Does Your Computer Support M.2 SSD?

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Solid State Drive (SSD) has been mainstream for well over a decade. The introduction of SSD drastically improved the overall performance of a PC. By addressing the bottleneck in the entire hardware stack, you gain significantly more speed. Because of this, it extends the lifespan of the computer quite dramatically.

While traditional SSD in the 2.5inch SATA format factor is still considered a good investment for older PCs, you should shift your eyes to the new kid on the block, M.2 SSD, if you are building a new PC or upgrade your new laptop. More specifically, M.2 SSD with NVMe (non-volatile memory express) over PCIe bus which has a max speed of 3.0GB/s, comparing to the traditional SSD over SATA 3.0 bus which only reaches the speed up to 600MB/s. It’s also based on an older protocol AHCI, or Advanced Host Controller Interface, designed for mainly for Winchester hard drive with spindle disks inside. Also, AHCI only has 1 instruction queue with 32 commands per queue, while NVMe protocol allows max of 64,000 queues and each with 64,000 commands per queue.

sss m600d 600x401 - Does Your Computer Support M.2 SSD?
Most Right is the tradition 2.5 inch SSD, next to it, is the new M.2 NVMe SSD

Can my Computer run M.2 NVMe SSD?

OK, we’ve established that M.2 NVMe SSD is the new king of choice on your next build. Next step you will need to make sure that the motherboard supports it. New motherboard for the new gen of Intel and AMD CPUs all supports the M.2 NVMe SSD. If you are unsure whether your motherboard has this slot, check their specification or use CPU-Z to find out.

What to avoid when purchasing M.2 NVMe SSD

There are some M.2 SSDs out there that exactly use the same format as M.2 NVMe SSD but with SATA connection. This defeats the whole purpose of adopting this format. Avoid getting any M.2 SSD that uses SATA connection at all cost, you will not gain any speed advantage compared to the tradition 2.5 inch SSD hard drive.

In addition to the M.2 SSD that uses the SATA bus, please also avoid the other two types of SSD form factor shown above. The one on the very left is the Micron M600 SSD form factor, and next to that is the mSATA SSD form factor. Support for these two types of SSDs are low and as the name suggests, it still uses SATA bus connections. Therefore you will not gain any benefit when picking them up.

Lastly, if you don’t plan to build a new PC, but still want to use the new M.2 SSD on your legacy desktop to maximize the performance, you are looking at PCIe adaptor that allows you to mount the M.2 NVMe SSD. Be extra careful on picking the adaptor. Depends on the PCIe x multiplier you may or may not utilize the full potential of the new SSD. It also will be tricky to boot Windows from a PCIe slot if your old motherboard’s BIOS does not support it. If you can’t use it as the main bootable partition it may not worth it going to that route.

The bottom line is that it’s best to pick M.2 SSD with NVMe along with a new motherboard and CPU. For an older motherboard, say 4 years or older, the chances to make it work is quite unlikely.

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