If you’re a Windows 10 or 11 user and you’re unsure whether your SSD is SATA or NVMe, you’re not alone. Many computer users often face this dilemma when trying to upgrade their SSD or install a new one. The problem is that differentiating between the two types can be challenging, especially if you’re not tech-savvy.
Fortunately, there are several ways to determine what type of SSD you have on your Windows device. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most straightforward and effective methods to help you identify the SSD type in your PC. But before that, let us understand the different SSD types, their form factors interface types, and the protocols that they use to communicate with the hardware.
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What is an SSD?
As the name suggests, a Solid-State Drive (SSD) is a storage device that has no moving parts, and it is designed to provide lightning-fast access to data. It is a type of storage device that uses NAND-based flash memory to store data.
Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs are made up of multiple NAND-based flash memory chips that store data electronically, rather than magnetically. This means that they are not only faster, but also more reliable and durable than HDDs. With no moving parts to wear out or break, SSDs can last longer and perform better under extreme conditions.
SSDs are designed to be a direct replacement for traditional HDDs in computers and other devices, offering a range of benefits including faster boot times, quicker program loading, and faster file transfers. Because they use flash memory instead of spinning disks, they are also completely silent and consume relatively less power.
In addition to their speed and reliability, SSDs are also highly efficient in terms of data storage. Because they have no moving parts, they can access data faster and more efficiently than regular HDDs. This means that they can store more data in a smaller amount of space, making them ideal for use in laptops and other portable devices where space is at a premium.
In today’s world, there are different types of SSDs available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. SSDs are categorized based on their sizes, commonly known as “form factor” and difference interfaces, known as “connectors”. However, apart from these, another attribute that is often associated with SSDs is their “controller” type, also referred to as the “communication protocol.”
Let us look at these different categories of SSDs and their transfer protocols.
SSD Transfer Protocols
Transfer protocols, also referred to as “controllers,” are the technology behind the communication protocol between the storage device and the motherboard. At the moment, there are two common transfer protocols widely used:
- Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI)
- Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe)
Let us discuss these protocols in detail.
Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI)
AHCI was first released back in 2004 to be used with mechanical hard drives. Since mechanical hard drives have relatively higher latencies, the AHCI was designed accordingly.
It is a type of SSD connector that enables communication between the storage device like an SSD or HDD and the computer’s operating system. It helps to improve the performance, reliability, and flexibility of storage devices in a PC. AHCI was introduced in 2004 to replace the older IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) protocol.
It provides several advantages over IDE, including support for native command queuing (NCQ), hot-plugging, and the ability to use more than one drive per SATA controller. AHCI also supports SATA features such as hot-swapping and port multipliers.
That said, this technology became a bottleneck when the SSDs came out, and therefore, a new transfer protocol was needed. This led to the inevitable invention of the NVMe transfer protocol.
Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe)
NVMe SSDs are a type of solid-state drive that offers lightning-fast speed and storage performance for heavy-duty applications. Unlike traditional SSDs that use the SATA interface, NVMe drives use the Non-Volatile Memory Express protocol, which allows for greater bandwidth and faster data transfer rates.
This means that NVMe SSDs can read and write data at incredible speeds, up to 5 times faster than SATA SSDs. This makes them an ideal choice for users who work with large files, such as video editors or gamers who need fast load times.
NVMe SSDs come in a range of storage capacities, from 128GB to 2TB, making them suitable for a variety of needs. They are also available in the M.2 form factor (discussed below), which allows for easy installation with a compact design.
The most significant advantage of NVMe SSDs is their speed, which can dramatically improve performance in heavy productivity applications. This is because the NVMe protocol allows the drive to communicate directly with the CPU, bypassing the limitations of SATA bandwidth.
These are the transfer protocols we needed to understand before discussing the form factors and the interface types of SSDs.
SSD Form Factors
In computing, a form factor refers to the physical size, shape, and dimensions of a component or device. When it comes to SSDs, the form factor refers to the physical design of the drive, including its shape and size.
