We’ve seen and heard NVMe SSDs thermal throttling. It’s something that we all worry about, and want to avoid when we’re getting our own NVMe SSD. I mean, these speedy storage devices aren’t cheap – and thermal throttling can diminish its speed. Well, here we’ll tell you how to prevent NVMe SSD thermal throttling.

Plextor M8Se PCB
The Plextor M8SeGN is used for our topic today.

I can’t stress this enough – if you’re using the M.2 NVMe SSD as a boot drive and for gaming/daily use – then don’t worry, it’s really difficult to make it thermal throttle unless it’s copying files in and out continuously. It’s really difficult to create such a scenario.

Key takeaway points

After presenting this much information, it can seem like it’s an overwhelming amount of information. For me as a consumer, if I’m ever going to get an M.2 NVMe SSD, here’s my list of priorities to go through.

  1. Motherboard’s M.2 slot location. Not having heat trapped is a plus point.
  2. Would I be using a liquid cooler or air cooler? Air coolers can circulate air within the case much better than how liquid coolers will.
  3. Heatsinks to help radiate and spread the heat away. Still, needs proper air circulation
  4. Try using PCIe to M.2 adapter to isolate the M.2 NVMe SSD away from other components in the case. It might help.

Plextor M8Se hero

If you’re still not rocking an NVMe SSD, then I suggest to not worry – as manufacturers are currently looking into solving M.2 NVMe heat issues. Again, it’s really difficult to make it thermal throttle unless excessive workload is placed upon the M.2 NVMe SSD.

There’s really nothing to worry about when it comes to NVMe SSD thermal throttling – for now 😉
We’ll keep you updated when we find out more new information!

Without further ado, let’s talk about the few ways to potentially prevent overheating NVMe SSDs. Some of these are tested exclusive using my own hardware.

Choosing the right motherboard

Well – not in terms of having an M.2 slot that’s directly wired to the CPU or through the chipset. Believe it or not – I don’t mean the motherboard is causing NVMe SSD thermal throttling through electrical means – but because of its physical position.I’m talking about the M.2 slot placement. Many motherboards place the M.2 slot underneath the PCIe x16 slot – which means the M.2 slot is right beside the graphics card cooler or shroud.

I’m talking about the M.2 slot placement.Many motherboards place the M.2 slot underneath the PCIe x16 slot – which means the M.2 slot is right beside the graphics card cooler or shroud.

Many motherboards place the M.2 slot underneath the PCIe x16 slot – which means the M.2 slot is right beside the graphics card cooler or shroud. This is actually the most common position for the M.2 SSD to be located.

That by itself is already an issue as heat from the NVMe SSD will get trapped. Heat from the graphics card can radiate to the M.2 SSD, but the reverse is applicable too. So, if the graphics card is under fairly light load, the graphics card cooler can potentially cool back the M.2 SSD.

Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming K5 M.2 Slot Placement
The more common position to place the M.2 SSD.

If you do choose a motherboard with the M.2 slot in between the CPU and the PCIe x16 slot, then you’re in for a treat. It’s pretty much exposed to all other components and the air is free to move around it without having other components blocking or trapping heat around it. For me, this is a bonus “feature” on the reasons why I chose the ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Gaming K4.

ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Gaming K4 M.2 SSD placement
Better position for M.2 SSD, in my opinion

Having the M.2 slot placed at that specific region is beneficial. Its placement is so strategic, it can benefit off CPU air coolers too – maybe even get cooled by radiating heat to the Noctua NH-D15’s fin stack and get cooled by the NH-A15 fan since it’s in pretty close proximity with the M.2 SSD – which leads us nicely to the next point

Getting large CPU air coolers

I have two CPU coolers – the Noctua NH-U12S and also the Noctua NH-D15. I initially did the review with the Noctua NH-U12S because of clearance issues, then swapped out for the Noctua NH-D15  (sacrificing the second fan) because of curiosity on how much more silent and cooler the AMD Ryzen 7 1700 can go. I was shocked when I saw the temperatures of not the Ryzen 7 1700 CPU, but the Plextor M8SeGN on the ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Gaming K4.

I have no idea how CPU air coolers can affect NVMe SSD thermal throttling.

Plextor M8Se Noctua NH-U12S
Quite a lot of clearance with the Nocuta NH-U12S

I first installed and tested with the Noctua NH-U12S, and I realized the temperatures were about 49°C idle and about 53°C under typical use case. When I swapped over to the Noctua NH-D15, the idle temperature instantly dropped to about 44°C with the typical workload floating at about 47°C only.

While these temperatures are far below the maximum operating temperature and thus have a lot of headroom before hitting the NVMe SSD thermal throttling limit, it’s

Plextor M8Se Noctua NH-D15
The Noctua NH-D15 pretty much covered the entire M.2 SSD.

With the M.2 placement in between the first graphics card slot and CPU, airflow from the large Noctua NH-D15 did carry away some heat from the M.2 SSD and cooled it down a little – even though there’s no direct contact or airflow on the M.2 SSD.

Yet that’s the NH-D15 with a single NH-A15 fan setup at ~1k RPM only. I expect the law of diminishing return to hit me if I install the second NH-A15 fan, but damn – it’s going to lower those temperatures even further.

With that said, I can improve even further by spending just a few bucks more. Here’s how.

Sticking some heatsinks on the M.2 NVMe SSD

Heatsinks. The most common solution for any thermal issues. Just buy some and stick them to the heaty components, and you’ll see better temperatures right away – most of the time, at least. Can it prevent NVMe SSDs from thermal throttling?

Surprisingly, there are many types of M.2 heatsinks available for sale, actually. There are entire copper blocks with thermal pads that you can adhere to the M.2 22110 or 2280 SSD. If the color of copper is not your style, then you can buy something like these – black-colored aluminium heatsinks. It’ll be difficult to find these generic aluminium heatsinks that fit the M.2 SSD in terms of both size and its contact points with the electronic components, but it’s not impossible.

General purpose heatsinks prevent NVMe SSD thermal throttling
General purpose heatsinks. Comes in all sorts of dimensions. 3M thermal pad included too.

Of course, make sure that the M.2 slot is not interfered by the graphics card cooler/shroud. These aluminium heatsinks are obviously going to raise more compatibility issues unless you have M.2 position like the ASRock X370 K4.

Then there are other M.2 SSD heatsinks like the “MSI M.2 Heat Shield” and the Alphacool HDX which don’t really have enough reviews or test case. I don’t suppose the M.2 SSDs that are interfaced through PCIe slot cards are as bad, but heat can still build up in a localized area if airflow is bad – and this is commonly referred to as a “heat trap”.


I hope this guide served its purpose by either showing you the benefit of using an air cooler for your CPU versus a custom loop or AiO (unless you loop in the M.2 NVMe SSDs too).

Did the choice of your motherboard got affected by the M.2 slot position? Let us know down in the comments section below or on our Facebook page – we’ll be reading all of your comments!

 

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The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!