While it feels like NVMe hard drives were introduced recently in place of mechanical hard drives, they have been available for several years. NVMe hard drives are currently available at affordable prices, making it important for anyone interested to learn how to install them. NVMe hard drives incredibly boost your computer systems loading time, whether you are running a game, software, or operating system.
Working on a PC or laptop’s hardware is quite sensitive, and most people prefer keeping their hands off these components. However, installing an NVMe hard drive is simple and doesn’t require cables and complicated extraneous items. Use this article to guide your NVMe hard drive installation.
What Is An NVMe Hard Drive?
NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express hard drives are reliable storage interfaces introduced almost a decade ago. Non-volatile means data stored in this device cannot be erased if your computer reboots. Similarly, express means that data stored in these devices travel over the PCI Express interface on the computer’s motherboard.
Since data doesn’t travel through the SATA (Serial Advance Technology Attachment) controller, NVMe drives directly connect with the computer system’s motherboard. This makes NVMe drives also faster than SATA hard drives that have been used for years. The maximum speed of the current PCI express interface, PCIe 3.0, is 985 Mbps per lane.
NVMe uses up to four lanes, meaning it has maximum speeds of 3.9Gbps/3940Mbps. On the other hand, the fastest SATA drive, the Samsung 860 Pro, has a top speed of 560Mbps. NVMe hard drives are available in different form factors. The 22mm wide M.2 stick is the most common NVMe drive. However, sticks of 30, 42, 60, 80, and 100 mm in length are available. The sticks are thin and lie flat on motherboards, making them perfect for laptops and slim computers.
Should You Buy An NVMe Hard Drive?
While you should consider several factors to determine if you need an NVMe drive, your decisions should be based on the nature of your workload. If your computer has a SATA SSD, you should consider the cost of replacing it with an NVMe hard drive. For instance, a 500GB NVMe Samsung 970 Pro and SATA Samsung 860 Pro retail at the same price of $150. Therefore, you shouldn’t rush to replace your SATA SSD.
SATA works well for basic and mid-range computer operations. It boots computers, launches a program, and copies files quickly. However, if the nature of your work involves large files and videos, investing more in an NVMe hard drive is worth the cost.
How To Install An NVMe Hard Drive
Follow these steps to install an NVMe drive on your computer:
You should prepare adequately for the installation. Preparing involves gathering the necessary supplies, which include the SSD, a screwdriver, and the computer’s manual. You should then back up important files on your computer, external storage, USB flash drive, or cloud storage.
The second part of preparing involves making sure your motherboard is compatible with the M.2 key. Always ensure you buy an NVMe hard drive compatible with your computer’s motherboard. While most motherboards can support them, M.2 SSDs became common five years ago. Therefore, consider finding a traditional SSD if your PC is older than five years. Read your motherboard’s manual or check your computer model online to learn more.
2. Installing the NVMe Drive
To install the hard drive:
- Shut down your computer. Ensure the computer is turned off completely.
- Disconnect the power cable and remove the battery. Battery removal only applies to laptops without built-in batteries.
- Discharge the laptop’s residual power. After removing your laptop’s removable battery, press and hold down the power button for at least 5 seconds. This discharges any electricity retained by the system.
- Open the laptop case. Consult your computer manual, as this process varies from one laptop to another.
- Don’t forget to ground yourself. Ground yourself to protect computer components from static electricity naturally present in your body by touching an unpainted metal surface.
- Identify the NVMe slot. You can easily find the M.2 slot on desktops. Its location in laptops varies, but typically under the keyboard or bottom panel. Check the manufacturer’s manual for the exact location.
- Insert the NVMe drive. The insertion process also varies depending on your laptop. Some laptops require removing a screw or heatsink before inserting the new NVMe hard drive. While inserting the NVMe drive, hold it carefully by the sides. Align the SSD notches with ridges in the PCIe slot, then insert it at 30 degrees. It should insert perfectly without force. Also, don’t touch the gold connector pins.
- Reassemble the system. You might need to screw the provided motherboard mount to secure the NVMe drive. Once the SSD sits securely in the slot, reassemble your computer, ensuring you don’t miss some parts.
- Turn on the computer. You should then turn on your computer. The computer should boot from your old drive unless you removed it during the second last step.
3. Moving Your Data
Coping data from your old drive is probably the tedious part of NVMe SSD installation. Expect to spend 30 minutes or more on data less than 256 GB. If the amount of data in your old drive is 500GB and more, you might spend 60 to 90 hours before completing this process.
You should begin the transfer by downloading cloning software. Cloning software simplifies the data transfer from your old drive to the new SSD. Install the software and follow the pop-up prompts to set up the software. The prompts involve choosing a clone mode and the source and destination drives.
Once the software completes copying data from the old drive, the last step is changing the primary or boot drive. Since you’ve copied everything from your old drive, you should instruct the operating system to use the new NVMe SSD as its primary drive. Check the computer’s manual or contact the manufacturer for steps for changing the primary drive. You can also remove the old drive, which forces the system to use the available drive.
The Bottom Line
Installing faster storage is certainly the best way to upgrade your old computer. While other vital components, like GPU and CPU, have evolved significantly in the last decade, everybody appreciates systems with faster storage. NVMe is an excellent storage interface for desktops and laptops, offering faster reading and writing speeds. The guide above can help you upgrade your laptop’s storage system.