Last Updated on October 31, 2021 by ViCadia
Solid-state drives (SSDs) are quickly replacing hard drives in most PCs and laptops due to their fast speeds and great durability. SSDs, unlike hard drives, do not contain moving parts, making them less susceptible to wear and failure. SSDs come in many different shapes and forms, and use different data interfaces, such as M.2, SATA or PCI-E, in order to transfer data. Performance-wise, SATA SSDs are the slowest, while the M.2 or PCI-E SSDs are the fastest, as they are directly installed onto the motherboard.
These days, almost all new motherboards come with M.2 PCIe slots, meaning they allow you to install multiple high-speed M.2 SSDs. Unfortunately, most older motherboards lack the M.2 sockets needed to connect modern NVMe SSDs. An M.2 PCIe adapter is required if you wish to use an NVMe SSD on an older motherboard or a budget motherboard that lacks M.2 sockets.
In essence, the M.2 PCIe adapter is a PCIe expansion card with an M.2 slot soldered on its PCB that can accommodate an NVMe SSD. The M.2 PCIe adapter plugs into a PCIe slot (x4 or higher) on your motherboard. There are also M.2 PCIe adapters with multiple M.2 slots, but they require a PCIe x16 slot to fully utilize x16 bandwidth. Furthermore, some of these M.2 adapters have distinct M.2 slots for both NVMe and SATA M.2 solid state drives.
It’s important to remember that not all M.2 PCIe adapters work with all M.2 SSDs. NVMe SSDs with an M-Key notch or edge connector are supported by the majority of M.2 PCIe adapters. The M-Key edge connector is found on PCIe or NVMe solid state drives, while the B-Key and M-Key notches or edge connectors are found on M.2 SATA SSDs. An M.2 PCIe adapter that supports M-Key M.2 PCIe SSDs will only support NVMe SSDs and will not support B-Key M.2 PCIe or SATA SSDs. Furthermore, an M-Key PCIe AHCI SSD cannot be used in an M.2 PCIe adapter that only supports M-Key PCIe NVMe SSDs.
Only the M-Key interface supports PCI-E 3.0/4.0 x4 bus standard and NVMe protocol, meaning that it can deliver read and write speeds of up to 4 GB/s (theoretically). On top of that, it’s also worth mentioning that there are three popular module specs for the M.2 interface. They are 2242, 2260, and 2280, respectively. The most popular is 2280, in which the number 22 represents width and the number 80 represents length.
The main goal of installing an NVMe solid state drive is to improve the performance of your operating system (particularly Windows 10) by using the M.2 SSD as a boot disk. If you want to boot your OS from an M.2 SSD installed on the PCIe Adapter, make sure your motherboard and BIOS have enabled booting from a PCI-E device/NVMe SSD. Otherwise, you’ll have to use it as a storage drive rather than a boot disk.
It’s critical to know the size of SSDs you wish to install on your PC before purchasing an NVMe PCIe adapter. Because some adapters only support a certain form factor, you won’t be able to use SSDs of a different size.
Best Dual M.2 PCIe Adapter:
Best Quad M.2 PCIe Adapter:
Best M.2 PCIe Adapter for MacBook:
Best M.2 PCIe to 2.5″ SATA Adapter:
Best RGB M.2 PCIe Adapter:
Best 3-in-1 M.2 PCIe Adapter:
Best M.2 PCIe to USB 3.2 Type-C Adapter:
Best Overall: MHQJRH M.2 NVME SSD Adapter
Interface: PCI-E x4 | Connectors: 1 x M.2 2280 (M-Key)
The MHQJRH M.2 SSD adapter is a budget M.2 M-Key solid state drive adapter that supports SSDs up to 2280 form factor. It is backward compatible with PCIe 1.0 to 3.0 interfaces, and it officially supports PCIe 4.0 motherboards, meaning it can deliver data transfer speeds of up to 80 Gbps. This adapter can be used in PCIe x4/x8/x16 bus slots, and it comes with an aluminum heatsink and heat conducting silica gel pad for improved cooling. This M.2 PCIe adapter is quite fast and can fully utilize the capabilities of an NVMe SSD. It also features a built-in LED that shows the status of the power and data transfer. The only drawback of this affordable and reliable adapter is that it doesn’t support B-Key M.2 drives.
