Ask the Doctor: Reclaiming SATA Ports


I recently bought an Asus P5K-E motherboard during a round of upgrades because it seems to support the most operating systems (I’m a developer).

I also purchased an EVGA GeForce 9800 GTX. This card is huge: It takes two slots, reaches all the way across my motherboard, and nearly touches my hard drive array. It’s so big that if I put it in the top PCI-E slot, it completely covers all six of my SATA ports, and, well, I use those.

If I use the PCI-E slot on the bottom of my mobo, the card is limited to x4 instead of x16. Do applications (games?) saturate this interface yet? Will I even notice the difference between the x4 and the x16 slots with this card?

If I use the PCI-E slot on the top (the x16), I can’t use my SATA controller. Is my only option then to buy another controller? Does it matter if this is the cheapest one out there or does Maximum PC suggest a particular brand?

—Aaron New

Aaron, you’ll definitely see a slowdown if you use the bottom x4 PCI-E slot. Fortunately, it looks like you have another option. The Doctor snagged an Asus P5K Deluxe mobo (which has SATA ports in the same place as the P5K-E), a GTX 280 (which is slightly bigger than the 9800 GTX), and a couple of right-angle SATA cables (available for less than a buck at and was able to access four of the six SATA ports. The southernmost SATA ports aren’t blocked by the card at all, and by using right-angle connectors we were able to sneak two SATA connections under the card. Four out of six ain’t too shabby.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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