PCIe vs. SATA SSDs: How to Choose the Best Drive for You (2023)

The need for higher storage capacities in computers comes with the need for faster data transfer rates. While USB and Thunderbolt cables provide fast speeds, the process starts with the solid-state drive (SSD) for storage. PCIe SSD and SATA SSD differ in a few distinct ways. To get optimal performance from your build, it's important to understand why.

PCIe vs. SATA SSDs: How to Choose the Best Drive for You (1)

Important Storage Drive Terms

Before diving into the differences between the two types of drives, you should first understand a few of the terms and acronyms that are used.

  • SSD: Solid-state drive. This is a type of storage medium that doesn't have moving parts. This yields longer lifespans and better performance than traditional spinning hard disk drives.
  • PCIe: Peripheral component interconnect express. PCIe may also be known as PCI Express. This is a slot on the motherboard used to connect everything from graphics cards to solid-state drives. The latest version of PCIe is the PCIe 4.0 specification.
  • SATA: Serial advanced technology attachment. Much like PCIe, SATA is an interface used to connect additional components to the computer. SATA is most often used to connect storage devices and optical drives.

Overall Findings: PCIe SSD vs. SATA SSD


  • Smaller size.

  • Can be mounted directly on the motherboard or in an empty bay.

  • More expensive.

  • Faster at 16 GB per second.


(Video) All SSD Types EXPLAINED

  • Must be installed in a bay.

  • May require an adapter for a secure fit.

  • Higher likelihood to work with older systems.

  • More slots available for expansion.

  • Slower at 6 GB per second.

  • Higher capacity.

While both interfaces can connect an SSD, several differences can influence your choice. Depending on your needs and budget, either could fit the bill for storage. However, for simple variety and availability, a SATA SSD is commonplace and has enough performance to take care of most storage needs.

PCIe SSD Pros and Cons


  • Has more flexible installation options.

  • Doesn't require a bay for installation.

  • Faster.

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  • Smaller physical size.


  • More expensive.

PCIe is Smaller Than SATA

If you're pressed for space (for example, when working inside a Mini PC tower), a PCIe SSD might be the better choice. A SATA SSD can fit into a 2.5-inch bay like a normal hard drive, although it might require an adapter to fit securely within the bay. The mounted drive and the necessary cable to connect it also take up space.

PCIe SSDs fit into the motherboard with the PCIe slot. This makes it an ideal choice for builds with limited space. It's also a great choice when you have open slots on the motherboard, but don't have an empty bay to mount a SATA SSD.

PCIe is More Expensive Than SATA

On a per-gigabyte basis, PCIe SSDs tend to be more expensive than SATA SSDs. Those on a budget might prefer the lower-cost SATA SSD option to get the most bang for the buck.

PCIe is Faster Than SATA

The most recent iteration of the SATA interface (3.0) provides a data throughput rate of 6 GB per second. While 6 GB per second is blindingly fast compared to older methods of data transfer, it pales in comparison to PCIe 3.0's 16 GB per second.

In addition, PCIe also exists in 4.0 and 5.0 formats, with PCIe 6.0 in development. However, few commercially available, consumer-grade motherboards support PCIe 4.0. AMD made the news when they announced their X570 chipset supports PCIe 4.0. As manufacturers introduce more compatibility, the potential speeds for PCIe will increase.

SATA SSD Pros and Cons


  • Doesn't take up a slot on the motherboard.

    (Video) Are PCIe SSDs Worth It? 🤔 - HDD VS SATA VS NVMe!

  • Less expensive.

  • Well established format.

  • Systems tend to have more interfaces.


  • Requires a bay for installation.

SATA is More Widely Compatible

SATA is a slightly older interface than PCIe, created in 2000 versus 2003. SATA was adopted by companies sooner and therefore has a broader range of compatibility than PCIe. If you're upgrading an older system, the motherboard may not have a PCIe slot available, or one compatible with newer solid-state drives. On the other hand, a SATA cable works with most systems made in the last two decades.