Best Dual M.2 PCIe Adapter: StarTech Dual M.2 PCIe Adapter (PEX8M2E2)
Interface: PCI-E x8 | Power Connectors: 2 x M.2 2280 (M-Key)
Because of its broad compatibility with many types of M-Key PCIe SSDs, the StarTech Dual M.2 PCIe adapter is one of the most versatile M.2 PCIe adapters you can acquire for your PC. It works with a wide range of M-Key PCI Express SSDs, including NVMe and PCIe AHCI. It also supports up to two M.2 PCI-E 3.0 SSDs with a length of up to 80 mm (M.2 2280). This adapter is also backward compatible with PCIe 2.0 and PCIe 1.0 standards, and fully supports PCIe 3.0 motherboards. It includes low-profile and full-profile vented brackets for installation in small form-factor computers. Featuring also RAID support, the performance of this M.2 PCIe adapter is excellent, however, it comes with a rather high price tag.
Best Quad M.2 PCIe Adapter: ASRock Hyper Quad M.2 Card
Interface: PCI-E x16 | Connectors: 4 x M.2 22110 (M-Key)
The ASRock Hyper Quad M.2 card is an ideal solution for high-end users and workstation professionals who are in need of additional M.2 slots for their NVMe SSDs. Featuring support for the PCIe Gen4 x16 interface, the ASRock Hyper Quad M.2 card can accommodate up to four PCI-E 4.0 22110 SSDs, and can deliver unprecedented data transfer speeds of up to 64 Gb/s. This M.2 adapter can also boast with support for Intel VROC technology, utility control switch, bracket ventilation holes, rock-solid aluminum cover and variable speed cooling fan. It is also fully compatible with AMD TRX40 and Intel X399 workstation platforms, and it allows its user to create a bootable RAID array with up to 4 SSDs. Its only downside is its rather high price.
Best Cooling: Sabrent NVMe M.2 SSD Adapter (EC-PCIE)
Interface: PCI-E x4/x8/x16 | Connectors: 1 x M.2 2280 (M-Key)
Sabrent is a well-known company that specializes in NVMe solid state drives and computer peripherals. Their EC-PCIE M.2 NVMe SSD adapter is one of the best M.2 adapters when it comes to cooling, since it features a black coated aluminum heatsink that aids in heat dissipation and cooling of the SSD. This M.2 PCI-E adapter is also very slim and is compatible with PCIe x4/x8/x16 motherboard slots. It’s major downside is the fact that it’s only compatible M.2 M-Key PCIe SSDs, ranging from 2230 to 2280 in size. The adapter even supports PCIe 4.0 SSDs, allowing you to use such an SSD at full speed on a motherboard with the PCIe 4.0 interface. It is also worth mentioning that this is a bracketless adapter, meaning it’s physically supported only by the PCIe slot.
Best RGB M.2 PCIe Adapter: Vantec M.2 NVMe PCIe x4 ARGB Adapter
Interface: PCI-E x4 | Connectors: 1 x M.2 2280 (M-Key)
This M.2 NVMe PCIe x4 Adapter with ARGB heatsink is a one-of-a-kind device that is built for high-performance M.2 NVMe modules and includes an ARGB (Addressable RGB) LED to improve the illumination in your system chassis. It has two levels of heat management to protect the NVMe module, including a large aluminum heatsink block that covers the entire NVMe module for heat dissipation. The Vantec ARGB M.2 adapter supports NVMe modules which measure up to 80 mm in length. This adapter provides the quickest startup time and data access. The PCIe interface uses four lanes of data to connect directly to the NVMe, resulting in lightning-fast boot/data transfers and the nicest ARGB illumination inside the chassis. The adapter is also fully compatible with ASUS Aura, MSI Mystic Light, and Gigabyte RGB Fusion illumination systems.
