I use both an M.2 and SSD in my PC so I not only know the answer to this question but have personal experience dealing with it. Whether you are using a regular SSD or an M.2 there are ways to cool them off.
Can SSDs overheat? SSDs can overheat when run under heavy load for long periods of time. However, the SSD should have procedures to reduce extreme temperatures and prevent damage.
If you want to prevent reaching the point where your SSD has to implement thermal throttling there are ways to cool SSDs. Below we will talk about how to do that for both types of SSDs.
Can SSDs Overheat?
SSDs can overheat, however, for a regular SATA SSD, it is unlikely in a case with good airflow.
The metal casing the SATA SSD features will work as a built-in heatsink and will reduce temperature better than an M.2 SSD.
SSDs are technically better at cooling than HDDs, however, due to the higher speeds will run hotter overall.
Mount them in a spot with sufficient airflow maybe even near your intake or case fans if you can, and monitor your temps for any very high temps.
Typically you won’t want your SSD to run too close to its max temperature which for many SSDs is going to be close to 70 degrees Celsius.
With a regular SATA SSD, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about overheating. These typically stay within a healthy temperature range on their own, just make sure there is proper airflow.
It is probably easier to go with the SATA SSD because you can worry less about overheating out of the box. Whereas the small package of the M.2 has a much different situation.
M.2 SSDs are known to overheat more frequently out of the box when not used with some kind of cooling solution. Such as a thermal pad or heatsink or both!
However, once you get a heatsink on your M.2 the temps should be brought below the max range somewhere in the 50-69 degrees Celsius when under load. That is the range my M.2 operates at under load.
If you buy or have a newer motherboard you should have an M.2 heatsink, but you can easily check this by referring to your motherboard manual or sales page.
I have the Asus Z370-A motherboard with two M.2 slots, one with a heatsink cover and one without. This is what the heatsink looks like on my motherboard.
If you discover you have an M.2 slot but not a heatsink there are still ways to cool your M.2 without a built-in heatsink.
Although, many SSDs are rated to run up to 70 Celsius but the closer you get to the max temp the more likely you are to experience thermal throttling.
Thermal throttling is the process of throttling the power of a part in order to reduce temperatures before they reach extreme temps that could hurt your computer.
This process is fairly common these days and can be found in other parts as well such as CPUs or GPUs.
If you use temperature reading software that shows a graph of your temps and notice sudden high temperatures while completing tasks don’t be alarmed as that is very typical for an SSD to do.
The spikes are very normal, just make sure they don’t spike above the maximum temperature of your drive.
Running at too hot of temperatures can damage an M.2, however, you should reach thermal throttling before you reach the point where significant damage can be done.
The primary reason to cool down an SSD that is overheating is less to avoid damage, as that is what the thermal throttling is for, but more to avoid reaching thermal throttling and keep high performance.
Now let’s talk about how you can find out whether or not your SSD is overheating and what software you need to use.
How To Check Your SSD Temperatures
How To Read Temperatures On A Samsung SSD
I am an advocate for using Samsung SSDs so naturally, both my SATA SSD and NVMe SSD are both from the Samsung brand.
If you also have a Samsung SSD you can download the Samsung Magician software (link to website) which is the storage management software.
Once you have installed it, you will go to the drive information screen where you can see information about your drive health and temperature.
You most likely won’t have the benchmark stats to the right, but you can very easily do that in this software if you are curious as to how fast your SSD runs.
Here you can see your exact drive temperatures, but only for your installed Samsung brand storage drives.
Non-Samsung brand storage drives will not show this information, although you are still able to benchmark them. Here’s what a non-Samsung drive looks like in this software.
For Samsung brand storage drives, the indicator below the temp dial will change as your temperature does. Letting you know when your SSD is running cool, normal, hot, and so on.
More in your face, is the temperature dial that uses colors to represent how hot your SSD is running from cool on the left to hot on the right.
If you are overheating this software will let you know, and from there you can assess your options for cooling it down which we will provide some of below.
But first, our next section is for all the people who don’t have Samsung SSDs and need to measure their temps!
How To Measure Temperature On All SSDs
Although not as pretty as the Samsung Magician software when it comes to hardware monitoring HWinfo is the best.
Not only can this software measure the temperature of all your storage drives but it can also measure the temperature of many of your other components.
Here is a link to the download page on their website.
For a quick look at what the temperature sensor screen will appear like here is an image below showing my storage drive temperatures.
