[2020/07/02: added Samsung and WD 1TB M.2 2230 drives]
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.
The Tuff Nano external 1TB drive by Caldigit has this SSD inside and is only $220 as of March 2020 – far less than the ~$700 USD Microsoft charges on its high-end models. Another option is to order the bare drive part number W98K4 (#400-BFVW) from Dell for a few dollars less. Customers in the EU can order from CentralPoint or various firms listed at Geizhals.
Alternate 1TB M.2 2230 models are:
If ~$220 is too much to spend on an upgrade, there are several broadly available 512GB drives for about half the price:
- Kioxia BG4 512GB (ebay retailers)
- Dell part number 08C3CP (same BG4 model)
- Caldigit Tuff Nano 512GB has the older/slower Kioxia BG3
- Kioxia BG2/BG3 512GB
- SK-Hynix BC501 HFM512GDGTNG (used in some Surface models)
- SK-Hynix BC511 HFM512GDGTNI (faster than BC501)
- Western Digital/Sandisk SN520 SDAPTUW-512G
- Western Digital SN530 SDBPTPZ-512G
- Samsung PM991 MZ9LQ512HALU
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 list 256GB models here.
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](https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/surface-it-pro-blog/new-ssd-removable-kits-for-surface-laptop-3-now-available/ba-p/1572045#Feet(non-skid_foot) on hand in case parts are damaged during the removal process
- Purchase a Caldigit Tuff Nano 1TB or one of the other drives listed above
- Download the Microsoft official Surface recovery image 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 or generate a recovery image directly from their running Surface.)
- 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]
- 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 lift the edge of the SSD more than you have to – doing so may damage the SSD or its socket. Lift just a few mm so that you can grab ahold of the edge and slide it out of the socket.
- If the new SSD doesn’t fit snuggly, you can either apply some foam tape to both sides or remove the black cover from the original Microsoft SSD and transfer it to the new SSD.
- Apply the previously prepared recovery image per Microsoft documentation.
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.
Other laptops with M.2. 2230 NVMe drives:
- Acer Swift 7 S7-371
- Dell Inspiron 13 7386 2-in-1
- Dell Inspiron 14 5490 (also fits 2280)
- Dell Latitude 13 5300 (also fits 2280)
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
Thanks to \u\SmashedTX and \u\Wiidesire for inspiring this article and especially to Neil for the updated photos.