The form factor determines how the SSD will fit into a computer or other device. There are several different SSD form factors available today, each with its own unique physical design and set of specifications.
The 2.5-inch SSD is the most common form factor and is primarily used in laptops. However, since it has a SATA interface (discussed ahead in this article), it can also be used conveniently in desktops and servers, replacing traditional mechanical hard drives.
The 2.5″ SSDs can have up to 4TBs of storage space on each drive, which makes them ideal for users who need more storage whilst having the benefit of quick loading speeds. However, a caveat of this form factor is its size, which is not ideal for the high portability of devices.
U.2 is a relatively recent SSD form factor introduced for high-performance servers and workstations. A U.2 is another kind of interface, unique from the rest, but an upgrade from the SATA Express. However, a U.2 SSD is visually very much similar to the standard 2.5″ SSD but slightly thicker. Nonetheless, their interface is different than all else.
A U.2 SSD uses the same PCIe channels as the M.2, hence providing almost the same transfer speed. Moreover, they are also compatible with M.2 interfaces if connected through a conversion adapter.
mSATA is a miniature version of SATA SSDs, designed for systems where space is limited. It has the same number of pins and a similar shape to the regular SATA SSD, except for the difference in its size.
An mSATA SSD is relatively smaller than a SATA SSD as its shell has been removed. This is primarily because of spatial issues in most modern laptops and an mSATA SSD can replace a regular 2.5-inch SSD while consuming lesser space.
The transfer rate also has no change and matches the one of a SATA SSD, which is almost 150 MB/s.
Previously known as the “Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF),” an M.2 SSD is usually the same width as the interface itself and is internally mounted in computers.
An M2 SSD is a small, thin form factor that is designed for use in ultra-thin laptops and tablets. M.2 SSDs are smaller and more compact than 2.5-inch SSDs, and they connect to the motherboard using different interface types which include both SATA and PCIe (discussed head in this article).
There are two types of M.2 SSDs currently available that are distinguished by the type of Keys. The Key defines its pin configuration, as well as the configuration of its notches. There are currently two types of Keys, the B and the M. The M key has only 5 pins in one of its smaller notches, whereas the B key has 6.
The M.2 is the smallest form factor for an SSD currently available, and the most widely used NVMe SSDs use this interface configuration since it does not involve any cables. It draws power directly from the interface itself and consumes the least amount of space with a good transfer speed of about 3500 MB/s.
However, there are also M.2 SATA hard drives available, which have the form factor of M.2 but use the SATA controller as a transfer protocol.
Since the NVMe M.2 share the same channels as the PCIe slot, it consumes 4 channels/lanes, enabling M.2 SSDs to perform almost 5 times better than a SATA SSD.
A downside to the M.2 SSDs is that these currently only support storage spaces of up to 2 TBs.
Types of SSD Interfaces
Apart from the form factors, there is another categorization of the SSDs known as connectors or interfaces. The interface is the part of the SSD where the SSD connects to the motherboard or cable. An interface can have different shapes and a different number of pins.
Below are the different types of SSD connectors that you can find in the market. Each interface offers a different advantage in terms of transfer speeds (baud rates) and parallel channels/lanes.
Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA)
SATA, abbreviated for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment is a type of SSD that uses the SATA interface to connect to a computer. Unlike traditional hard disk drives, which use spinning disks to store data, SATA SSDs use flash memory to store data.
Flash memory is a type of non-volatile storage that allows for faster read and write speeds compared to traditional hard drives. These SSDs come in various storage capacities, ranging from 128GB to 4TB. The storage capacity you choose will depend on your needs and budget.
If you’re using a laptop or a desktop computer for everyday tasks such as web browsing, word processing, or multimedia consumption, a lower-capacity SATA SSD such as 256GB or 512GB may suffice. However, if you’re a professional content creator, a gamer, or a power user who needs to store large amounts of data, you may need a higher-capacity SATA SSD.
