How-To

How to Install an NVMe M.2 SSD Hard Drive and Why You Should

how-to-install-nvme-m2-ssd-samsung

Installing a new NVMe M.2 SSD Hard Drive will not only increase your system performance, it will also greatly extend the life of the device. Here’s how to install one with step-by-step instructions and screenshots.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade the performance of your PC or extend the life of an older system, the most important component to replace first is your hard drive. Suprised I didn’t say your processor, memory, or video card? That’s where many people would start and unfortunately, it would be a wrong move.

Yes, the faster the hard drive, the faster data can be read and written thus speeding up all aspects of your computer experience. In fact, test results from Samsung have shown that performance benefits are even greater when combined with other high-end components including CPUs and GPU graphics cards.

nvme-ssd-performance-chart

With this in mind, today I’m going to demonstrate with screenshots how to install the next generation hard drive, which leverages the new Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) protocol, connected to your computer using an M.2 PCIe slot. That’s right, no messy cables required for these new hard drives!

Photos below were taken while building my latest Windows rig in 2018. The motherboard is the ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-E and the hard drive is the Samsung 960 Pro NVMe M.2. If your motherboard doesn’t have an M.2 PCIe slot, don’t panic. You can grab an M.2 PCIe Adapter on Amazon for under $20. A great option for older systems.

samsung-960-pro-m2-nvme-ssd-hard-drive

A quick reminder before getting started: you should never open your computer and start touching components without an anti-static wristband on — I use the Vastar ESD which is inexpensive but works great.

Start off by opening your system and locating the M.2 PCIe slot.

samsung-960-pro-m2-nvme-1tb-ssd-hard-drive

On my ASUS ROG Motherboard (which I absolutely LOVE), the M.2 interface was hidden under a plate used to keep the drive cool.

motherboard-m2-heat-plate

It can be quite shocking the first time you find the M.2 port. It’s small and compact.

locate-motherboard-m2-slot

Install the motherboard standoff screw based on the length of your M.2 SSD drive. Most drives these days, including mine, use the M.2 2280 form factor.

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With the standoff screw in place, now’s the time to gently slide in the drive into the M.2 slot. Start at a 30-degree angle. It’s slightly notched as shown below.

slide-in-ssd-drive-m.2-slot

Push from the back, using just medium pressure. Do not force it.

push-m2-ssd-into-slow-medium-pressure

After installation, it will sit in a raised position. This is normal.

ssd-m2-socket-raised-position

Push down so the SSD is flush with the motherboard and sitting on the standoff mount screw.

push-down-ssd-m2-socket-flush-standoff

Screw down the SSD drive to the motherboard standoff mount. Tighten until it’s snug. No need to torque it down.

screw-down-ssd-into-mb-standoff-mount

Here’s what it looks like installed.

m2-ssd-nvme-install-complete

With the introduction of the new NVMe SSD drives, there is no better time than now to upgrade the overall performance and reliability of your computer. The Samsung NVMe M.2 drives finally unleash the full potential of the latest memory chips out there, blowing through the 600 MB/s limitation of SATA.


18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Trey Tudor  

    Awesome tutorial! Clear, concise, and informative. The photos are extremely helpful as well. Thank you!

    • Awesome. Thanks for the feedback Trey. Glad it was helpful to you.

  2. Paul Fullmer  

    Can this device be installed in a Lenovo (non-Samsung) laptop? Thanks!

    • Yeah you bet, this is a new STANDARD so it’s not just isolated to Samsung equipment. Unlike a Desktop PC however, you can’t install a PCIe card to get the M.2 slot if your motherboard doesn’t have it. So, on your laptop, check with your manufacturer via your manual or Google to see if you have an M.2 slot on your Laptop motherboard. From there you can look into installing an NVME drive that fits it.

      But, in the future, 100% be sure to verify you buy a Laptop with an NVME SSD Hard Drive vs. the legacy, outdated SATA SSD.

  3. Troy  

    Is this the future for hard drives? Honestly, this new tech looks like a memory stick. I love the fact that there are no cables and the speed is just incredible… Unfortunately, I don’t have a motherboard with m.2 slots.

    But what happens if I want to have two of them? Seems like I’m losing something if I want to have multiple hard drives / storage.

    • Yes – this is the future of Hard Drives in computers. The NVMe protocol gives you disk IO performance never before possible with SATA.

      As mentioned in the article, if you don’t have M.2 slots on your desktop PC, check to see if you have any open PCIe slots. You can then buy an M.2 PCIe Adapter card — https://amzn.to/2r6SUyc and go from there.

      Regarding multiple NVMe hard drives – my motherboard actually does have two M.2 slots so I’m golden. No need to burn a PCIe slot. For now, however, I just installed a single drive as 1TB is good enough. In the future, however, as prices drop I’ll probably grab a 2TB or 4TB to get the extra space in a year or two. Again, right now the 2TB is available but way too expensive – $1346.00 USD as of May 2018 https://amzn.to/2K51Nz4. Will be waiting for prices to come down.

