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Question Can I offset M.2 NVMe disabled SATA ports with a PCIe SATA card?

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
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Hi

On a MSI Z97 Gaming 5 motherboard, I am currently using all six SATA III ports.

I wish to install a M.2 NVMe SSD, and understand that this disables two of my six ports.

I need access to all six drives, but would like to benefit from the M.2 NVMe for other tasks... is there a way I can achieve this?

I note that there appears to be multiple PCIe / SATA cards (e.g. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=pci+sata), but I really have no idea.

I do have a PCIe and a PCI x16 lane available.

Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Thanks!
 

kschendel

Member
Aug 1, 2018
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21
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Sure, you can run drives off of an add-in PCIe SATA controller. I wouldn't count on being able to boot from them, but that's probably not a big concern.
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
Sure, you can run drives off of an add-in PCIe SATA controller. I wouldn't count on being able to boot from them, but that's probably not a big concern.
Hi kschendel

Thanks for your reply. I suppose my main concern was whether I would somehow be unable to access some drives, e.g. if I had four through the motherboard's SATA, two through a PCIe SATA card, and the M.2 NVMe.

It sounds like I might be okay though, thanks!
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
50,021
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If all of the native chipset SATA port-connected drives are in a RAID array, it will not continue to function if you move some of the drives, to say, an ASMedia 2-port card.
 

dlerious

Senior member
Mar 4, 2004
857
179
116
Your motherboard has 3 PCIe 3.0 slots (X16, X8/X8, X8/X4/X4) and 4 PCIe 2.0 x1. Your GPU will run at X8 and the PCIe card will run at X8 (X4 for each drive).
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
If all of the native chipset SATA port-connected drives are in a RAID array, it will not continue to function if you move some of the drives, to say, an ASMedia 2-port card.
Hi Larry

In this instance, none of the drives are in RAID, so I assume I should be good.

Thanks!
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
Your motherboard has 3 PCIe 3.0 slots (X16, X8/X8, X8/X4/X4) and 4 PCIe 2.0 x1. Your GPU will run at X8 and the PCIe card will run at X8 (X4 for each drive).
Your response prompted me to do some research on PCIe. As it turns out, the CPU in this build (Intel i7-4790K) has a maximum # of PCIe lanes of 16. However, with there already being a GTX 980 (16), WiFi adapter (1), and dedicated sound card (1) connected, have I not already exceeded maximum capacity? The M.2 NVMe says x4, so I presume that uses an additional four lanes, thus bringing the total to 22/16? I'm clearly missing something here!
 

dlerious

Senior member
Mar 4, 2004
857
179
116
Your response prompted me to do some research on PCIe. As it turns out, the CPU in this build (Intel i7-4790K) has a maximum # of PCIe lanes of 16. However, with there already being a GTX 980 (16), WiFi adapter (1), and dedicated sound card (1) connected, have I not already exceeded maximum capacity? The M.2 NVMe says x4, so I presume that uses an additional four lanes, thus bringing the total to 22/16? I'm clearly missing something here!
WiFi and sound card might be PCIe x1. If they work with your PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, you might be able to use a single drive. Your GTX 980 will drop back to x8 if you add anything to the 2nd slot and the 2nd and 3rd slots drop to x4 if you use all three.

I haven't used a soundcard or WiFi card in 10-15 years. Not sure if I can find anything to see what happens with my 4790K (Asus Z97 Pro).
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
50,021
5,848
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Your response prompted me to do some research on PCIe. As it turns out, the CPU in this build (Intel i7-4790K) has a maximum # of PCIe lanes of 16. However, with there already being a GTX 980 (16), WiFi adapter (1), and dedicated sound card (1) connected, have I not already exceeded maximum capacity? The M.2 NVMe says x4, so I presume that uses an additional four lanes, thus bringing the total to 22/16? I'm clearly missing something here!
The chipset (Z97) has a Pci-E lane fan-out too. Generally the chipset lanes are used for sound and network and PCI-E x1 slots.
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
WiFi and sound card might be PCIe x1. If they work with your PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, you might be able to use a single drive. Your GTX 980 will drop back to x8 if you add anything to the 2nd slot and the 2nd and 3rd slots drop to x4 if you use all three.

