What is mSATA SSD? Feature, Uses & More

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What is mSATA SSD

What is mSATA SSD?

An mSATA SSD refers to the Solid State Drive with a flash storage. It has a smaller form factor than a regular SSD and matches the mSATA interface specs.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The sockets used by the mSATA Solid State Drives are similar to the Mini Peripheral Component Interconnect Express but the electronic signaling is different.
  • The mSATA SSDs consume less power than a regular SSD but come with faster booting abilities, additional resilience, and maximum bandwidth of up to 6 gigabits per second.
  • The storage capacity offered by these drives is significantly high and at par with the regular SSDs and can store data in them safely for 1.5 to 2 million hours.
  • Available in Single Level Cell flash and Multi-Level Cell flash variants, the mSATA drives come with useful features like Error Correction Code, Cyclic Redundancy Checks, and end-to-end data protection.
  • The mSATA drives are quite expensive due to its small form factor and complex design, high cost of manufacturing silicon needed for it and its low demand and supply.

Understanding mSATA SSD

Understanding mSATA SSD

An mSATA SSD is a particular type of Solid State Drive that operates according to the mSATA interface guidelines and specifications that are developed and maintained by the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment International Organization or the SATA IO.

The size of a Mini SATA Solid Stat Drive is much smaller in comparison to a regular SSD that you will get in the market today.

It is for this reason you will find the mSATA SSDs being used extensively in those smaller devices that have space as well as power constraints such as the laptops, net books and more.

However, as you know, technological developments is a continual process and over time newer and better technologies and devices come up only to replace the older and not-so-older ones.

The Mini SATA SSDs are also no exception to that. These drives are being replaced increasingly by the M.2 Solid State Drives.

The best thing about the mSATA SSDs is their size, which is not larger than the size of a business card.

In fact, the measurement of a typical mSATA SSD is 50.8 mm x 29.85 mm x 4.85 mm.

These smaller dimensions as well as its lightweight design make it a perfect fit for using it as an internal SSD.

This small form factor offers a few significant benefits such as:

  • Lower energy or power usage than a regular SSD
  • Additional resilience to shocks and vibrations and
  • Faster booting and shutting down capabilities.

According to the speed guidelines of the SATA IO, the maximum bandwidth offered by the mSATA SSDs is 6 GB/s or Gigabits per second.

Also, following the specifications laid down, the mSATA SSDs also support all of the three different revisions to the SATA interface specs such SATA I, SATA ii, and SATA III.

Features:

The features of these drives that come with a very small form factor are quite advanced which enhance its performance greatly.

The performance speed of the mSATA SSDs typically ranges between 1.5 GB/s to 6 GB/s.

The storage capacity, as said earlier, of these drives are also quite huge and can typically range anywhere between 8 GB to 512 GB.

There are a few specific models available today that come with a storage capacity as high as 1 TB.

These m SATA SSDs will store your data in a much better and more reliable way and for a long period, often extending up to 1.5 to 2 million hours.

These drives are resilient to external shocks and vibrations and offer other useful features such as:

Developed and released in 2011 to be used in the ultra-thin devices, the Mini SATA SSDs usually come in two variants such as:

  • One with Single Level Cell or SLC flash and
  • One with Multi-Level Cell or MLC flash.

The Mini SATA SSDs that come with SLC flash offer higher reliability in data storage but less space to store them.

On the other hand, the mSATA SSDs that come with MLC flash offer higher storage capacity but the same cannot be said about the data reliability offered by them.

What is the Use of mSATA SSD?

What is mSATA SSD

The Mini SATA SSDs serve a variety of purposes due to its small form factor design and functionalities.

These drives were primarily developed to be used in the ultra-thin laptops but its exceptionally small form factor also enables using the mSATA devices as a cache drive.

This expedites the accessing of data and applications that are used more often. Here are some of its uses in detail.

You can use an mSATA simply as a system drive. This is quite a popular and common purpose served by the Mini SATA in recent times.

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This is because the storage capacity of these drives now has increased significantly.

More importantly, using the Mini SATA as a system drive increases the overall performance of the computer system immensely.

You may also use the Mini SATA as an external storage solution.

This is also quite a popular usage option because these drives typically come with features and functionalities that are much better in comparison to a normal Solid State Drives.

However, since these are just cards and do not come with any external housing case, they look more like an Integrated Circuit or IC.

You will therefore need a proper enclosure to use these drives as an external storage to prevent damage.

