M.2 NVMe solid state drives are incredible pieces of technology that offer ultra-fast speeds and snappy performance. However, their compact size and blazing speeds can cause them to run hot when pushed to their limits. Excessive heat can throttle performance and shorten the lifespan of your precious SSD. This is where heat sinks come in handy.
A dedicated heat sink for your M.2 drive helps pull heat away into the surrounding air. This keeps temperatures lower for optimal sustained performance. Pairing your SSD with an effective heat sink brings noticeable benefits. It enables higher benchmark scores, prevents throttling, extends drive longevity, and gives you peace of mind.
In this blog, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about M.2 NVMe SSD heat sinks. You’ll learn what to look for when choosing a heat sink and see recommendations for the top 5 M.2 coolers currently available. Let’s get started!
What is an M.2 NVMe SSD Heat Sink?
An M.2 heat sink is a passive cooling device specifically designed to dissipate heat away from an M.2 solid state drive into the surrounding air. It uses a material like aluminum or copper to conduct heat from the drive and fins or other designs to increase surface area for more effective heat transfer.
Unlike active cooling methods like fans or liquid cooling, an M.2 heat sink requires no power. It works solely through natural heat conduction and convection. The key is conducting heat away from the source and into the air as efficiently as possible.
Heat sinks come in various shapes and sizes. A basic design is a flat copper plate that lays over the SSD chips. More advanced models use finned aluminum with vertical plates or rows to maximize surface area. There are also novel designs using graphene and other exotic materials for extreme cooling potential.
Why Should You Use a Heat Sink With Your M.2 SSD?
There are several key benefits to pairing your M.2 NVMe SSD with a dedicated heat sink:
- Keeps your SSD cooler – This is the primary purpose. Temperatures can climb under heavy read/write workloads without proper cooling. A heat sink keeps chips cooler for ideal operating temps.
- Prevents thermal throttling – M.2 drives will automatically throttle speeds if they get too hot. This reduces performance right when you need it most. A heat sink helps avoid throttling.
- Extends SSD lifespan – Excessive heat accelerates degradation and wears on NAND chips. Keeping temperatures in check will extend the longevity of your SSD.
- Enables faster sustained speeds – With a heat buffer, your SSD can maintain max speeds for longer periods unlike a bare drive.
- Allows overclocking – On some SSDs, a heat sink creates thermal headroom to push the drive past factory speeds.
- Gives you peace of mind – You can rest assured your SSD temps are right where they should be for optimal performance.
In short, a quality heat sink paired with a blazing fast M.2 NVMe SSD means cool running, throttle-free operation. That translates to consistently ultra-fast speeds, higher benchmark scores, and a longer lasting drive.
What to Look for When Choosing an M.2 Heat Sink
With the benefits of SSD cooling now clear, what should you look for when picking out the right heat sink? Here are key factors to consider:
- Compatibility – Confirm dimensions and socket to ensure a correct fit for your specific M.2 drive and motherboard.
- Height – Choose a heat sink short enough to provide clearance in your PC case or laptop. Taller fins offer more cooling but need room.
- Design and materials – More surface area, like fins, means better heat dissipation. Copper offers superior conductivity to aluminum. But aluminum fins allow for taller designs. Exotic materials like graphene conduct heat amazingly well.
- Performance testing – Look for reviews and thermal benchmarks to gauge real-world cooling effectiveness.
- Price – You can find effective M.2 heat sinks ranging from $10 to $50+. Let your budget guide you.
- Aesthetics – If visible through a case window, appearance may be important. Otherwise pure performance is key.
With numerous options on the market, it helps to narrow it down to proven top performers. Next we’ll highlight five of the best M.2 NVMe SSD heat sinks available right now.