I haven't used a soundcard or WiFi card in 10-15 years. Not sure if I can find anything to see what happens with my 4790K (Asus Z97 Pro).
Thanks for your response. In the above scenario, you note that I might be able to use a single drive. Is that if I connect a SATA adapter, I should expect to be able to power just a single drive? Also, you note that my GTX 980 would drop to 8x... but I am not really sure what that would entail? I suppose its performance will drop, or perhaps only during spikes?

Currently, the WiFi adapter is plugged in PCI_E4 and the sound card PCI_E6. Both of which are PCIe 2.0. I technically no longer require the WiFi adapter, so if removing that changes anything, I am definitely willing to do so. The reason for a dedicated sound card, by the way, is the immense difference it makes in quality. I can definitely recommend trying one out.
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
The chipset (Z97) has a Pci-E lane fan-out too. Generally the chipset lanes are used for sound and network and PCI-E x1 slots.
Hi Larry, thanks for your response. Admittedly, I'm not entirely sure what you are saying, so pardon my ignorance when it comes to this! Would you mind to elaborate a bit please?
 

dlerious

Senior member
Mar 4, 2004
857
179
116
Thanks for your response. In the above scenario, you note that I might be able to use a single drive. Is that if I connect a SATA adapter, I should expect to be able to power just a single drive? Also, you note that my GTX 980 would drop to 8x... but I am not really sure what that would entail? I suppose its performance will drop, or perhaps only during spikes?
You shouldn't notice any difference with a GTX 980 between x16 and x8.
 
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Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
3,910
545
126
Hi Larry, thanks for your response. Admittedly, I'm not entirely sure what you are saying, so pardon my ignorance when it comes to this! Would you mind to elaborate a bit please?
I have a similar (Asrock Z97 Extreme6) system, so here goes. There are a couple of things in this, and it's a bit complicated, so it may be a bit hard to follow.

Intel CPUs from Nehalem onward actually have 20 PCIe lanes. Of these 4 are used for the PCH (Platform Controller HUB or southbridge in old terms. The northbridge and memory controller are integrated in the CPU). The PCH then has a variable number (depending on generation/model) of configurable "lanes" which can be configured as either PCIe, SATA or USB3. As well as handling the various legacy I/Os and audio.

To move back to the 16 CPU lanes, Intel allows these to be split to 8x/8x or 8x/4x/4x, depending on mainboard.

Your mainboard appears to have the M.2 slot connected to the PCH. Which is why 2 SATA ports are disabled if you add a drive to it. The 2 SATA lanes are reconfigured as a PCIe x2 link for the drive.

This is sub-optimal for three reasons, firstly and most obviously that you only get a PCIe x2 connection (M.2 NVMe drives are most often PCIe x4). Further, the PCH on Z97 only supports PCIe 2.0, so you'll only get about 1GB/s worth of bandwidth. Thirdly, that bandwidth is then shared between all devices connected to the PCH, which in this case uses the older DMI 2.0 link. Which is actually a PCIe 2.0 x4 (2GB/s) connection physically, with a bit of Intel marketing tucked on.

The best thing you can do in this case is buy a PCIe-to-M.2 adaptor card, and install it in one of the CPU provided slots. This gives you a full PCIe 3.0 x4 connection directly into the CPU. This also saves the need for an additional SATA controller, since no SATA ports well be deactivated on the PCH.

Slight warning though, it's not certain the drive will show up in the BIOS when added in this way, but it should appear just fine in the OS installer and the OS itself.
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
I have a similar (Asrock Z97 Extreme6) system, so here goes. There are a couple of things in this, and it's a bit complicated, so it may be a bit hard to follow.

Intel CPUs from Nehalem onward actually have 20 PCIe lanes. Of these 4 are used for the PCH (Platform Controller HUB or southbridge in old terms. The northbridge and memory controller are integrated in the CPU). The PCH then has a variable number (depending on generation/model) of configurable "lanes" which can be configured as either PCIe, SATA or USB3. As well as handling the various legacy I/Os and audio.

