M.2 SSDs are the fastest mass storage devices available to consumers, but an almost universal concern regarding electronic components is keeping them cool. You might think you have the perfect build until you start getting warnings and performance issues due to a hot M.2.
M.2 SSDs can get too hot for a variety of reasons, from inadequate airflow to their proximity to other hot components and excessive dust inside the case. Resolving the issue will depend on what is causing your drive to overheat.
You might need to adopt a trial and error approach – computer hardware and cooling often come with unique requirements due to the variety of different configurations. Laptop owners may have an especially troubling time due to space limitations, but with some patience it’s usually possible to cool down a hot M.2.
1. A Dirty Case Cools Inefficiently
If you have a case with a glass panel, you shouldn’t even have to open it to see if any dust is building up inside your computer. Dust acts as an insulator, trapping heat, and if enough of it builds up on or around your M.2, you will start having problems.
Most modern computer cases come with some form of removable dust filter, but if it isn’t cleaned regularly, dust will start penetrating. A blocked filter is also going to affect your airflow, less of which will result in hotter components.
How To Fix
If your case has a filter, you should find it on the air intake side of the case. Different cases will have different filters – some are magnetic that stick to the case, while others are mesh screens that either slide or clip in. This can be washed with soap and water, but be sure to let it dry before reinstalling.
If there is dust inside the case, there’s only one thing for it – you’ll have to open your case and give your computer a good clean. Computer owners should always be vigilant of dust since its presence, and the resultant heat will cause your components to degenerate.
There are some important things to keep in mind when cleaning out a computer:
- Static can damage the components. Follow this WikiHow to learn how to remove it and be careful if you touch your motherboard. I’ve also written an article about that here.
- Never use any liquids or solvents. You can damage or destroy your computer. Use compressed air instead.
- Some disassembly may be required. Dust has a habit of getting inside and underneath things.
If you are not comfortable opening your computer and don’t want to risk messing up any of your parts, you may want to contact a professional with adequate equipment and skills for the undertaking. It might cost you, but it will likely be far cheaper than replacing any of the components you might otherwise damage.
2. Inadequate Airflow Through Your Case Can Cause Overheating Components
Computer cases come in a multitude of shapes and sizes, from unassuming and appliance-like office setups to more esoteric gaming rigs, replete with controllable lights and fans.
If your M.2 is getting too hot, it could be that you have a case with inherently poor airflow. Laptop users and users who have upgraded machines built with office use in mind often encounter this.
How To Fix
Most computer cases have extra fan slots. Adding more fans will increase the airflow through your computer case, thereby enabling the components to cool more efficiently.
To install a fan, the case will need an available slot. The fan is screwed into the case, and its wires are routed either to an available fan slot on the motherboard, a dedicated fan controller, or in some cases, they are plugged directly into the power supply via an adapter.
If your case has no extra fan slots or the fan slots are full, check that your fans are installed correctly. Usually, the manufacturer’s sticker will be on the back or the side the air comes out. This will face inwards for an intake fan and outwards for an exhaust fan.
Get a Cooling Pad for Your Laptop
With a laptop, you can’t really do much about the case design like you can with a desktop, so the strategy differs slightly. Rather than modifying or increasing the airflow through the case, we are aiming to cool the whole laptop down via a cooling pad.
Cooler Master is a well-respected name in the computer cooling business, and they have got you covered with their NotePal range. The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim Cooling Pad (available on Amazon.com) may be all you need, and it sports a sleek and compact design that won’t take up too much additional carrying space.
If you need even more airflow to cool that fiery M.2, the Cooler Master NotePal X3 Cooling Pad (available on Amazon.com) has a massive 200-mm (7.9-in) fan designed to cool high-performance gaming laptops.
3. Nearby Hot Components
M.2s are comparatively diminutive when compared to older solid-state drives and usually screw into a dedicated slot right on the motherboard. Some motherboards will have multiple M.2 slots, usually located near the PCIe slots used for things like graphics cards.
If you have a large, powerful GPU that generates a lot of heat, it could be affecting your M.2. Once you’ve eliminated the possibility of inadequate airflow, take a look where your drive is situated – if it’s right under your GPU, your M.2 might be absorbing some of its heat.
How To Fix
It might not be an optimal solution, but the logical thing to do is try to move your M.2 to a slot that is further away from other hot components.
If there are any available M.2 slots on your motherboard, carefully remove the M.2 from its current slot. You may have to remove other components to get to it, but once it’s in hand, you simply have to reverse the process using the extra slot.
4. No Heat Sink on Your M.2
High-performance computer components are often limited only by the amount of heat they generate, and manufacturers are in a constant battle to improve cooling efficiency. To this end, some manufacturers include a heat sink with their M.2s.
A heat sink is a finned metal block that is attached to the M.2, absorbing the heat generated by its operation and dissipating it more efficiently thanks to the increased surface area created by the fins. If you have taken every other precaution to prevent your M.2 from getting hot, then this might be what you need.
How To Fix
If your M.2 came with a heat sink and you neglected to install it, you can follow the instructions provided with the component to install the heat sink. You will have to remove the M.2 from your PC since the heat sink usually has 2 thermal pads that stick to the top and bottom of your drive.
You can also buy an aftermarket heatsink and fit it on your existing M.2 by following a step-by-step guide like this one from ifixit. There are plenty of options available online, such as the be quiet! BZ002 (available on Amazon.com) which is designed to fit laptops. There is also a beefier option available for more spacious desktop PCs.
It can be distressing when you notice your M.2’s temperature rising to an uncomfortable level. Still, with a little patience and a process of elimination, you should be able to get it to cool adequately, perhaps even without any additional cost.
In closing, it must also be noted that there are many cases where electronics have been found to be defective, even right out of the box. While rare, especially with reputable manufacturers, you can’t rule out the possibility that your M.2 is a dud with some kind of fault that causes it to overheat.