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How to Install an M.2 SSD on a Desktop PC

Learn how to identify and then install either a SATA or PCIe M.2 2280 SSD in your computer.

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Adding a solid state drive (SSD) is the best way to improve a computer’s performance, and the rising popularity along with falling prices of a new style of SSD — M.2 2280 — has everyone trying to jump on the bandwagon. But don’t act too hastily as not all computers can accept this latest generation of blazing-fast storage.

As Slickdeals’ resident computer geek, I’ll be showing you how to tell if an M.2 SSD is right for your system, and also guide you through a step-by-step installation process using a GIGABYTE BRIX Gaming VR ultra compact PC and XPG SX8000 PCIe M.2 SSD.

 

 

Special thanks to GIGABYTE and XPG for loaning us example products for this how-to guide!

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Find the M.2 Connection

Before you rush to buy an M.2 SSD via Slickdeals, first make sure your PC is compatible with this type of storage. Only the latest generation of motherboards can accept this new style of SSD, which was originally used primarily in laptops.

On the motherboard, look for an M.2 connector — it’s a horizontal slot about an inch wide, usually labeled with “PCIe” or “SATA” or both. Take note of what’s on the label because you’ll need to buy a matching M.2 SSD; a PCIe device won’t work on a SATA connection.

How to Install SSD 1
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Every manufacturer places the M2 connection in a slightly different area, so look carefully in the middle and lower right section of the motherboard. If you don’t see a connection like this, it means your motherboard does not support the M.2 form-factor, and you should stick with 2.5-inch SSDs.

Related: How to Boot from an M.2 SSD

Buy the Correct Type of M.2 SSD

What’s not immediately apparent when shopping for these new types of SSDs is that “M.2” refers to a form-factor — in this case, it looks like a stick of Wrigley’s chewing gum.

SSD size comparison
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And the way an M.2 SSD communicates with the computer, along with its maximum read/write speed, are identified by technology standards called “PCIe” and “SATA.” PCIe is faster than SATA, but both are great upgrades for any computer, and Slickdeals often features deals for both PCIe M.2 SSDs as well as SATA M.2 SSDs.

Remember how you identified the type of M.2 slot on your motherboard? You’ll want to buy a matching SSD (PCIe or SATA) for that connection.

If you’ve already purchased an M.2 SSD and aren’t sure which version you have, the quickest way to find out is to look at the notches on the connector.

PCIe vs. SATA
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A PCIe M.2 SSD has a single notch on the right side, while a SATA M.2 SSD features two notches.

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How to Install a SATA or PCIe M.2 SSD in a Desktop PC

Now that you’ve confirmed your PC has an M.2 slot and purchased the appropriate M.2 SSD, you’re finally ready to install this tiny-but-powerful storage solution.

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to install either a SATA or PCIe M.2 SSD in your computer.

Step 1: Remove the mounting screw located across from the M.2 slot.

mounting screw removal
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Step 2: Carefully insert the M.2 SSD

Insert SSD
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Gently push the M.2 SSD into its slot, paying attention to the notch. The SSD will naturally stand at an angle when inserted — this is normal.

Push SSD into place
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Step 3: Secure the M.2 SSD using the mounting screw

Press down and hold the M.2 SSD while you replace the mounting screw that was removed in Step 1. This will secure the SDD in place.

secure mounting screw
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That’s it! Your new M.2 SSD is now installed.

Next Step: Install Windows 10 on an M.2 SSD

Make Sure the M.2 SSD Is Recognized by Your Computer

The final step after you’ve installed the M.2 SSD is making sure your computer recognizes it as a new storage device. Some motherboards will automatically detect an M.2 SSD, but when that doesn’t happen, you’ll need to manually tell BIOS that an M.2 device is connected.

During the boot-up process, hold “Delete” to enter BIOS. Each manufacturer’s BIOS menu is a little different, so I’ll explain generally what you need to do, and then you can look for similar wording in your own system menus.

In BIOS, go to Advanced settings, then go to Onboard Devices Configuration. 

Look for the PCI Express X4_3 Slot Bandwidth section and set the option to “M.2 Mode“.

m.2 in options menu
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After you save and exit BIOS, it’s business as usual in terms of installing Windows to the M.2 SSD or setting it up as an additional storage drive.

Congratulations on installing one of the most impactful computer upgrades available today!

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Our editors strive to ensure that the information in this article is accurate as of the date published, but please keep in mind that offers can change. We encourage you to verify all terms and conditions of any product before you apply.

Andrew Chen

Editorial Content Manager Andrew Chen is a longtime PC gamer, an automotive journalist and an avid deal hunter. His first PC had an 80 megahertz processor with 4 megabytes of RAM, light years away from the powerhouse gaming rigs he builds today. You can follow Andrew's high-speed sports car adventures over at 6SpeedOnline.com. As a Slickdealer for over 10 years, nothing makes him more excited than getting a freebie! Chat with Andrew on Twitter: @slickdealsdrew

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