In terms of speed, SATA SSDs can reach read speeds of up to 570Mbps and write speeds of up to 520Mbps. While these speeds may not be as fast as those of PCIe NVMe SSDs, they are still significantly faster than traditional hard disk drives. This means that SATA SSDs can help reduce boot and load times for applications, files, and games.
One of the advantages of SATA SSDs is that they are widely available and more affordable compared to PCIe NVMe SSDs. This means that you can upgrade your computer’s storage without breaking the bank. Additionally, SATA SSDs are compatible with most computers that have a SATA port, which makes them a versatile storage solution.
SATA also provides a hot-swap feature, where the hard drives could be replaced while the device was still powered on.
One downside of the SATA SSDs is that they still widely use the AHCI controller.
Over time, more versions of the SATA came out as SATA 2.0 and 3.0, with significant changes in the performance speeds of up to 600 MB/s.
SATA Express (SATAe)
SATAe is a newer technology for connecting storage devices to a computer. SATA Express allows for faster transfer speeds than the traditional SATA interface, which has been used for years.
The interface is designed to offer higher bandwidth and provide a faster transfer rate of up to 16 Gbps.
The SATAe interface was developed from the base model of SATA 3.2. Its main function was to increase the existing transfer rate. A SATAe connector was bigger than that of the regular SATA. However, it was backward compatible with the regular SATA interface. Meaning, a SATAe SSD could be connected to a PC’s motherboard via a single SATAe cable or through 2 regular SATA cables.
The technology comes in a smaller form factor than traditional SATA, which makes it more suitable for smaller devices such as laptops and tablets. With SATA Express, you can connect your storage devices and expect lightning-fast transfer speeds, which is perfect for people who want to transfer large files quickly.
Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe)
PCIe, or peripheral component interconnect express is a type of interface standard used to connect high-speed components. PCIe slots can be found on every desktop PC motherboard and most modern laptops and can be used to add various components, including SSD add-on cards, GPUs, video and sound cards, etc.
The type of PCIe slots available on your PC will depend on the motherboard you have. PCIe standards come in six different generations, with each new generation doubling the bandwidth of the previous one. So, the higher the PCIe generation your SSD is using, the faster it can transfer data.
Here is a table for a comparison of the different PCIe generations:
|PCIe Generation||Bandwidth||Gigatransfer rate||Operating Frequency|
|PCIe 1.0||8 GB/s||2.5 GT/s||2.5 GHz|
|PCIe 2.0||16 GB/s||5 GT/s||5 GHz|
|PCIe 3.0||32 GB/s||8 GT/s||8 GHz|
|PCIe 4.0||64 GB/s||16 GT/s||16 GHz|
|PCIe 5.0||128 GB/s||32 GT/s||32 GHz|
|PCIe 6.0||256 GB/s||64 GT/s||32 GHz|
This connector interface is the fastest out of all the available interfaces in a computer as it allows multiple channels/lanes to be used simultaneously.
PCIe slots come in different pin configurations, ranging from 1 to 16.
An NVMe PCIe SSD can transfer up to 3.5 GB/s, which is why these are considered top-of-the-line. Of course, these are probably the most expensive type of SSDs as well.
This concludes our discussion of the types of protocols, form factors, and interface types of the different SSDs available today. However, there is one more interface that doesn’t belong to SSDs, but you should know about it.
What is Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE)?
IDE, short for Integrated Drive Electronics, is an older interface standard used to connect storage devices, such as hard disk drives and CD/DVD drives, to a computer’s motherboard. IDE was first introduced in the 1980s and was commonly used in computers until the mid-2000s when it was replaced by newer standards such as SATA.
IDE was an important standard that played a significant role in the development of personal computers. However, due to its limitations and the emergence of faster and more efficient standards, it is now considered obsolete.
