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Why Cooling Matters on NVMe vs SATA

In our previous blog we compared NVMe to SATA drives and explored the variety of advantages that NVMes drives can provide. However, it must be noted, these advantages come at a price: Specifically, NVMe media generates a significant larger amount heat than a standard SAS/SATA drive. Consequently, if one isn’t careful, they might end up with an NVMe drive that is overheating. So, in order to effectively use an NVMe, the user will need to be sure to manage their drive effectively and take necessary precautions to prevent this from happening.

What causes the NVMe to generate such heat?

Before delving into the consequences of what happens when an NVMe starts overheating, one should first understand the reason why NVMes generate so much more heat than their SATA counterparts. NVMes come in many different shapes and sizes, with one of the most popular being the M.2 form factor. Often times being described as looking like a stick of gum, these are small, compact drives, whose limited space for heat dissipation, can lead to increased temperatures if not properly managed. In addition, these thin drives are densely packed with a variety of essential components like NAND chips which generates its own amount of heat. However, most importantly the NVMe’s high-speed transfer bandwidth. This increased activity leads to higher power consumption and heat generation.

What are known NVMe overheating effects?

One of the first signs that an NVMe drive is getting too warm is that it’s performance will start to degrade.  In order to prevent this, NVMe drives will perform an action known as thermal throttling. This automatic process is activated first by the drive reaching a certain temperature threshold, once reached, the drive will purposely reduce its overall performance which helps reduce the total amount of heat generated by the drive. While the performance loss may be an annoyance to some, it should be noted that thermal throttling is an important safety feature built into the drives in order to protect the onboard components and overall integrity of the drive. NVMe drives are built to operate within a specific temperature range and when operating at or above the upper threshold, it’s possible to permanently damage the NVMe drive.

Preventing NVMe Thermal Throttling

Simply put, in order to avoid thermal throttling, one must make sure to keep their drives operating in within its acceptable threshold. There are two main factors to look at in regards to NVMe thermal management. The first is the overall system environment, generally, the more space and airflow a system has, the lower the overall ambient temperature will be. This in turn should help the NVMe stay in an acceptable temperature range. The second factor to consider is the drive itself. While many NVMes offer their own standalone heatsink component, these only are able to be used for single, specific NVMes and are designed only to be when the NVMe is directly connected to the motherboard.

To handle this, HighPoint has been continually researching and developing newer, more efficient cooling solutions to tackle the issue of thermal throttling. Our latest generation of cooling solutions are designed to protect any and all installed NVMe drives and keep them cool under full load. Learn more about HighPoint’s Intelligent Cooling Solution and how it addresses thermal throttling, here.

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