  4. DeFaux  

    I have been searching forever but I can’t seem to find out which two m.2 drives will work in harmony on the z370-e. Would love some help.

    • Hi there – I have the z370-e also. You should be fine with most m.2 SSD drives. My suggestion would be to stick with Samsung. Either the 960 PRO or EVO. If you want to save some cash, go with the 960 EVO from Samsung. You can grab 500 Gig for under $250 USD.

  5. Bryan Clark  

    Do you have to leave the plate you removed (cover) off? or can you put back over on top of the m.2?

    • Hi Bryan,

      The plate goes back on over the top of the m.2 drive. In my case, it acts as a heat sync also. So yes, be sure to put the plate back on.

  6. Luci  

    Thanks for this great tutorial. Really comprehensive. Please tell me, how do I transport my data? I mean right now my laptop is very slow as it came with a 2TB HDD, so I presume I would have to put some of the startup software on the SSD once I have it installed in order to speed up the performance. Please forgive me if my question sounds ignorant, I’m not very Techy. I use Q524UQK ASUS laptop. Ive bought the Samsung NVMe960 Evo 250GB Thanks

    • Jennifer  

      You would want to reinstall Windows entirely on the NVMe drive. To do this, you’ll need to open your laptop up, put the NVMe drive in, initialize its partition table, download the windows bootable flash drive installer to a flash drive, then boot it up, choosing the flash drive in boot options in initial BIOS.

      If your laptop has an NVMe slot, it’s a different size and place than your SATA slot that the 2TB HDD plugs into, so you can actually have *both* drives in at once. I run a similar setup (using a 250 GB NVMe SSD and a 500 GB SATA SSD). The smaller NVMe drive would run your system files speedily, and the larger HDD would act as an archive for your documents, projects, pictures, downloads, etc.

      You’ll want to look up how to move your libraries in Windows so that it uses your HDD as your user folder, as that would prevent wear on the SSD.

      • Jennifer is correct – You first need to make sure your Computer supports the new m.2 standard. It’s a specific M.2 slot which you can verify either by opening up your computer and checking your motherboard or (better idea), check the manual for your computer/motherboard.

        When it comes to laptops, if you don’t have the m.2 slot, you’re out of luck. If you have a desktop however, as I mentioned in the article, if you have a spare PCI slot, you can buy a PCI m.2 card from Newegg or Amazon.

        Great question and thank you for the comments Luci & Jennifer.

      • Luci  

        Thanks Jennifer and Steve for your responses. I have checked and my laptop has an NVMe slot. Wolfgang’s question is exactly where I was going. My issue now is that I dont have the product key for the Windows that came along with my laptop. Its a new laptop that came installed with windows 10 but the packaging was thrown out accidentally so now I dont have the product key. Any advice on how I can copy or transfer the existing softwares in their current state, Windows 10 to be precise? Or are there any other means of getting the product activation code that came with my laptop.

        Thanks a lot

  7. Wolfgang Ernst  

    Hello Steve,
    Unfortunately I was misled by the title “Installation . . .”.
    Your tutorial is truly perfect, it explains the MECHANICAL installation of a 960 Pro in all details. Fine.

    But after the mechanical installation the real (painful) story starts first: The installation of the OS Win 10.
    I was hoping that you could explain how to deal with all the hurdles for a smooth Win 10 installation, which seems to be not trivial. Because the web is full of cry for help: “I can’t install Win 10 on my Sam 960 NVMe M.2 SSD” or “My 960 will not be detected in the bios” or “The installation stops in the middle” or “Which installation media should I use“ and more like this. Obviously the ultrafast PCIe 3.0 / x4 mode is somehow tricky to set up properly when installing Windows 10.

    It would be great if you could give another tutorial on “Win 10 installation of Samsung 960/970 NVMe M.2 SSD for the ultrafast PCIe 3.0 / x4 mode”. Thanks.

    Greetings from Germany, Wolfgang

    • Hi Wolfgang,

      Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      In regards to how to install Windows 10, from a working computer, goto this web page. Click the OS you want to install and the site will send you to the right Microsoft page. In regards to Windows 10, after clicking the Windows 10 link, Click the “Download Tool Now”. This will download the Windows 10 Creating Tool and you can put the OS on a USB drive which you can use to Boot the computer up and install Windows 10.

      If that doesn’t work, your computer might be having issues seeing the NVME hard drive. You should check with your computer manufacturer and flash the Motherboard / System Bios to the latest version. Not guarantees… but a few things for you to try. If you’re still having issues, please post your issues on https://windows10.help – our free tech support forum.

  8. Leah  

    Steve,

    Thanks for the advice on increasing performance with running Windows 10 from a M.2 SSD .

    We recently upgraded our Dell 2720 All-In-One Desktop with a Crucial 500GB M.2 SSD and replaced a legacy 2TB HD that was begini with a Samssung EVO 960 SSD and everything opens and runs about 2-3x faster wuhu..!

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