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12946 Discussions

Which M.2 Card and Specs


I have an Intel NUC Mini PC Kit No: NUC7i7BNH which includes 32MB of Intel Optane Memory and Thunderbolt 3. It has a 2TB HD Drive.

I'm wanting to upgrade this with a 500GB or 1TB M.2 Memory. I kinda prefer Samsung M.2 card SSD 980 Pro, since it is the fastest. I have a number of questions...

1) Will the NUC accept the latest Samsung M.2 Card SSD 980 Pro, and will there be anything not used to capacity since the computer is 3-4yrs old already. ie: Is the spec higher on the Samsung M.2 Card SSD Pro interface than on the NUCV7i7BNH? If not. Great! If yes. Should I buy an earlier version of the Samsung M.2 card (say the SSD 970 Pro instead). So as to match the capabilities of the M.2 Card and the NUC? Does it matter?

2)  Can I use the Samsung M.2 Card SSD 980 Pro as my main drive (obviously) and retain my current drive as a data drive D:. Can all this be done by software? Installing my Windows 10 software plus all my installed software from my current drive onto the M.2 Card. Is this software provided by Samsung or Intel, and does it come with the M.2 Card or does it need to be downloaded?

3) Might it be easier to do a fresh Windows 10 install onto the M.2 Drive, and simply reinstall all my installed software. Thereby making sure it is a clean working drive, without any dead/broken parts of software lingering from the past.

4) I'm not a computer expert with the latest technologies, but I have assembled my own computers in the past. So I'm not afraid to do this simple upgrade. Provided I have a good plan and idea of what I'm doing

Did I miss anything out? Don't be afraid to provide further info if I haven't covered anything in enough detail.




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5 Replies
Super User Retired Employee

So let's answer the questions in order:

1) Yes, you should be able to use the 980 Pro in the BN NUCs. It is fully backwards-compatible with PCIe 3.0. Understand that you will be limited to PCIe 3.0 speeds. This means that the R/W performance of the 500GB drive, for example, will drop from 6900/5000 to 3500/3400. In the future when you replace the BN NUC with a 12th gen or later NUC, you will be able to take advantage of the PCIe 4.0 speeds (with 11th gen, not so clear, since PCH supports only PCIe 3.0 downstream).

2) Yes, you can do this. The process I recommend is as follows:

  1. From the Intel Memory and Storage app, disable the Optane Module.
  2. Shutdown, power off and disconnect PSU cord.
  3. Remove the Optane module and replace with the 980 Pro drive.
  4. Reconnect power and power on.
  5. At POST splash screen, use F10 to select and boot from a flash drive loaded with the latest Windows 10 installation image on it. Install Windows 10 from scratch onto the 980 Pro Drive.
  6. Once complete, you can remove the Windows image from the HDD. I recommend doing this by saving your data to secondary storage, reformatting the drive and then restoring the data to it.

3) I answered this above. My recommendation is to do a fresh install.

4) Process defined above.

Hope this helps,



Hi Scott.

Thank you for your clear explanations.

Actually, I don't have any intention of replacing my 7th Generation NUC any time soon. So rather than maybe over-paying for a PCIe 4.0 Samsung 980 Pro, I might be able to save some money by buying a PCIe 3.0 Samsung 970 Pro, or even a compatible cheaper PCIe M.2 card (any suggestions?)

OK. So I presume I can copy/clone my Seagate 2TB HDD drive C: to my Seagate 1TB USB Drive. What methodology should I use to do that? Is there some command, Windows or otherwise to clone the drive? Or to copy just the data to the Seagate 1TB USB Drive. Probably clone would be better.

Then, I presume I can download a clean Windows 10 install flash drive from windows? How will Microsoft know that this is intended as replacing my previous system?

I'm a tad confused about apps/programs and data. Do the apps/programs go onto the Windows System Drive C: or on the Data Drive   For example. Should my spreadsheets be on my Data Drive but my spreadsheet software be on the Systems Drive C:

Anything else I should consider?



Super User Retired Employee


You can certainly save some money by choosing to purchase a PCIe 3.0 M.2 NVMe SSD. You can look at the other new drive family from Samsung (article: A New Mainstream SSD Value Leader: Samsung's New SSD 980 Tested), or at the 970 Pro or 970 EVO. I find the Samsung drives a little overpriced for my (admittedly cheapskate) tastes.

There is also a plethora of third-party drives available and quite a few that have performance in the same ballpark as the Samsung drives - but for, in some cases, significantly less money. If you back off the performance requirements slightly, you can save even more (article: Best SSDs: March 2021). I have also attached the chart that I maintain that details all of the NVMe drives I have encountered since NVMe arrived on the scene. The column with Amazon pricing is out of date in a lot of cases, so use them as ballpark and verify in your own storefronts.

My personal preference has been the ADATA/XPG SX8200 Pro. I am disturbed, however, by recent reports that they have been substituting in an inferior controller. As a final note, remember that, as drive size gets larger, performance usually improves, as larger drives include larger DRAM write caches. It is the limits of the DRAM cache that define the performance level (see article: The Samsung 980 SSD Spotted: A DRAM-Less PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD).

If you installed Windows 10 in UEFI mode using GPT partitioning, then yes, you can clone from the HDD to the SSD, though I typically steer clear of cloning the system drive myself. If it is just to secondary storage, then you can use anything (even drag and drop file copy). As for tools, my buddy Al 'Doc' Hill swears by Macrium Reflect.

To build an installation flash drive for the very latest refresh of Windows 10, use Microsoft's Windows 10 Media Creation Tool, which you can download from here:

You are working towards having a fast System SSD and a slower Data HDD. I typically treat the Data SSD as my repository for files less-often accessed - things like pictures, music and videos - and as a backup of the important files on the SSD. Everything regularly accessed you keep on the SSD but backup to the HDD. Make sense?

Ok, I think I covered all of your questions. I am here if you have any others,



Hi Scott,

I ordered the Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 500GB NVMe 1.3 PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-V7S500BW

I live in Philippines. Most of the other equivalent SSD's are hard to find here. The Samsung seems to dominate. I'm happy with my selection.  Cost of course is higher than in USA at $107 But that's just the way it is. Delivery is about 1 week (mail order).

I'm sure to have some more questions when it comes to the install

Thank you very much for your extremely helpful assistance and the links you provided. They were very helpful.



Super User Retired Employee

You're welcome. Let us know how things go with your system build.