To move back to the 16 CPU lanes, Intel allows these to be split to 8x/8x or 8x/4x/4x, depending on mainboard.

Your mainboard appears to have the M.2 slot connected to the PCH. Which is why 2 SATA ports are disabled if you add a drive to it. The 2 SATA lanes are reconfigured as a PCIe x2 link for the drive.

This is sub-optimal for three reasons, firstly and most obviously that you only get a PCIe x2 connection (M.2 NVMe drives are most often PCIe x4). Further, the PCH on Z97 only supports PCIe 2.0, so you'll only get about 1GB/s worth of bandwidth. Thirdly, that bandwidth is then shared between all devices connected to the PCH, which in this case uses the older DMI 2.0 link. Which is actually a PCIe 2.0 x4 (2GB/s) connection physically, with a bit of Intel marketing tucked on.

The best thing you can do in this case is buy a PCIe-to-M.2 adaptor card, and install it in one of the CPU provided slots. This gives you a full PCIe 3.0 x4 connection directly into the CPU. This also saves the need for an additional SATA controller, since no SATA ports well be deactivated on the PCH.

Slight warning though, it's not certain the drive will show up in the BIOS when added in this way, but it should appear just fine in the OS installer and the OS itself.
Thank you so much for your detailed description! It is slowly dawning on me that my fundamental confusion (I think?!) stems from the fact that I have both CPU PCIe lanes and chipset PCIe lanes. I somehow considered those two the same. Thank you all for helping me clear that up!

I did not even consider a dedicated PCIe-to-M.2 adapter, but that certainly seems like the most straightforward approach. I also note that the selection of these far exceeds that of PCIe-to-SATA. It is not really a problem that it does not show in BIOS as I do not intend to be booting from this drive. Any adapter recommendations by any chance?
 
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sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
You shouldn't notice any difference with a GTX 980 between x16 and x8.
That is reassuring, thank you! With Insert_Nickname's recommendation above of opting for a PCIe-to-M.2 adapter, it would seems as though I would be able to retain the x16 connection to my graphics card.
 

Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
3,910
545
126
Any adapter recommendations by any chance?
Not really. Differences are mostly cosmetic. There are some specialised variants with regards to height, drive orientation or which lack a bracket, if you have such restrictions. But it's really minor details so long as its capable of PCIe 3.0.

That is reassuring, thank you! With Insert_Nickname's recommendation above of opting for a PCIe-to-M.2 adapter, it would seems as though I would be able to retain the x16 connection to my graphics card.
Unfortunately, you'll only get PCIe 3.0 x8 for your graphics card, since you're using split CPU lanes that way. It's a minor inconvenience, with no real performance impact (1-2%).

https://www.techpowerup.com/review/nvidia-geforce-gtx-1080-pci-express-scaling/24.html
 

dlerious

Senior member
Mar 4, 2004
857
179
116
Example of adapter with heatsink .

and without

I don't have any experience with these - played around with an Asus Hyper M.2, but that's for HEDT like Threadripper (or VROC on Intel). I'm tempted to grab that Qnine at $8.
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
Not really. Differences are mostly cosmetic. There are some specialised variants with regards to height, drive orientation or which lack a bracket, if you have such restrictions. But it's really minor details so long as its capable of PCIe 3.0.

Unfortunately, you'll only get PCIe 3.0 x8 for your graphics card, since you're using split CPU lanes that way. It's a minor inconvenience, with no real performance impact (1-2%).

https://www.techpowerup.com/review/nvidia-geforce-gtx-1080-pci-express-scaling/24.html
Oh wow, that is a useful source. Many thanks!
 

sgreyh

Junior Member
Nov 28, 2020
10
0
6
Example of adapter with heatsink .

and without

I don't have any experience with these - played around with an Asus Hyper M.2, but that's for HEDT like Threadripper (or VROC on Intel). I'm tempted to grab that Qnine at $8.
Awesome, many thanks! I grabbed one with a heatsink!
 

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