Top 5 M.2 NVMe SSD Heat Sinks
1. Corsair TM30 Performance Thermal Paste Kit
Pros: Excellent cooling from graphene-infused paste and aluminum heatsink, easy to install, noticeable speed boost, large heatsink provides full SSD coverage, great value
Cons: Limited tall VRM/capacitor clearance
Specs: Length 80mm, Height 21.5mm, Graphene-infused thermal paste and aluminum heatsink
At just $20, the Corsair TM30 kit punches way above its weight class for SSD cooling. The large aluminum heatsink covers M.2 drives up to 80mm completely. Thermal pads easily transfer heat from drive to heatsink. But the star is the graphene-infused paste boasting thermal conductivity up to 14X higher than traditional pastes. Together they provide amazing cooling headroom. In reviews, the TM30 dropped drive temperatures by 19°C over the bare drive. It’s easy to install and one of the best bargains for upgrading SSD thermals.
2. Thermalright M.2 Heatsink
Pros: Aggressive cooling from niche fin design, fits under GPUs, excellent thermal conductivity, low profile compatible
Cons: Can be tricky to install optimally
Specs: Length 94mm, Height 6mm/21mm/32mm options, Aluminum stack fins
This uniquely designed M.2 heatsink from Thermalright stands out from the crowd. Its stack fin design with 96 aluminum fins offers a huge amount of surface area for heat dissipation. Reviews show it dropping SSD temperatures by up to 28°C! That extreme cooling does come with a more involved installation, but the results are undeniable. With options for 6mm, 21mm, or 32mm height, it’s compatible in virtually any PC. It fits perfectly under a graphics card. For a top performing but low profile SSD cooler, the Thermalright heatsink is hard to beat.
3. EKWB M.2 Heatsink Evo
Pros: Sleek aesthetics, excellent cooling potential, secure mounting, solid value
Cons: Minimal clearance for tall components
Specs: Length 50mm/100mm, Height 6mm, Machined aluminum fins
Trusted cooling brand EK Waterblocks delivers an affordable yet capable M.2 heat sink. With a machined aluminum construction and defined fins to maximize surface area, it offers excellent thermal dissipation. It’s available in convenient 50mm and 100mm lengths. At just 6mm in height, it avoids clearance issues and fits under GPUs and some taller M.2 components. Reviews show temps dropping 18-20°C under sustained workloads. If you want an inexpensive but well made and nice looking SSD cooler, the Evo is a great choice.
4. MSI M.2 Clutch Heat Spreader
Pros: Super low profile at just 2.7mm height, fits anywhere, fused aluminum and steel construction
Cons: Less cooling capacity than larger sinks
Specs: Length 80mm, Height 2.7mm, Aluminum/steel composite
When space is the ultimate premium, MSI has you covered. This M.2 heat spreader is impossibly slim at just 2.7mm tall. That means it can fit and provide cooling benefits even in the tightest M.2 SSD installations. Despite its tiny size, the Clutch sports a rugged aluminum/stainless steel construction. Thermal pads transfer heat from the drive for reliable operation even under NVMe workloads. For low clearance M.2 cooling, no other heat spreader comes close.
5. Gelid Solutions Phantom Black
Pros: Aggressive styling in blackout design, great cooling from 7 W/mK thermal pads
Cons: Prone to movement if not properly secured
Specs: Length 80mm/110mm, Height 21mm, 7 W/mK thermal pad
For those looking to cool their SSD in dark style, the Gelid Solutions Phantom brings it. The phantom black aluminum fins keep any M.2 drive up to 110mm frosty while looking awesome. It uses an advanced 7W/mK thermal pad to efficiently pull heat from the drive. With convection from the bold fin design, it can drop temps by around 20°C based on reviews. The Phantom does require properly securing both ends to avoid movement issues. But if you want a beastly looking SSD cooler that works as good as it looks, this is it.
How to Install an M.2 Heat Sink
Once you’ve picked out the perfect heat sink, it’s time for installation. Here are some tips to make sure your M.2 SSD gets optimal cooling benefits from its new partner.
- Prepare the mounting location by removing any existing standoffs for the M2 drive. The heat sink will take the place of standoffs.
- Gently insert the M.2 SSD into the M.2 slot completely until it clicks into place. Never force it.
- For thermal pad heat sinks, remove backing and apply pads carefully onto SSD chips.
- For thermal paste models, apply paste onto SSD chips following the product instructions.
