[2021/01/05: added Micron 1TB and 512GB M.2 2230 drives to compatibility list]
The trick is to get your hands on a speedy M.2 NVMe 2230 SSD module. As of March 2020, the recently launched Toshiba Kioxia BG4 is the fastest available SSD in this form factor. While it does not have a DRAM cache on-board like desktop-class SSDs, it implements NVMe v1.2 host memory buffering which results in great performance at its price point. Unfortunately, it is only available in bulk orders to OEMs and is not readily available to consumers in most regions
The Tuff Nano external 1TB drive by Caldigit (alternate link) has this SSD inside and is $220 as of March 2020 – far less than the $500-700 USD premium Microsoft charges on its high-end models and less than competing SSDs from Micron, Samsung, and Western Digital/Sandisk. (See below for a full list of compatible M.2. 2230 SSDs.)
Disclaimer: This will likely void the warranty of both the Tuff Nano and your Surface Device.
- Backup your data. Do it now!
- Surface Laptop 3 customers may want to get a few OEM spare parts but this is not necessary if you’re careful
- Purchase a Caldigit Tuff Nano 1TB (alternate link) or one of the other SSDs listed below
- Download the Microsoft Surface recovery image for your system and follow the directions to prepare a bootable USB recovery stick.
- Advanced users can try the Macrium Reflect tool to clone the original SSD directly to the external SSD while connected to the USB-C port prior to swapping drives or generate a recovery image directly from their running Surface. This eliminates the need to re-install all your software but adds some prep time.
- Open up the Tuff Nano
- remove outer rubber sleeve, then pry up both end caps
- remove two screws on each open end
- slide the PCB out, then loosen one screw to free the SSD
- [Photos by Neil]
- Recommended: remove the thermal pad from the SSD as this can present fitment challenges when installing in your Surface. If it is difficult to remove, try blowing a hair dryer at it for 10 seconds to warm it up first.
- Open the Surface Laptop 3 or Pro X and swap the SSD per the original manufacturers directions:
- Guide for Surface Laptop 3 13″/15″
- Video for Surface Laptop 3
- Guide for Surface Pro X
- Video for Surface Pro X
- Don’t angle the SSD more than you have to while removing it – doing so may damage the SSD or the socket on the mainboard. Lift just enough so that you can grab ahold of the edge and slide it out of the socket.
- Recommended: For best fitment, remove the black case from the original Microsoft SSD and transfer it to the new SSD. If you’re careful you can re-use the old thermal compound. But it is better to clean the old stuff off and apply fresh thermal compound which you can get from any PC repair shop or Amazon. For this application, the brand doesn’t matter. $20 high-performance goop won’t make your SSD faster or last longer.
- Switch on the system
- Apply the previously prepared recovery image per Microsoft documentation if needed.
Once you have confirmed that the new SSD is working, you can install the old SSD from your Surface into the Tuff Nano case and use it as a portable backup drive. When installing into the Tuff Nano, it is best to re-use the Tuff Nano thermal pad that was previously removed.
Full list of M.2. 2230 SSD modules
- 2TB models are only available in the larger 2242 form factor as of 2020/01/05.
1TB M.2 2230 models:
- Kioxia KBG40ZNS1T02 (Depending on region, the bare drive part number W98K4 (#400-BFVW) may be available from Dell. Customers in the EU can order from CentralPoint or various firms listed at Geizhals.)
- Micron MTFDHBK1T0TDPY (expensive – intended for automotive/industrial use)
- Samsung PM991 MZVLQ1T0HALB (available from Dell)
- Western Digital SN530 SDBPTPZ-1T00 (used in some Xbox Series X skus)
512GB M.2 2230 models:
- Kioxia BG4 512GB (ebay retailers; Dell part number 08C3CP
- Kioxia BG2/BG3 512GB (ebay; Caldigit Tuff Nano 512GB has the Kioxia BG3)
- Micron MTFDHBK512TDP
- Samsung PM991 MZ9LQ512HALU
- SK-Hynix BC511 HFM512GDGTNI (also available from Dell)
- SK-Hynix BC501 HFM512GDGTNG (slower than BC511; used in some Surface models)
- Western Digital SN530 SDBPTPZ-512G (faster than SN520)
- Western Digital/Sandisk SN520 SDAPTUW-512G
In my opinion, it is not worthwhile upgrading from 128GB -> 256GB given how little you save compared to a 512GB drive. So I haven’t bothered to research and list 256GB models here.
Laptops and other devices that ship with M.2. 2230 NVMe drives:
- Acer Swift 7 S7-371
- Dell Inspiron 14 5490 (also fits 2280)
- Dell Latitude 13 5300 (also fits 2280)
- Tons of 2020 Dell models per this compatible systems list here
- Xbox Series X
Know more? Let me know in the comments.
- Laptop 3 OEM spare parts
- Confirmation from Caldigit that the Tuff nano 1TB has the Kioxia BG4 M.2 2230 SSD inside
- Microsoft official service guide for Surface Laptop 3 SSD swaps
- Video guide for Laptop 3 SSD swap
- Reddit thread – Another reddit thread
- Anandtech review of the Kioxia BG4 SSD
- LTT review of Kioxia BG4
- OnMSFT guide for laptop 3
- IFixit Guide for Pro X
- IFixit overview for Pro X and Laptop 3
- Neil’s guide
- WindowsCentral ProX guide (great photos and recovery drive step-by-step!)
Thanks to \u\SmashedTX and \u\Wiidesire for inspiring this article and especially to Neil for the updated photos.