It used a 40-pin or 80-pin ribbon cable to connect the storage device to the motherboard. Unlike newer standards, IDE required that the device be manually configured as either a master or slave device using jumpers on the device. IDE also had slower transfer speeds compared to newer standards, with a maximum speed of 133 MB/s.
SSD Type Comparison
The comparison table below reveals the major features that differentiate M.2, NVMe, and SATA SSDs from each other.
|Feature||M.2 SSD||NVMe SSD||SATA SSD||SATA Express SSD||PCIe SSD|
|Interface Type||SATA or NVMe||M.2 or|
|SATA||2.5-inch or 3.5 inch||PCIe|
NVMe PCIe Gen 3: 3,500 MB/s
NVMe PCIe Gen 4: 7,500 MB/s
|PCIe Gen 3: 3,500 MB/s|
PCIe Gen 4: 7,500 MB/s
|550 MB/s||12 GB/s||PCIe Gen 3: 3,500 MB/s|
PCIe Gen 4: 7,500 MB/s
|Latency||Low||Very low||High||Low||Very Low|
|Compatibility||Compatible with M.2 slot||Compatible with M.2 slot||Compatible with SATA slot||Backward compatible with SATA slot||Compatible with PCIe slot|
|Form Factor||M.2||M.2, or Add-In Card||2.5-inch||Smaller than 2.5″ but larger than M.2||M.2 or Add-In Card|
|Performance Under Load||Good||Excellent||Average||Good||Excellent|
How to Check SSD Type on Windows
Now that you know the differences between various SSD types, here are a few ways through which you can find the SSD type on your PC.
Check SSD Type from Settings
Go to the following:
Settings app >> System >> Storage >> Advanced Storage Settings >> Disks & volumes
Click on “Properties” in front of the disk you want to check.
Here, you will find the type of SSD written in front of “Bus Types“.
Find SSD Type from Disk Management Console
Note: This method will only work if the SSD type is embedded in the SSD’s name by the manufacturer, which is not always the case.
Open the Disk Management Console by typing in “diskmgmt.msc” in the Run Command box.
Right-click on the SSD and click “Properties” from the context menu.
Switch to the “Details” tab and select “Hardware IDs” from the drop-down menu under Property.
You will now find the type of SSD in the details in the Value section, as in the image below:
Find SSD Type using the Internet
Another method to find out what type your SSD is using the internet to search for its model number. You will find all sorts of information on the internet about your SSD, including its type. Use the following steps to determine the model details of your SSD, and then use it to search the internet:
Open the Task Manager by pressing the CRL + Shift + Esc shortcut keys.
Switch to the “Performance” tab and then click the Disk you want to find the type of.
Note down the complete model name and number in the top-right corner and perform an internet search on the specifications for your SSD type.
Find SSD Type using PowerShell
Note: This method will only work if the SSD type is embedded in the SSD’s name by the manufacturer, which is not always the case.
Open an elevated PowerShell instance and run the following command:
You will now see the SSD type in the “FriendlyName” column inside PowerShell (if the manufacturer has added it).
Find SSD Type using Third-Party App
You can also find out what type of SSD your computer has using the third-party app called SSD-Z. Here is how:
Download and extract the portable SSD-Z application.
Run the SSD-Z application.
In the Device tab, look for the SSD type in the “Interface” field.
There are many types of SSDs available in the market today. It is important that you select the one that satisfies your storage capacity and transfer speeds. But the story does not end there.
It is also important that you have a compatible motherboard inside the computer, as each SSD’s interface can vary, which in turn impacts the baud rate.
Identifying the type of SSD installed on your Windows PC is crucial for optimizing your system’s performance. Knowing whether your SSD is a SATA, NVMe, or any other type can help you decide which type of SSD to upgrade to in the future or which one to purchase if you’re building a new system.
Furthermore, with the methods we have outlined to check which type is installed on your PC, you can easily check the SSD type in just a few simple steps. So take the time to find out the type of SSD your system has and enjoy the benefits of improved performance and efficiency.