Does my motherboard support M.2 SSD?

by Paul | Last Updated: August 19, 2021

For the past few years, M.2 SSD is becoming more and more popular and the cost per GB has decreased, M.2 slots on a motherboard range from one port to 3 ports, but different manufacturers have a way of handling the bandwidth between the processor or chipset.

Does Motherboard support M.2 SSD?

Yes, the motherboard supports M.2 in this generation the number is increasing, there are motherboards with slots for M.2.

How are the M.2 slots managed with the motherboard?

For example, the Motherboard MSI mag B550 tomahawk is an affordable mid-range that supports the PCIe gen 4, for the M.2 slot is nice and supports the EM4 socket.

MSI mag has a manual that shows the motherboard diagram, to explain what is controlling what, whose responsibility is controlling what

It is a good idea for the user to understand better, how the motherboard this.

For this motherboard on the manual, you will notice the processor has direct access to one of the M.2 slots, and the other M.2 slot is controlled by the CPH as our PCH (Platform Controller Hub) which is the B550 chipset

A different motherboard even within the MSI range, the x series motherboard might be different, like X570, might be different so check your manual if you are not sure and if you encounter a conflict.

Now you have an idea of how the motherboard controls different bandwidths. There are two M.2 slots, one directly below the processor and the other is at the bottom of the motherboard.

The first M.2 slot supports PCI Express and also supports SATA M.2.It means it does not matter what you plug into the first one, it will work regardless.

The second slot is where things get tricky, if you plug the M.2 SSD to the second slot, the PCI Express lane, they are 2 of them, the second and third lane will not function.

This means if you want to use any other PCI Express devices and also used both M.2 slots at the same time, you may just use one of the M.2 slots, which is the first one you have no issues whatsoever because the second is not in use.

The reason for the second slot not functioning is because this particular chipset or PCH, can only manage so many different lanes so if you use all of them it will not be able to manage all the lanes at the same time, it exceeds its ability to manage all those lanes.

There are different motherboards with different manufacturers with different layouts between the M.2 slots, the processor, and the chipset the way they manage, the bandwidth may be different, so consult your manual if you are not sure.

M.2 uses

For decades now the clear trend in storage technology to make drives as small as possible and as fast as possible and we have gone from having 4MB  drives that are twice as big as your average refrigerator in the 1950s to multi TB SSDs that are not much bigger than a credit card.

Even with this new size, you can still move gigabytes of data per second, but even as popular as those speedy 2 and a half inch SSDs are, it became clear that even with the advancement in flash storage technology, we could shrink our digital repositories down even smaller without sacrificing speed.

All these features come with M.2 a new interface for both SSD and expansion card that promises higher speed and less bulk, although SATA 3 are for huge performance gain compared to the traditional mechanical hard drive that SATA interface, the cable on the back has a serious bottleneck which has about 550-600 MB/SEC.

While that might seem very fast and indeed it is, flash storage has advanced very rapidly over the years and is now more capable of handling data much more quickly than SATA3 will allow

Although SATA will express, it is hard to find them in the market.

Fortunately, M.2 provides the same speed benefit as SATA express with the extra advantage of being much smaller and more versatile.

Many M.2 drives utilize PCI express BUS with the fastest M.2 drive currently on the market using a PCI express 3.0 X4 connection, translating to a theoretical maximum of 4GB/SEC, and although you would not see the real-world speed that high.

M.2 is also useful for things other than storage devices, you have a wifi and Bluetooth card that will fit into your motherboard M.2 slot and take advantage of PCI express speed without having a large card plugged in.

Even if you are just using M.2 for storage, you still get the additional benefits of not having to mess around with any power or signal cables.

Slot in the card, put in a screw and you are good to go, but before you rush out to buy a new M.2 SSD or a wireless adaptor, remember this not all M.2 cards or slots are the same.

Faster M.2 drive will utilize the newest version of PCI Express that is 3.0 as of right now, as well as the NVME for interacting with the rest of the system, so be sure to check for these things before you buy.

Especially as some M.2 drives use PCI Express 2.0, the older age CI or even the existing SATA BUS. So they are just an MSATA card that fits into an M.2 slot, in the case of the last one you will not see any performance benefits at all.

You also have to pay attention to the physical layout of the card, unlike SATA, M.2 even though it has only one name uses several different connectors types.

Most M.2 slots on current motherboards used either connector B or M for SSDs, then connectors A or E in wireless adaptors.

Some cards are compatible  with multiple motherboard connectors, so make sure whatever you are buying you are checking before you pull the trigger

Every M.2 type regardless of its connector type will have a number indicating its dimension, such as 2242 meaning it is 22mm by 42mm.

Just like some cases will only fit a graphics card up to a certain length, some motherboards and notebooks are not compatible with longer M.2 devices