drive connected to a SATA 3 connector won’t work any faster than one connected to SATA 2, but the point here is that the cabling is the same and any earlier SATA drive connected to SATA 3 will continue to work. It also means that SATA 3 drives will work just fine even when connected to a computer or device that supports SATA 2. By extension, should there still be any SATA 1 devices in your organization, these drives will still be usable, even if connected by SATA cable to a SATA 3 controller. Although it may seem somewhat odd to expect that devices using the original SATA interface may still be in use, it’s still quite likely that some devices with the original SATA are probably still in use. Aside from the obvious – hard disk drives installed in older computers in your organization that may not have been replaced by higher capacity drives featuring the SATA 2 interface, such other devices as DVD recorders and players may also use the early SATA interface. You may also have some tape backup drives that use the original SATA interface. For some of these devices, there may have been little reason to implement SATA 2 because the devices weren’t capable of transferring data faster than SATA supported.
Because of the backward compatibility that is built into SATA 3, these devices can be installed into systems with a SATA 3 interface and they’ll still be functional. Although the performance won’t be improved by the new, faster interface, you will be able to connect these devices. In a scenario where you may want to migrate data from the old SATA drive to a faster drive using SATA 3, being able to connect both drives to the same computer can help avoid bottlenecks related to transferring data over a network.