How to connect Internal System Cables, Part 2

In the course of system maintenance, it may become necessary to disconnect and reconnect internal cables. This article illustrates the internal connections for SATA, IDE (PATA), and floppy controller connections.

It is important to understand that orientation is "key". Most of these connectors are keyed to prevent making an improper connection and cause damage, but it still is possible to do so. If a cable is improperly connected to the motherboard, it can damage the plastic housing of the cable or the port, or bend pins.

Left is an image of a SATA style header and cable end. Notice the "L" shape of the connector and how the cable end matches it. This image shows SATA ports mounted on the side edge of the EVGA 680i motherboard.

The image left is of SATA ports as they would commonly appear on a motherboard. When properly oriented to the port, these cables should easily slip into the port and create a snug but not tight connection. If a connection feels loose, examine the cable end for damage as a cracked housing can loosen the connection and cause unreliable drive access. In this event, replace the SATA cable. You may find a spare in your accessory bag.

Left is an image of an IDE cable oriented to a primary IDE controller. This connection type is common for IDE devices like optical drives, but also is used for hard drives and zip drives in older systems. The header is notched opposite a missing pin and the cable end corresponds to this. The connection should be made with ease and feel firm and very snug. If the cable were flipped, these keys would not match and forcing the connection would bend the pins.

NOTE: Some ribbon style cables and headers may not be keyed in this manner. Instead, pin-1 orientation must be observed. One edge of the ribbon will be colored (commonly red or white) to denote the side with pin-1. This must be aligned with pin-1 on the header. This is normally printed onto the motherboard next to one end of the header (or stamped into the plastic housing) as a carat symbol and the numeral 1 pointing to the pin. ^1

Left is an image of a floppy cable oriented to a floppy controller. This connection type is primarily used for floppy drives, but is also used for tape and zip drives in older systems. As with the IDE example above, the cable end and header are both notched and have missing pins as "keys". This ribbon-style cable and port are also commonly labeled with pin-1 identifiers. This connection should also be made with ease and feel firm and very snug.