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A serial advanced technology attachment (serial ATA, SATA or S-ATA) is a computer bus interface used to connect host bus adapters with mass storage devices like optical drives and hard drives. This interface is commonly used to connect hard disk drives to a host system such as a computer motherboard. SATA is an update to the parallel signaling (parallel ATA or PATA) standard of the 1980s used for enhanced integrated drive electronics (EIDE) and the earlier integrated drive electronics (IDE).
Serial ATA was introduced in 2005. In 2010, it was updated to use a data cable with seven conductors made up of three grounds and four active two-pair data lines with wafer connectors at each end.
SATA offers several advantages over ATA and PATA. The most improved features are hot swapping and faster data transfer rates. Hot swapping is the ability to replace computer system components without having to shut down the system. Older systems had to be shut down before replacing or installing system modules. SATA's 6 Gbps data transfer rate is also a lot faster than those of ATA and PATA.
The standard interface for SATA is the advanced host controller interface (AHCI), which includes innovative features such as hot swapping and native command queuing. If the motherboard or chipset does not support AHCI, SATA will typically run in IDE emulation mode, which does not support advanced features.
SATA also allows native command queuing (NCQ). This technology is intended to increase performance by letting the hard disc drive augment the order in which read/write commands are implemented. NCQ enables several commands to be rescheduled and permits the host to send more commands to the hard disk drive while searching data for another command. NCQ also allows the drive to transfer data using direct memory access operations without interference from the CPU.