If you're unsure about the kind of connections your computer has, lean toward a SATA SSD. It's almost guaranteed to work with any system functioning today.

SATA Connections are More Numerous

SATA cables connect through a port on the motherboard. PCIe SSDs plug directly into the motherboard. PCIe SSDs demand more real estate than a SATA port does. If you need to connect a large number of drives, SATA is the better option. The majority of motherboards don't have enough PCIe slots for multiple solid-state drives.

SATA Has More Capacity Than PCIe

If you need more storage capacity, SATA SSDs are the preferred option. On average, SATA SSDs have higher storage capacities than PCIe SSDs. A search for the highest-capacity SSDs will reveal a SATA SSD with a storage capacity of 60 TB. While this is a breakthrough device, it's not meant for consumer use with its rather high price point.

PCIe, on the other hand, tends to top out around 2 TB. This is more than enough to contain an operating system and your most-used applications, but can't compete against the relatively low-cost 4 TB and 6 TB SATA SSDs on the market.

Final Verdict: For Most Flexibility Choose SATA

SATA SSDs give consumers more options in an affordable price range. If you don't have an available bay in your case, a PCIe SSD is your best option. For more things to consider, see below.

How to Choose PCIe vs. SATA

While there's a lot of information to digest surrounding both types of solid-state drives, the type to pick boils down to two things: intended usage and case size.

(Video) SATA SSDs vs PCIe SSDs with Linus

Intended Use

If you intend to build a high-end PC for gaming with all settings maxed and VR use, or if you're building a machine for intensive processes like video and graphics editing, opt for a SATA SSD. These drives have higher storage capacities that are ideal for storing raw files, with the transfer speeds necessary to ensure games load quickly and videos scrub without issues.

On the other hand, if you're building a machine that has no other purpose than surfing the web, checking email, and word processing, a PCIe drive is a great option. The direct-to-motherboard connection takes up less space and gives you fewer cables to manage. While the storage capacity may be lower, you won't need massive amounts of storage for minor tasks—and you can always upgrade to more storage later if you need it.

Case Size

In the computing world, there has been a recent trend of users building micro PCs. These machines are fully functional computers in bite-sized cases—ideal for transporting or for rooms with limited floor space. These cases slot easily onto a shelf or behind a monitor.

However, due to the limited space inside the case, these machines lack the capacity to hold multiple drives. If you have a solid-state drive installed and need more storage, either replace the existing drive (and potentially lose your saved data) or add another drive. While an external drive is a possibility, situations like this are where PCIe SSDs shine.

Because the PCIe attaches directly to the motherboard, you gain additional storage capacity with few hurdles. Just slot the PCIe SSD chip into the appropriate slot, and you're good to go.

Neither type of drive is particularly better than the other. Each has its pros and cons. In the end, PCIe or SATA is largely a matter of preference and of knowing which interface is appropriate at which time.

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Is PCIe better than SATA SSD? ›

PCI Express supersedes SATA as the latest high bandwidth interface. Entry-level PCIe SSD speeds are two to three times faster than the older generation of SATA 3.0 SSDs mainly due to the number of channels contained by each to transfer data (roughly 10 for SATA and 25 for PCIe).

Is PCIe SSD better than HDD? ›

You might have heard of these interfaces—SATA and PCI Express (PCIe). SATA is an older, slower, legacy technology, while PCIe is newer and faster. SSDs with PCIe interfaces will typically be much faster than HDDs with SATA because PCIe contains more channels to transfer data.

Should I buy SATA SSD or NVMe? ›

NVMe drives can usually deliver a sustained read-write speed of 3.5 GB/s in contrast with SATA SSDs that limit at 600 MB/s. Since NVMe SSDs can reach higher speeds than SATA SSDs such as M. 2 drives, it makes them ideal for gaming or high-resolution video editing.