Best 3-in-1 M.2 PCIe Adapter: MHQJRH M.2 & mSATA SSD Adapter
Interface: PCI-E x16| Connectors: 2 x M.2 2280 (M-Key/B+M) + 1 x mSATA
The MHQJRH M.2 & mSATA SSD adapter is a perfect budget solution for users who need to use both M.2 and mSATA SSDs on their day-to-day basis. This adapter supports up to two M.2 2280 (M-Key or B-Key/B+M) solid state drives, and up to one mSATA 30×50 mm SSD. The adapter is also backward compatible with PCIe 1.0, PCIe 2.0, and PCIe 3.0 motherboards, however, it doesn’t support the latest PCIe 4.0 bus interface. There is also support for AHCI drives, as well as TRIM and USAP functions, and the adapter is fully compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. With it you also get two aluminum heatsinks, and two regular/low-profile mounting brackets. It must be noted that this adapter requires one free PCI-E x16 slot to function properly.
Best M.2 PCIe Adapter for MacBook: JESOT M.2 NVMe SSD Adapter
Interface: PCI-E 12+16 Pin | Connectors: 1 x NGFF M.2 (B+M Key)
The JESOT NVMe SSD converter is ideal for people who want to improve the performance of their MacBook by using next-generation RAND solid-state drives. Most older MacBooks have 6Gbps SATA SSDs, but late 2013 to mid-2015 models have PCIe 2.0 x2 solid-state drives, which have more bandwidth than SATA 3.0 but aren’t the best currently available. For faster read and write speeds, use the JESOT adapter to connect high-performance NVMe SSDs to a four-lane PCIe 3.0 bus. Please keep in mind that not all MacBooks can be upgraded to SSD. The majority of new Mac notebooks come with PCIe SSDs that are not upgradeable. Because the SSDs are soldered to the mainboard to save space, upgrading or replacing the solid-state drives is impossible.
Best M.2 PCIe to USB 3.2 Type-C Adapter: ASUS ROG Strix Arion M.2 to USB 3.2 Type-C Enclosure
Interface: USB 3.2 Type-C | Connectors: 1 x M.2 2280 (M-Key)
The ASUS ROG Strix Arion Enclosure is a perfect solution for users who want to use their high-speed M.2 NVMe SSD as a portable storage device. Featuring dual USB-C to C and A cables, as well as support for 2280 M.2 PCIe NVMe drives (both M-Key and B+M Key) with up to 2TB of storage space, this portable SSD enclosure can deliver unprecedented mobility and fast data transfers for all your high-speed M.2 drives. This device also comes with aluminum alloy case with included thermal pads for improved cooling performance, and it even features dynamic RGB lighting which can be synced with ASUS Aura Sync compatible devices.
Best M.2 PCIe to 2.5″ SATA Adapter: Sabrent M.2 SSD to SATA3 Adapter (EC-M2SA)
Interface: SATA III | Connectors: 1 x M.2 2280 (B+M Key)
The Sabrent M.2 PCIe to 2.5″ SATA adapter enclosure is probably the best solution for converting your M.2 MGFF SSD into a standard 2.5″ internal (or external) solid-state drive. Unfortunately, this enclosure supports only B+M Key solid-state drives, meaning you can’t install an ordinary M-Key NVMe drive in it. Nevertheless, this device can boast with aluminum case resistant to drops, shock and dust, and is universally compatible, meaning you can install it in both desktop and laptop computers. The Sabrent M.2 PCIe to 2.5″ SATA enclosure can also be used as a replacement for old Xbox One hard drives, which is a big plus.