If your computer provides a USB 3.1 interface, then you have a great option for expanding the storage of your computer. Especially if you’re using a laptop, you might be interested in keeping the form factor small and tidy: that’s where M.2 SSDs come in! These are amazingly small solid-state “drives” that don’t resemble your normal 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives. Instead, they look like a weird stick of RAM with various electronic components soldered onto a raw PCB board. They are small, about 1″x3″ or even smaller. There are many options to choose from, but one of the best is the Samsung EVO 850 M.2 SSD.
Just make sure you select the right “key type.” The Samsung 850 is Key B+M type, which is the most versatile. Once you’ve selected the M.2 SSD of your choice, you’ll need to wrap it up in an enclosure. (Make sure your key types match up here!) On Amazon, there are a bunch of “generic” controllers going for about $20-$30… which isn’t bad, but scared me a bit when thinking about quality and how long it’ll last. I picked up the one that I’ll provide an Amazon link to below.
It’s not bad, pretty basic, and does work! But it wasn’t quite as plug-and-play as the seller on Amazon would have you believe. First of all, it comes with zero instructions or any other form of documentation. A very spartan packaging! You get a USB-C to USB-A cable, a small screw driver, screws, and the enclosure itself.
Putting it together
Unscrew the screws from the end opposite the USB-C port of the enclosure. Then tilt the enclosure so that the silicon card on the inside can slide out. It should do just that without too much trouble. Next, insert your M.2 SSD at a 30-45 degree angle into the pin slot. You may need to use a fair amount of pressure to make sure it’s seated correctly. Place the whole thing on a table, and hold down on the SSD so that it’s not angled up, and screw it in using the provided hardware. If you bought a different enclosure, there might be some differences to these procedures, but it should be very similar. Slide the silicon card with SSD installed back into the enclosure and seal it up!
Attaching to your Windows 10 computer
Make sure you know which ports have what features on your computer! It’s very likely that you have a mixed bag of USB ports: some which offer older USB 2 and some which offer newer USB 3. What makes it even better is that USB 3 is actually broken up into three specifications: USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB 3.1 Gen 2. In that order, is what you’ll get the best speed from. USB 3.1 Gen 2 offers speeds up to 10 Gbps!
Once you plug in the device, you might be disappointed that nothing happens. Don’t fret! Confirm that you at least heard the Windows device attached sound. You can also check to see if the device at least shows up in the USB eject menu.
Make sure the driver is up-to-date first by going into the Device Manager, right clicking on the device entry, then clicking “update driver”. Let Windows do it automatically, unless you feel the need to go on the web to search for a driver. For me, the automatic method was enough.
Restart your computer after the driver install has finished.
Now that the drivers are up-to-date, we need to format the SSD into a drive that Windows will recognize. You do this via the Partition Manager. Press the Windows key on your computer and enter “partition” into the search box. Then click on “Create and format hard disk partitions” to open the window.
In the window that appears, you’ll need to identify which disk represents your new SSD. It likely does NOT have a drive letter assigned to it, so that can help you identify which one it is. Confirm the size roughly matches what you’d expect. Don’t worry if it’s not exact, it just needs to be close. (e.g. a 256 GB drive might show up as having 232 GB available.)
Once you’ve found the disk, take a close look at the partitions that are already there (if any). You may not have any, and if that’s the case, you can just skip this paragraph. If there are existing partitions, you’ll need to delete them first, then create a new NTFS partition that can be used like a regular drive. If you see a partition like EFI System Partition like I have in my screenshot, it doesn’t appear there is an easy way to remove this. Just leave it there and move on. To perform any operation (delete, create, etc.) on an individual partition, simply right-click on it.
Last step is to create that NTFS partition! In the wizard for that, it should give you the option to assigned a drive letter to the new partition. Go ahead and do so. Once you’ve finished that, you should be all step to go! You’re new (blazing fast) external SSD is ready to go.
- Device does not connect to computer, no attach sound is heard, and nothing appears in the USB eject menu
- Check your cable, it might be broken or defective. The cable they sent me actually was! I ended up replacing it and everything was fine.