How do I know what kind of SSD I need? ›

What type of SSD is supported by my PC? To make sure which SSD fits in your device, find your PC's model number or check your device's manual. Most devices support 2.5-inch SSDs, so that's usually a safe choice. If you want to install an SSD on your motherboard, first check which connectors your motherboard has.

How long does a PCIe SSD last? ›

An SSD failure should not happen for somewhere around 5 to 6 years in the event that the drive is left shut down in ideal capacity conditions.

Are PCIe SSDs worth it? ›

The key benefits of PCIe SSDs over the alternative server-based Serial ATA (SATA) drives include better compatibility, speed and storage capacity. PCIe SSDs are used for components like graphics cards and are ideal for users who need the fastest performance and lowest latency.

Is 128GB PCIe based SSD enough? ›

As a relatively light user, you will probably find that everything you need adds up to 50GB or less, which will fit onto a 128GB SSD. If you need more than 60GB, I'd recommend going for a 256GB SSD, for reasons that will be explained in the next section. In the long run, it will save wasting time on disk management.

Is 512 GB PCIe SSD enough? ›

A 512 SSD is good enough for gaming or any other performance related task really. Most PC games will have operating files in the 30GB – 50GB region – the Witcher 3 (which is one heck of a performance intensive game) has a 50GB install file size for instance.

Are SATA SSDs worth it? ›

SATA SSDs are still roughly 4 - 5 times faster than SATA HDDs so definitely a worthwhile upgrade, especially in older laptops.

Will SATA SSD be obsolete? ›

SATA will continue to march on for some time, mainly in the form of super high capacity mechanical drives, and perhaps in high capacity, low cost SSD's, so it will be a long time before we can say that SATA is well and truly dead.

Is there a noticeable difference between SATA and NVMe? ›

The communication drivers and interface between NVMe and SATA are completely different as SATA uses AHCI drivers that are designed for hard disk drives (HDD) with spinning technology while the NVMe driver is specifically designed for SSDs with flash technology.

Should I upgrade SATA SSD to NVMe SSD? ›

The bottom line is that if you need a larger SSD and have an interface that supports it, switching to an NVMe SSD will give your system a handy, but not huge, performance boost. Since NVMe models are currently priced similarly to their SATA counterparts, you get that boost almost for free.

How many years should an SSD last? ›

SSDs Have a Long Lifespan

Since SSDs don't have moving parts, they're very reliable. In fact, most SSDs can last over five years, while the most durable units exceed ten years. However, how long your SSD will last depends on how often you write data into it, and you could use that to estimate the lifespan.

Which SSD type is best? ›

The Best SSDs for Laptops of 2022
  • Best Overall. Samsung SSD 860 EVO 2.5" SATA III 500GB.
  • Best Value. Western Digital Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD - 500GB.
  • SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD - 500GB.
  • Samsung SSD 850 EVO 2.5" SATA III 500GB.
  • Crucial MX500 500GB SATA 2.5" Internal SSD.
30 Sept 2022

Which SSD has the longest life? ›

Single-level cell SSDs (SLC) have a particularly long life, although they can only store 1 bit per memory cell. They can withstand up to 100,000 write cycles per cell and are particularly fast, durable, and fail-safe. Multi-level cell SSDs (MLC) have a higher storage density and can store 2 bits per flash cell.

Do SSD drives get slower over time? ›

Have you ever wondered why your solid-state drive degrades performance over time? Here we look into the problem and what you should do to keep the drive at top speeds. If your device includes a Solid-State Drive (SSD), you probably notice that the performance slows down dramatically as it fills up.

Which PCIe SSD is best? ›

WD Black SN850 NVMe M.

The Western Digital Black SN850 is the best performing PCIe 4.0 NVMe M. 2 SSD on the market right now with impressive sequential read/write speeds.

Does PCIe SSD slow down GPU? ›

2 nvme SSD will reduce GPU performance by slowing down the GPU pcie lane. I currently have a Asus Strix X470-F motherboard and have a Samsung 970 Evo m. 2 nvme SSD installed on the top slot where it has a m. 2 cooling shield.

