Don’t Try This at Home! Why Installing a SAS Drive in a Desktop or Lap – TechMikeNY

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Don’t Try This at Home! Why Installing a SAS Drive in a Desktop or Laptop is a Bad Idea (and Probably Won’t Work Anyway with an Adapter)

 

On occasion, we get a customer querying us who wishes to buy a SAS drive and wonder if they can install that drive into their personal PC. 

We can understand where they are coming from: SAS drives are universally better than their SATA counterparts, both in terms of reliability and transfer speeds.  So then, if SAS is better, and it comes in the same 2.5” or 3.5” form factor, why can’t I just install one in my desktop or even laptop?

Unfortunately, even with the use of readily available SAS-to-SATA adapters, in all likelihood, a SAS drive will not work in a desktop PC.  (And even if you can get it functional, it won’t utilize the robust data transfer speeds of SAS).  

We’ll deep-dive as to why it’s a no-go for a SAS drive in a PC desktop or laptop. 

First: A Quick Primer (or Re-Primer) on SATA vs. SAS 

SAS drives offer more reliability than SATA, a lower Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), and faster data transfer speeds.  The higher rate is achieved through the “full-duplex” functionality of SAS – the ability to send and receive data at full speed concurrently (SATA drives can only send or receive data at one time).   For these reasons, SAS is the drive format most often found in large-scale data centers where concurrent access to the data is a must.

Another key takeaway is SAS and SATA ports look very similar – the only cosmetic difference is the small bar on SAS drives which prevent it from being inserted into a SATA port. 

While almost all Enterprise rack servers have backplanes that can run both SAS and SATA drives, this functionality is extremely rare in end-user desktops and virtually unheard of in laptops (the exception may be in some mobile workstations).  

You can read more in our in-depth blogpost, SAS vs. SATA here

What’s with the SATA-to-SAS Adapters Out There?

If SAS drives cannot work with an exclusively SATA controller device, why are there SAS-to-SATA adapters in the market?  You may have come across these adapters advertised on Amazon, Newegg, or other tech sites. 

If you look at the screenshots below, you can’t help but notice the extensive warnings on the descriptions for these adapters. 

In other words, because the data transfer protocols of SAS and SATA drives are so different, simply using an adapter to get a SAS connector to fit a SATA port will not work.  Your motherboard must have a SAS chip or controller to be able to utilize a SAS drive.

What Are My Options?

If you committed to using a SAS drive in your system, here are two possible solutions:

  • Determine if your existing motherboard has a SAS chip.  If it is a conventional PC designed for basic day-to-day tasks, it is doubtful. However, some high-end gaming towers do have SAS controllers.  
  • You can add a SAS controller to your system. There are PCIe SAS controllers available. Note that you would likely need to procure the appropriate SAS cable to connect the controller to the SAS drive.  Some examples of a possibly compatible SAS controller for a desktop PC would be the Adaptec ASR-5805.
 FIND YOUR MOBO: You can determine your motherboard make & model several ways – the easiest is usually looking up “System Information” through Windows’ search bar and scrolling down to “Motherboard.” From there, you can look up the specs on the manufacturer’s site, and it will state whether or not it supports SAS drives. (You can also do it the old-fashioned way: open up your machine and read the part number off of the motherboard).

 

Lastly, while SAS is unquestionably a more reliable and robust storage technology, these advantages don’t necessarily translate to the functions of conventional desktop PCs.   You’re likely much better off investing your storage dollars in SSDs. 

Have more questions?  That’s what we’re here for!  Email us at info@techmikeny.com, and one of our Techs will be happy to assist you!

 

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