As you can see, it’s a very simple design but it gets you right to the information you need to know.
The first and third drives are 4TB WD Blue HDDs and the second and fourth are SSDs. The second being a SATA SSD and the fourth being an NVMe M.2 SSD.
This is fantastic software, and it’s great for more than temperature reading. If something goes wrong with a part, this software covers a wide range of data and can help tremendously with troubleshooting hardware.
Here is a link to the download page if you are interested. I downloaded the installer and did the local option when prompted with the dropdown.
A quick tip: If you are only looking for temperature information, when booting into HWinfo there will be 2 checkboxes, check the sensors only box and you will launch just the temperature reading portion of the software.
I like to do this when looking only for my temperature sensor information because it declutters the screen and keeps me on task.
How To Cool An M.2 SSD
If Your Motherboard Has A Heatsink
Some motherboards may have one or two heatsinks built-in specifically for an M.2. I’ll show a picture of what mine looks like below.
Under that silver and white plate is my M.2 and between both of them was a pre-attached thermal pad to transfer heat.
This helps keep my M.2 very cool, but to use a motherboard heatsink it has to be already built into your motherboard you cannot add it to your current one if you don’t have it.
If you haven’t built your PC yet or are planning to replace your motherboard soon be sure to look for a motherboard with an M.2 heatsink.
Mine is very large, but on boards like the MSI Tomahawk you can get much smaller, but still effective M.2 heatsinks.
If you already have an M.2 heatsink on your motherboard you can learn how to install your M.2 under the heatsink by reading your motherboard’s manual.
Don’t fret if your motherboard doesn’t have one built-in, you can add an independent heatsink onto your M.2 to cool it. This is what we will talk about next.
Getting Your Own Heatsink
If you don’t have a heatsink built into your motherboard it isn’t the end of the world! There are many aftermarket heatsinks available that attach to the top of your M.2 and help reduce heat.
The reason you need a heatsink is that it transfers some of the heat off of the M.2 and moves it into the metal on the heatsink.
After that, the heatsink can be cooled by the airflow and carry the heat out of the case. Heatsinks make a HUGE difference in temps, without one overheating or thermal throttling is a very real possibility.
A good heatsink will be plenty capable of removing enough heat to have your M.2 operate in a safe range under the max temperature.
If you are curious which aftermarket M.2 heatsink we like the best it is the Thermalright M.2 Heatsink Cooler.
It has an easy installation process and is said to have a 10 – 20 degree Celsius difference depending on the environment.
In addition, it has a very sleek silver design that blends in well and looks like a premium component.
Lastly, it has a very affordable price which you can see the latest pricing on by clicking this link here (link to Amazon).
How To Cool Down A Regular SSD
Regular SATA SSDs typically run pretty cool, and on average have fewer heating issues than the faster M.2 SSD counterpart.
The benefit of a SATA SSD is that the shell of the SSD acts as a heatsink already. So if you are having issues with overheating the solution is not as simple as getting a heatsink.
Still, there are a couple things you can try which may help you move the heat around and get your SSD operating in more comfortable temps.
Installing More Case Fans
This entirely depends on your case layout and how many fans you may already have but it is a good option for cooling down your system.
By installing more fans you can improve your airflow and push more cool air over your SSD.
Of course, you still need to make sure the air you push of your SSD is moving out of the case.
In order to make sure you have good airflow, see where all your fans are pushing air, and make sure your SSD is benefiting from that. You don’t want the heat to get trapped or else it can increase temps.
Zones where hot air collects typically lack fans in that area. If your SSD is in a place where hot air can get trapped, that may be impacting its temps.
In summary, evaluate your airflow, and if you find your SSD is trapped in a spot where the air isn’t being properly vented, get another case fan to push the air out of the case.
Moving Your SSD To A Place With Better Airflow
If you currently have your SSD in a spot such as mounted on the back of the motherboard that may not be the best place to keep it cool.
In that spot, it is low down pressed between the case and motherboard, capturing heat not getting nearly as much cooling as it should.
If you have a case that allows it, move your SSD to a mounted storage drive rack closer to the intake fans. This way the air can flow in and over your SSD then get carried to the exhaust fan.
If your SSD is in a zone with lacking airflow that collect hot air, this is something you can try first before buying more case fans.
Should You Get An M.2 SSD Or SATA SSD?
This section is specifically for people who haven’t quite made the leap to an SSD yet but are looking to do it soon and are torn between the two types.