Is 1TB PCIe SSD good? ›

The 1TB version is a great shout if you're after an affordable, but fast SSD. But the 2TB drive is a great price with regular discounts down to around the $230 level much of the time. That puts it below the competing Samsung or SK Hynix drives.

Is 256GB PCIe SSD enough? ›

All of your apps and standard data will fit on a 256GB SSD. For listening to music, making documentation, or using an application like photo or video editing a 256GB SSD will be enough. However, if you want to do more demanding gaming, video editing, or photo editing, this storage space will be insufficient.

Is 1TB SSD enough for everyday use? ›

Yes, a 1TB SSD is enough storage space for most people, including everyone who does a fair bit of gaming, programming, photo or video editing, and even hardcore stuff like 3D modelling.

Is 1TB HDD better than 256gb SSD? ›

A 250GB SSD would serve you better if you want faster write and read speeds. However, the storage space would be minimal. On the other hand, if you are a pro gamer or a video editor, you can go with a 250GB SSD. The 1TB HDD storage option only has one advantage: its 1TB storage space.

Is RAM faster than PCIe SSD? ›

The main benefit of a RAM drive is its increased read and write speeds compared to an SSD or hard drive. It will be multiple times faster than even the fastest solid-state drive.

Is 8gb RAM and 256gb SSD enough for programming? ›

For storing a decent quantity of data and all the programs, a laptop with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB SSD is enough.

Is 16gb RAM and 512GB SSD enough? ›

16 GB RAM with 512 GB SSD is more than enough for the average user. Even if you are using it for programming, gaming, or video editing, it will be enough. Purchasing SSD internal storage laptop is primarily for the extra speed and not only for the increased capacity.

Is 256gb SSD or 512GB SSD better? ›

The more space you have, the more things you can store. as you see the difference between 256 and 512 is the capacity. One disk is twice the capacity of the other.

Why do people still use SATA SSD? ›

Advantages: Less costly and easy to find, the 2.5” SATA SSD will work with just about any motherboard today. While not as fast as NVMe SSDs, they still are much faster than HDDs (which top out at about 160 MB/s transfer speeds) and can handle most tasks efficiently.

Are SATA drives going away? ›

The SATA interface is legacy technology that gets less attention than the newer NVMe interface; however, SATA isn't going away anytime soon, according to Greg Wong, founder and analyst at Forward Insights. The technology has proved to be resilient with OEMs and cloud providers that still use it for boot drives.

Is SATA SSD good in 2022? ›

The only PCI-E SSD alternative at present is SATA SSDs, and that's where todays roundup comes into play! While capped out at around 600MB/s on read and write speeds, due to the performance ceiling of the SATA standard, this type of SSD can be a great way to find fast speeds and large capacities on the cheap.

How long do SSD drives last unused? ›

The lifespan of a hard drive is not absolute. HDDs will, in theory, last for 3 to 5 years, whereas an SSD would work for 10 years.

Why is SSD not good for storage? ›

The main reason SSDs will eventually fail is the fact that NAND flash can only withstand a limited number of read/write cycles. NAND flash is non-volatile memory, meaning it retains data even without a power source. When data is written, the data already stored in the cell must be erased first.

What happens when an SSD is end of life? ›

While the gradual wearing out of SSD flash cells doesn't represent the same kind of failure as a mechanical malfunction on a HDD, it does mean the drive will no longer be usable. While SSDs may fail with less frequency than HDDs, they do have a higher error rate that can affect the end-user experience.

Which SSD gives faster load times? ›

Fastest SSD overall: Intel Optane 905P

If you want the absolute fastest loading times possible and money is no object, then the Intel Optane 905P is as good as it gets right now. We recorded the fastest loading times with this drive in our testing, thanks to its unbeatable random read and write performance.

Do games run better on NVMe? ›

NVME allows games to boot up much faster (up to 2-3 times) than those on traditional drives. