How to Install an M.2 SSD Drive on a Computer: A Beginner’s Guide
M.2 hard drives, unlike traditional SATA hard drives and hard drives, do not require any wires or much space inside a computer case. SSDs are small enough to fit on a motherboard, and the best M.2 SSDs offer some of the best performance you can get. Installing an M.2 SSD is usually pretty simple, even on an already assembled PC.
Before you begin, you need to make sure that your motherboard supports M.2 SSD drives. Almost all new motherboards on the market work, so you should be fine as long as you’re not using a computer older than, say, five years or so. Also, not all M.2 SSDs are the same. As such, they use different switches, which indicate how the connector is shaped, such as how different versions of USB are (Type A, Type C, Micro, etc.). You will need to check your motherboard and see if it is compatible with B Key, M+B Key or M drivers.
How to install an M.2 SSD: a step-by-step guide
- The first thing you need to do is locate the M.2 slot on your motherboard. You’re basically looking for a horizontal slot, usually located between the CPU and PCIe slot, or toward the bottom of the board. This varies for each motherboard, so you may want to refer to your motherboard manual, which should contain a board diagram that tells you where the M.2 slots are.
- Some motherboards may have a heatsink covering the M.2 slot. This is mostly common on newer, higher-end panels like the one above. If your motherboard is equipped with a heatsink, you need to remove the heatsink by unscrewing it from the motherboard. Older, lower-end motherboards usually don’t come with M. 2 heatsinks, like in the example below, which means you can install right away. Some M.2 SSDs also come with their own heatsink, and you can’t use both, so you’ll have to choose one or the other.
- Once you have located the M.2 slot, find the screw to install the M.2 SSD. This screw comes with the motherboard and is already installed in one of the screw holes of the M.2 drive or can be found in the motherboard box along with other accessories.
- Next, plug your M.2 SSD into the slot at an angle. You’ll then have to press down on the side of the unit that sticks out with your finger until it’s flat, at which point you can install the screw that holds the M.2 drive in place.
- Once everything is in place, you need to return the heatsink to its original position and install it. In doing so, you have successfully installed the M.2 SSD modules on your motherboard.
How to Install an M.2 SSD: Final Thoughts
Installing an M.2 SSD is probably one of the easiest steps in the PC building process. Some of the boards in our roundup of the best motherboards don’t even require you to fiddle with a screw, instead with a locking mechanism. As for M. 2 SSD hard drives, there are a lot of great options available today, including from companies like Samsung. We also encourage you to check out our How to Build a PC guide if you want a full article detailing all the important steps involved in building a PC.