Before we start I will mention that in order to use an M.2 with your motherboard, your motherboard has to have an M.2 slot on it.
M.2 SSDs plug directly into a dedicated slot on your motherboard and do not use a SATA data transfer cable as regular SATA SSDs do.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type of SSD and find a conclusion for which is right for you.
First, let’s get the major factor out of the way first, M.2 SSDs blow SATA SSDs out of the water in terms of performance.
Let’s look at this data table that compares side-by-side the difference between SATA and NVMe performance.
|Benchmark Specifications||NVMe Samsung 970 EVO Plus||Samsung SSD 860 EVO|
|Sequential Read (MB/s)||3533||556|
|Sequential Write (MB/s)||3305||330|
|Random Read (IOPS)||346679||72753|
|Random Write (IOPS)||305664||67626|
There are two things to consider here: there are varying amounts of storage in each drive, and I have an upgraded version of the already very fast Samsung M.2 SSD.
Nonetheless, I think performance on a regular M.2 wouldn’t be too far off of this benchmark, but of course, it depends on the brand, advertised speed, and type of M.2 you get.
A general statement that typically holds is that M.2 SSDs are going to be faster, but how much faster can depend on the factors mentioned above.
Second, tying this debate back into your original question, SATA SSDs are going to run cooler than M.2 SSDs out of the box and are known to have less heating issues.
This could be attributed to the lesser speed or perhaps the fact SATA SSDs are built-in a way that helps dissipate heat better, but they typically run cooler.
M.2 SSDs typically don’t have a heatsink built-in, so adding some way to transfer heat is going to be largely up to you.
Fortunately, there are several ways to lessen the heat that are fairly simple to implement and well worth it in terms of speed gain.
But overall, you will have to worry about the heat more with an M.2 rather than with a regular SATA SSD.
Third, an NVMe M.2 SSD is going to take up 2 SATA ports on your motherboard rather than the one that a SATA SSD typically takes.
This might be a deal-breaker for some that already have several storage drives in use.
Usually, an M.2 will use the 1 and 2 or 5 and 6 SATA ports depending on which motherboard M.2 slot you use or your motherboard layout.
If you only use one M.2 then you can have 5 storage drives in total and if you use two M.2s then you can have 4 storage drives in total.
So as long as you can keep your storage drives in use under either of these numbers depending on how many M.2s you have in use, this shouldn’t be a big deal.
Nonetheless, it’s information that is very helpful to know up front.
Fourth, the price difference between the two is big enough to swing some people on a budget one way or another.
This is entirely subjective, as the price difference between an 870 EVO and a 970 EVO is big to some and small to others.
If I could sum it up, if you have the extra money for your build, upgrading from a SATA to NVMe SSD would make you see a huge boost in speed that is without a doubt worth the money.
If you are on a strict budget, a regular SATA SSD will still feel plenty fast, and you can still enjoy the much faster boot times of an SSD over an HDD.
In summary, SSDs can overheat and will if you aren’t mindful of placement and what you are using to cool them.
The closer an SSD gets to reaching its max temperature the more likely it is to begin thermal throttling which will heavily impact performance to prevent serious damage.
If the thermal throttling doesn’t work and the SSD still won’t stay cool the system will shut down.
For regular SATA SSDs, you should make sure you have air cooling over the SSD and the placement of the SSD is in a spot with good airflow.
For M.2 SSDs, you should make sure you have some way to relieve some heat like thermal pads or a heatsink whether it is built into your motherboard or a dedicated one you must buy separately.
If you haven’t yet built your PC or are looking to upgrade, the M.2 has terrific speed, but it costs a good amount more, and heat issues are more common out of the box when not used with a heat solution.
Speaking from personal experience, when I installed my M.2, I used it with my motherboard’s built-in M.2 heatsink and haven’t experienced any temperature issues.
For SATA SSDs, they are significantly slower than the M.2 but still much faster than an HDD and only use one SATA slot with heating issues being less common and don’t require a special slot on the motherboard.
From this information, you know the broad strokes of heat and SSDs. But of course, how hot your SSD gets can be entirely dependent on the specific SSD you use and your exact situation.
Your case, airflow, room/environment temperature, who made your SSD and other factors can also impact how hot your SSD gets.
So do plenty of research and try to get information from users of the SSD you intend to get (or the one you already have) for a greater understanding of what the temps your SSD should operate at and how you can lower them for your exact SSD.