Also, you can use the Mini SATA SSDs as a disk buffer or a hard drive cache.

This particular capability of the Mini SATA SSDs is more useful for those users who need to have and use a traditional hard drive that comes with huge storage capacity.

By using the mSATA as a disk buffer they do not have to compromise with the speed and performance.

Though mSATA is gradually being superseded by M.2, it can still be said that it is quite useful and you will find it being used in several commercial products even today such as:

  • Small notebook computers
  • Multifunctional printers
  • Retail kiosks
  • Point of Sale or POS devices and
  • Digital signs.

In addition to that, you will find mSATA SSDs in the following list of devices which includes:

  • Phone conference systems
  • Electronic patient records systems
  • Automated care devices and
  • Electronic smart boards.

The mSATA SSDs are also used in several small handheld devices such as:

  • Net books
  • Tablets
  • Global Positioning System or GPS devices and
  • Mobile internet devices.

What may surprise you is that you may still find the mSATA SSDs in some specific older models of both desktop computers and laptop computers.

Are mSATA SSDs Faster Than an SSD?

Irrespective of the nomenclatures, a Mini SATA SSD is nothing but, yes, you guessed it right, just another type of SSD.

Therefore, in the truest sense, this does not necessarily mean the mSATA will be faster than a regular SSD.

These devices only differ in the form factor, which is one of the reasons for it being more expensive than a regular SSD.

Are mSATA Drives Good?

Yes, the mSATA SSDs are quite good to use and there are several different reasons to even add that these are far better in comparison to any regular Solid State Drive such as:

  • This special type of storage device is much smaller in size than a regular SSD
  • The Mini SATA SSDs offer a much more enhanced performance as compared to a standard SSD and
  • The mSATA SSDs come with much better and higher power efficiency which means that these will consume much less power in comparison to a regular SSD.

Is mSATA Same as M.2?

No, the mSATA SSDs and the M.2 SSDs are not the same because they use different types of interfaces. While the mSATA SSDs use only a SATA interface, the M.2 SSDs support both PCI Express as well as SATA interfaces.

Since they are not similar physically as well as in use of interfaces, you cannot plug an mSATA SSD into an M.2 interface.

Moreover, M.2 is more modern in comparison to mSATA and comes in different sizes as opposed to the only one size of mSATA.

Can You Install Windows on mSATA SSD?

Yes you can install and run Windows on an mSATA SSD.

However, in order to install the operating system you will first have to access the BIOS or Basic Input/output System of the motherboard of the system and then follow a few specific steps.

When you get access to the BIOS, you will need to disable the Intel Smart Response.

This will get rid of the SSD cache. You will also need to ensure that the mSATA SSD is selected as the primary boot device.

Well, all the relevant steps to do it are as follows:

  • Depending on the combination of your system, tap the DEL key or F2 key at the startup to access BIOS
  • Go to SATA OPERATION
  • Change ISRT to AHCI
  • Boot from the Windows 7 or Windows 8 installation DVD/USB to clean both the drives
  • Open the command prompt at boot
  • Type DISKPART
  • Click Enter
  • Type LIST DISK
  • Click Enter
  • Type SELECT DISK 0
  • Click Enter
  • Type CLEAN
  • Click Enter
  • Type LIST DISK
  • Click Enter
  • Type SELECT DISK 1
  • Click Enter
  • Type CLEAN
  • Click Enter
  • Type EXIT
  • Click Enter to exit from Diskpart
  • Type EXIT
  • Click Enter to exit from the command prompt and
  • Restart your system.

Now, boot the operating system from the disc or the USB key and install Windows on mSATA or SATA drive.

Can You Use mSATA SSD on a Desktop?

Yes, you can use an mSATA SSD on a desktop computer but, for that, you will need to know how exactly you should install it in order to make it work.

First, the equipment you will need includes:

  • An mSATA SSD
  • A screwdriver with a non-magnetic tip and
  • The system owner manual of course.

Now, before you start with the actual process, here are some precautions to take and special considerations to make.

There may be static electricity inside that can damage the internal components of your system and the new mSATA SSD and even harm you during the process.

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In order to prevent it, wear an Electrostatic Discharge or ESD wrist strap and touch an unpainted metal surface on the frame of the computer.

This will discharge the static electricity. Also, make sure there are no plastic bags or paper around the workplace to make it static-safe.

Also, hold the mSATA SSD along the edges with your index finger and thumb and do not touch the connectors and other components.

