Keeping Your M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD Drive Cool

Submitted on Aug 06, 2021, 12:45 p.m.
M.2 PCIe NVMe Card

Another short PSA on the topic of keeping your M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD drive cool - especially if you have a motherboard like mine, which was actually 'cooking' the drive.

I have an ASUS Prime Deluxe X299 motherboard. It's a pretty good board with lots of configuration options and room for two M.2 NVMe SSD drives.

One of the drives 'stands up' vertically off the board in the direct path between the input chassis fan and the CPU fan. The drive in this position stays nice and cool with operating temperatures between 32 and 48 degrees Celsius. The other M.2 drive is located on the motherboard - flat (lying down) with what ASUS described as a heat-sink plate that covers the drive when installed. Guess what? It's not a heat-sink. It's a friggin insulator. My 2TB Samsung 970 Evo Plus drive in this position never went below 55 degrees Celsius and regularly reached 65 degrees Celsius or above during modest workloads.

So the first thing I did was remove the Asus 'plate' to see if without the plate the drive would operate at a lower temperature - and it did, but only by a few degrees.

The second thing I did was buy a EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink - and this brought the temperature down a few more degrees.

The third thing I did was buy an inexpensive M.2 NVMe - PCIe card - to move the drive off the motherboard, and into a free PCIe slot. I bought a UGREEN M.2 NVME to PCle 3.0 Adapter - for about 10 USD (I also looked closely at the ORICO PCIE to M2 Adapter - which looks like a fine adapter, but was going to take a little longer to arrive) - and bingo, the temperature of the drive dropped by almost ten degrees Celsius. The drive now runs between 42 and 52 degrees Celsius for low to moderate workloads. Samsung Magician benchmarked the drive at exactly the same speeds - so there was no difference in speed between the drive being mounted on the PCIe adapter and the motherboard.

So the TL;DR? Get your M.2 drives off of your motherboard, as they'll almost certainly run cooler when 'lifted up' and into a good 'air flow friendly' space on a PCIe adapter card.