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How to use a laptop SSD in a Desktop?

    We all know NVMe SSDs are way faster than any SATA SSD out there. SATA SSDs are faster than the HDDs but slower than the NVMe SSDs. But, when it comes to the ports and interfaces, anyone can become overwhelmed by seeing lots of options.

    On SSD Sphere, I am trying to solve these confusions and help you make the right decisions when it comes to SSDs. I have written another article on choosing between NVMe and SATA M.2 SSD, but this time, I am going to cover a little bit different things.

    I am going to answer a popular question, which is “whether you can use your laptop (M.2) SSD on your desktop motherboard or not“.

    Yes, you can use a laptop SSD on a desktop motherboard but under certain circumstances. In fact, no SSD is made just for a laptop only. However, some types of SSDs can only work on desktops and not on laptops. But, all M.2 and SATA 2.5″ SSDs can be used in both devices if appropriate ports are available. However, SSDs like Intel 750 can only work in standard PCIe slots which you will find only in Desktop motherboards.

    Most of the laptop SSDs will work inside the desktop CPUs if your system is capable of supporting them. I know there are lot of confusion related to the SSD form factors, Bus Type, and interface.

    So, I am going to discuss each and everything you may need to keep in your considerations. By the end of this article, you will be able to know whether your laptop SSD can fit in a Desktop CPU or not.

    B Key and M Key slots image
    B Key and M Key slots image

    All the laptop motherboards come with mini PCIe slots or M.2 slots (Keeping storage options in mind). The form factor that these slots support is M.2. But, again, there are two different types of M.2 slots. The first one if M Key and the second one is B Key.

    So, your laptop can come with an M Key slot or a B Key slot. Now, if there is a B Key slot on your laptop, you can only use an M.2 SATA SSD with that port.

    See this image for a better understanding. This is an M Key SATA slot and I am trying to fit an NVMe SSD into it.

    inserting NVMe SSD into an M.2 SATA Port (Failed)

    The main thing to note here is that the B Key slot always has its notch on the left side. So, if you can closely observe, the M.2 PCIe NVMe or even the M.2 PCIe AHCI SSD can never get fit into that slot. This is because the NVMe SSD has its notch on the right side and the rest of the pins are placed on a single bigger connector.

    In a nutshell, this slot will only support a SATA M.2 SSD can be able to provide you with a speed not more than the SATA Standards i.e. ~600 MB/s.

    Note: Along with the M Key Port, your motherboard should also have support for NVMe (not only AHCI) to get the NVMe speed.

    This type of laptop is going to give you the freedom to choose between NVMe and SATA M.2 SSD both. If you have installed an NVMe SSD, you can get its highest speed in this port. Because it is an M Key port, you can properly insert either your SATA M.2 SSD (with a notch on both ends) or an NVMe.

    As per the type of your SSD, you will get the maximum speed limits with this port. For example, if your insert an NVMe SSD in this port, you can get a speed up to 3500 MB/s. Also, with an SSD M.2, you will be able to get not more than 500MB/s.

    This is another thing you will have to keep in mind. In fact, this case is the main reason why people tend to buy NVMe SSD, and then the system either doesn’t recognize them or never gives the NVMe speed.

    It is tough to know whether your system supports the PCIe NVMe. The best ways are to read your motherboard’s manual or check laptop specifications. Another most reliable way is to get in touch with the technical support of your computer manufacturer and get the details.

    You might imagine that everything is available on your laptop to make the most out of your NVMe drive. But if your motherboard is still using the AHCI protocols, it is impossible to do.

    In other words, this type of port can work to support only M.2 SATA SSDs and not the NVMes. However, you can easily insert and install your NVMe perfectly on that slot.

    On a desktop motherboard, the ports can be very different from what you see on a laptop. The standard PCIe ports will look bigger. The form factor of those ports and the devices which connect to them is different. They use the standard form factor which comes in various types.

    All motherboards have the standard PCIe ports at least if no M.2 slot is given.