If you want to use the Mini SATA SSD for primary storage mainly, use data migration or cloning software of any reliable third-party vendor while moving old files from the existing drive onto the new mSATA SSD.

Now follow these steps to install the mSATA SSD in your desktop computer:

  • Shut down the computer and unplug the power cable from the electrical outlet
  • Press and hold the power button for about 4 to 5 seconds to discharge the left over electricity
  • Remove the case cover following the instructions available in the system manual
  • Locate the Mini SATA socket on the motherboard of your computer referring to the owner manual once again
  • Insert the mSATA SSD in the mSATA socket by carefully aligning the notches of the SSD with the ridges in the socket but do not put any force
  • If there are screws in the motherboard then screw the disk drive into the place and if there are clips then make sure it snaps properly around the SSD into place
  • Replace the case cover
  • Reconnect the power cable
  • Power on the system.

If you did not transfer files from any existing drive, you will then have to install an operating system, utilities, drivers, and applications as required.

The installation process of the mSATA SSD onto a desktop computer will then be complete.

How Can You Use mSATA SSD in a Laptop?

Well, it is nothing different from using an mSATA in a desktop computer.

The equipment needed, the precautions to take and the steps to follow are just the same.

So, you already have the answer to this specific question given above.

Can You Plug mSATA SSD into SATA?

Sadly, no, you cannot plug an mSATA SSD into a SATA port because it will not fit.

Ideally, it is a card and therefore you will need to buy and use a mobo that comes with proper mSATA slots in it to allow connecting a Mini SATA card or SSD.

You can even buy and use a mobo that comes with a new M.2 slot, much more modern than mSATA, since it will support SATA interface.

Otherwise, you can also buy and use specific adapters for using a Mini SATA SSD. For example, the MSAT2SAT3 mSATA to SATA adapter will let you connect a regular SATA SSD into the available mSATA port.

This will also improve the capacity of the system because the mSATA port will be able to host a larger SATA hard drive with a storage capacity as high as 4 TB.

How Fast are mSATA SSD Drives?

The read speed of the mSATA drives can reach as high as up to around 551 MB/s and the write speed can go up to 304 MB/s.

However, ideally, the sequential read speed of the Mini SATA SSD would be up to 170 MB/s while the sequential write speed can be up to 150 MB/s.

Can You Boot from mSATA SSD?

The short answer to this question is: Yes, you can boot from the Mini SATA SSD.

The long answer is, it is a long process and involves a lot of steps.

However, it is worth it because you will get a significantly high payoff with a notable speed bump.

Assuming that you have installed the mSATA SSD properly in your computer or your computer comes with such an SSD installed beforehand, here are the steps that you will need to follow before and during the boot up process:

  • Install a reliable disk imaging software
  • Create a complete backup of the files in your system in any external drive
  • Clear the space of the hard drive
  • Install a free app that will help you control the boot drive and
  • Make sure that you have proper admin rights before you start the actual process.

Now, in order to make the mSATA SSD your boot drive, the necessary steps to follow are:

  • Launching Windows Disk Management tool
  • Shrinking the main partition of the hard drive to make it equal to that of the mSATA SSD or smaller by right clicking on the drive, selecting Shrink Volume, and clicking on the Shrink button when the dialog box appears
  • Cloning the hard drive to the mSATA SSD, which may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes,so that the partitions have the same data and volume labels as the main hard drive
  • Restarting your PC and entering the BIOS setup
  • Changing the boot order in it
  • Launching the free app to control the boot drive
  • Clicking on Backup/Repair
  • Selecting Change Boot Drive
  • Clicking Perform Action
  • Selecting the Windows drive letter of the mSATA drive from the menu that appears
  • Clicking Edit Boot Menu
  • Deleting all entries
  • Clicking Add New Entry
  • Selecting Windows 7/8/Vista in the pull down and entering New Windows drive as the Name
  • Selecting the drive letter of the mSATA drive
  • Clicking Add Entry
  • Making the mSATA drive as Windows drive and boot device
  • Rebooting the computer
  • Launching Regedit
  • Navigating to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\MountedDevices
  • Renaming the \DosDevices\C: to \DosDevices\Z to change the Windows partition of the hard drive to Z drive
  • Rename the key linked with the Windows partition of the Mini SATA drive
  • Closing Regedit and rebooting the computer
  • Opening the Disk Management tool to check whether or not the Windows partition of the mSATA drive is now the C drive
  • Extending the drive’s Windows partition to utilize all available space
  • Deleting all partitions on the hard drive and
  • Creating an entirely new partition on the hard drive.
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Now, your computer will boot from the Mini SATA drive and the Windows partition will appear in the C drive.

