SATA Interface: What It Is and Which Macs Use It

Find Out Which SATA Version Your Mac Uses

SATA Drive Connector
SATA drive connections. Courtesy of Thomas Rosenau

Definition:

SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) has been the hard drive interface method of choice for Macintosh computers since the G5. SATA replaces the older ATA hard drive interface. To help end users keep things straight, ATA was renamed PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment).

Hard drives that use the SATA interface have distinct advantages over ones that don't. The ​SATA interface provides faster transfer rates, thinner and more flexible cabling, and easier plug-and-play connections.

Most SATA-based hard drives don't have any jumpers that need to be set. They also don't create a master/slave relationship between drives, as other methods did. Each hard drive operates on its own independent SATA channel.

There are currently six versions of SATA:

SATA VersionSpeedNotes
SATA 1 and 1.51.5 Gbits/s 
SATA 23 Gbits/s 
SATA 36 Gbits/s 
SATA 3.16 Gbit/sAlso known as mSATA
SATA 3.216 Gbits/sAlso known as SATA M.2

 

SATA 1.5, SATA 2 and SATA 3 devices are interchangeable. You can connect a SATA 1.5 hard drive to a SATA 3 interface, and the drive will work just fine, although only at the slower 1.5 Gbits/s speed. The reverse is also true. If you connect a SATA 3 hard drive to a SATA 1.5 interface it will work, but only at the reduced speed of the SATA 1.5 interface.

SATA interfaces are primarily used on drives and removable media drives, such as CD and DVD writers.

SATA Versions Used in Recent Macs

Apple has used various types of interfaces between Mac’s processors and its storage system.

SATA made its Mac debut on the 2004 iMac G5, and is still in use on the iMac and Mac mini. Apple is moving to direct PCIe interfaces in order to support faster Flash-based storage, so the days of the Mac using SATA are likely numbered.

If you're wondering which SATA interface your Mac uses, you can use the table below to find out.

SATA Interface Used

SATA

iMac

Mac mini

Mac Pro

MacBook Air

MacBook

MacBook Pro

SATA 1.5

iMac G5 20-inch 2004  

iMac G5 17-inch 2005

iMac   2006

Mac mini 2006 - 2007

 

MacBook Air 2008 -2009

MacBook 2006 - 2007

MacBook Pro 2006 - 2007

SATA 2

iMac 2007 - 2010

Mac mini 2009 - 2010

Mac Pro 2006 - 2012

MacBook Air 2010

MacBook 2008 - 2010

MacBook Pro 2008 - 2010

SATA 3

iMac 2011 - 2015

Mac mini 2011  -2014

 

MacBook Air 2011

 

MacBook Pro 2011 - 2013

SATA and External Enclosures

SATA is also used in many external drive enclosures, allowing you to easily connect a standard hard drive or a SATA-based SSD to your Mac, using either USB 3 or Thunderbolt connectivity. Since no Mac is factory-equipped with an eSATA (external SATA) port, these drive enclosures operate as a USB to SATA converter, or Thunderbolt to SATA converter.

When purchasing an external drive enclosure, make sure it supports SATA 3 (6 GB/s), and is the correct physical size to hold a desktop hard drive (3.5 inches), a laptop hard drive (2.5 inches), or an SSD that is commonly available in the same laptop size (2.5 inches).

Also Known As: SATA I, SATA II, SATA III, Serial ATA

Examples: Most Intel Macs use SATA-based hard drives, for faster transfer rates and easier plug-and-play connections.

Additional Information:

Serial ATA Next Generation Interface

SATA 15-pin Power Connector Pinout

Published: 12/30/2007

Updated: 12/4/2015