    The standard PCIe port types on your motherboard can be x1, x4, x8, and x16. These ports are used to connect various high-speed hardware devices. Because they use the PCIe lanes, the data transfer can reach up to several GB/s. The total bandwidth you will receive from a PCIe 3.0 x16 port will be 32 GB/s.

    We can use these ports to connect our network cards, SSDs, and graphic cards. Here, we mainly use x4 connections for SSD connections. So, the maximum bandwidth allotted for those connections will be 4 GB/s.

    In other words, any SATA or NVMe SSD connected to a PCIe 3.0 x4 port in any way can never give you speed more than 4GB/s.

    Some latest motherboards like GIGABYTE B550 Gaming X are equipped with both PCIe 3.0 and 4.0. The maximum bandwidth can reach up to 30GB/s on the x16 port. But, having the hardware that supports PCIe 4.0 is crucial to get that speed.

    Yes, you can also see M.2 slots on the latest motherboards. Most of them will have only one M.2 slot but some advanced ones can have two as well. Again, you will have to make sure that your motherboard supports the NVMe protocol before going for an M.2 NVMe SSD.

    If it can only support the SATA protocol, it’s good to buy the SATA one only. Even if there is an M key port, make sure to confirm the PCIe specs of your motherboard and its support for NVMe.

    Physically, all the SSDs available in the market can get connected to your desktop motherboard if it has the appropriate ports on it. Just like a laptop, if your motherboard can support NVMe protocol, and you have a free M.2 NVMe slot, you can use it directly for any M.2 SSD (M.2 SATA and M.2 NVMe).

    The main confusion arises when we talk about the PCIe Standard SSD cards. These SSDs are made to connect just with the conventional PCIe ports. Generally, these SSDs get connected to the PCIe x4 ports. but they can never be used on a laptop.

    See the image for a better understanding.

    AIC SSD Image
    AIC SSD Image

    It depends on whether your motherboard has an NVMe M.2 port on it or not. Most of the latest ones are coming with these ports and you can use your M.2 SSDs directly on those motherboards. But some older motherboards can only have standard PCIe x1 to x16 ports. In those motherboards, you can’t use your M.2 SATA SSD directly.

    Note: Some motherboards can have those ports but may not support NVMe protocol. So, I would suggest you confirm that before doing anything.

    When you have confirmed that your motherboard can work with an NVMe, you just have to check if there is a free M.2 port available. If yes, just connect your SSD there directly. If not, you can make use of an adapter as well.

    Here on my blog and in real life, I suggest this NVMe M.2 to PCIe 3.0 x4 Adapter card to easily connect your NVMe M.2 SSD to your standard PCIe slots.

    NVMe M.2 to PCIe 3.0 x4 adapter
    NVMe M.2 to PCIe 3.0 x4 adapter

    So, once you have become aware that your desktop motherboard supports PCIe as well as NVMe, you can make use of this device to establish a connection. Even if you have a dedicated M.2 slot on your motherboard, you can still make use of an adapter to connect additional NVMe or M.2 SATA SSD.

    If your desktop motherboard has a dedicated M.2 SATA or NVMe port, you can connect your M.2 SATA SSD directly to that port. If not, you can either use an NVMe M.2 to PCIe adapter or an M.2 SATA to PCIe one as well. Just plug in your adapter to a PCIe x4 port and insert your SSD on the given port on your adapter.

    Most of the latest motherboards support NVMe SSDs as your boot drive these days. If your motherboard uses UEFI protocol, the chances are that you will have the option to choose an NVMe as your boot drive.

    But, it is worth checking first of all whether your one can support this feature. If your system can’t use an NVMe as your boot drive, you can use your NVMe SSD just for raw storage and not for OS installation.

    Final Verdict

    I hope you are now aware of everything related to the desktop and laptop SATA connections. You can see different ports on your motherboard but the system may not support their protocols. Fortunately, the SATA drives are compatible with the NVMe protocol. But, if you have an NVMe SSD, never expect it to work on a SATA-only system.

    Thanks for reading!

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