- Align the heat sink perfectly with the M.2 drive and apply gentle, even pressure to make contact between the SSD/paste/pads and the heatsink.
- If your heat sink has mounting holes, use corresponding screws to properly secure it. This prevents movement.
- Be mindful of height clearance depending on your PC case or motherboard constraints.
- Ensure the heat sink sits flush across the entire SSD for maximum heat transfer.
- Check your motherboard for recommended torque specs when securing heat sink screws.
With preparation, care, and attention to detail during installation, your M.2 SSD will make optimal contact with its new thermal partner. This ensures it can keep its cool no matter how hard you push that drive!
Just How Well Do Heat Sinks Work? SSD Temperature & Benchmark Testing
We’ve talked about the benefits of SSD cooling and highlighted some top heat sinks. But just how much do they actually impact real-world temperatures and SSD performance? To quantify the effects, we’ll look at thermal testing results and benchmark speed comparisons.
In testing performed by TweakTown, they measured the temperature of a popular 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD under sustained heavy workloads. Here were the results:
- Bare SSD: Peaked at 70°C and throttle performance after just 35GB tested
- With basic flat aluminum heat sink: Peaked at 58°C with no throttling during full test
- With an aggressive finned heat sink: Peaked at just 47°C and avoided any thermal throttling
So even a simple flat heat sink kept temps 12°C cooler and avoided throttling. And the finned option dropped peak temperatures by 23°C compared to the bare drive! Those are dramatic results from passive cooling alone.
The effect on real-world speeds is also significant. In tests by LegitReviews, a heatsink allowed sustained write speeds 14% higher than the same bare drive. And read speeds were 3.5% faster as well. PC Gamer saw up to 25% faster benchmark scores with an SSD plus heatsink combo compared to bare drive results.
When it comes to keeping your SSD operating at that blazing fast NVMe pace, a heat sink upgrade clearly makes a big difference. Target peak operating temps of 60°C or less for optimal performance.
Frequently Asked Questions About M.2 SSD Heat Sinks
Any remaining questions about using heat sinks for your M.2 SSD? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What size heat sink do I need?
Choose a heat sink that matches the physical length of your M.2 SSD – common lengths are 22mm, 42mm, 60mm, 80mm, or 110mm.
Is a heat sink necessary for an M.2 SSD?
It’s not mandatory, but strongly recommended for serious use, overclocking, or sustained workloads when you want to prevent throttling.
Can I reuse a heat sink when upgrading SSD?
Thermal pads can lose adhesion, so it’s ideal to use a fresh pad when installing a new SSD. Paste can potentially be cleaned and reused.
How do heat sinks improve benchmark scores?
By preventing thermal throttling, heat sinks enable the SSD to maintain full speeds during benchmarks for higher scores.
Will a heat sink allow me to overclock my M.2 SSD?
On some SSD models, a heat sink provides the extra thermal headroom necessary to be able to overclock safely. But overclocking is not guaranteed.
Do heat sinks make SSDs run faster?
Indirectly yes – by keeping temps lower to avoid throttling, the SSD can sustain max speeds longer. But peak specs don’t change.
What thermal paste is best for an M.2 SSD?
For easiest use, thermal pads are recommended. If using paste, premium options like Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut offer excellent thermal conduction.
Keep Your SSD Running Cool With a Heat Sink
M.2 NVMe SSDs give you lightning fast storage performance. But all that speed produces heat which can throttle your SSD. A quality heat sink keeps chips cooler to avoid slow downs while also extending drive lifespan.
If you use your SSD for anything intensive like gaming, video editing, mining, or benchmarking, cooling it properly is a great investment. There are lots of heat sink options out there, but it’s hard to beat the top 5 covered in this guide. They deliver excellent real-world thermal improvements at reasonable prices.
Pairing your M.2 NVMe SSD with an effective heat sink means enjoying consistently fast speeds even under heavy loads. The SSD will run happier and last longer at those lower temperatures too. And who doesn’t like happy, chilly solid state drives? Equip yours with a heat sink today!