Can You Use an M.2 SSD in an mSATA Slot?

Though the sockets may look the same, you cannot connect an M.2 SSD in an mSATA slot.

You can use only an M.2 card in an M.2 socket.

This is because the M.2 socket will support both PCIe and SATA storage interface options but an mSATA will support nothing but only a SATA interface.

What Does “m” in mSATA Stand for?

The letter ‘m’ in mSATA stands for ‘Mini’ and sometimes is also referred to as Miniature.

Why is mSATA So Expensive?

It is basically due to the difference in the form factor of the mSATA SSDs.

As said earlier, these storage devices are no longer than a business card and are extremely light in weight to be fitted easily in a smaller device that has space constraints.

Another reason for it is that the silicon needed is also very costly to manufacture.

Also, the low demand and supply makes them so expensive since mSATA SSDs are not as popular as the SATA SSDs, believe it or not.

Is mSATA Faster Than NVMe?

Technically speaking: No. It is just the other way around. That is, the NVMe is faster than mSATA.

As you know already, even the modern motherboards that use SATA III can offer a maximum output ranging between 600 MB/s and 750 MB/s which is much slower than the speed of an NMVe which can reach up to 3,500 MB/s.

This is irrespective of the form factor.

In fact, even the least powerful NVMe devices that support x2 drive offer a speed of 1 GB/s all the while and the peak performance of the x4 drives can be overkill for many which can be as high as 31.5 GB/s.

How Do You Know If Your Laptop Has mSATA?

For that, you will need to know the design aspects of mSATA in the first place.

Also, you will need to know that most laptops come with Mini PCI Express which is certainly not mSATA.

As of now, there are only a few specific models of laptops of a few brands that come with an mSATA.

For example, you will find such slots in a few Dell and Lenovo laptops.

However, to check whether your particular laptop model comes with an mSATA or not you will need to open the back panel of your laptop and look for a port or slot that looks like this image:

How Do You Know If Your Laptop Has mSATA

Are All mSATA Drives Backward Compatible with SATA?

The short answer to this question is: yes.

This is because the mSATA SSDs are drives that support SATA interface and come with an Mini Serial ATA form factor.

So, the drive can be connected to SATA I, SATA II or SATA III interface since SATA interface is also backwards compatible.

However, whether or not you will be able to use the drive without a glitch is a different issue because there can be different limitations of the SATA interface itself.

This may reduce the speed of the drive. As you may know, SATA I can support a speed of up to 150 MB/s while the SATA II and SATA III interfaces can support a speed of up to 300 MB/s and 600 MB/s respectively.

Therefore, to know about the compatibility factor, it is always best to refer to the user manual or contact the customer support of the laptop manufacturer in order to make sure that you do not have any issues regarding compatibility.

Can mSATA Plug into PCIe?

Well, you can plug it in provided it belongs to those few specific types of mSATA SSDs that are compatible with the PCI Express slots and vice versa such as the ones you will find in Sony Vaio Pro.

However, there is no guarantee that you will get a high performance.

This is because these two are both different types of Solid State Drives and the difference between the Mini SATA and PCI Express is electrical.

What Does mSATA Connect to?

The mSATA SSDs connect the data storage device to the SATA host controller directly through the SATA storage bus interface.

This facilitates data transfer between the target storage device and the host computer with the use of Advanced Technology Attachment or ATA command set.

Is mSATA the Same as Mini PCIe?

It is true that the Mini SATA cards or SSDs may fit well into the Mini PCI Express slot but that does not mean these are the same or compatible with one another, and there are a couple of good reasons to say so.

First of all, the mSATA SSD will function properly in an mPCIe slot if only it is connected to a Serial ATA host controller.

Then, the mSATA and mPCIe are both electrically different. Therefore, they function differently altogether.

While the mPCIe interface uses PCI Express signals that are typically used by the expansion cards used in the desktop computers, the mSATA SSDs use SATA storage interface.

These are specifically used by hard drives and solid state drives.

Conclusion

Therefore, as you can see, the mSATA SSDs are still very useful and are quite widely used in different smaller devices.

Therefore, it is worth knowing the vital facts about it, and that was the whole idea of posting this article for those who are ignorant.

About Taylor

AvatarTaylor S. Irwin is a freelance technology writer with in-depth knowledge about computers. She has an understanding of hardware and technology gained through over 10 years of experience.

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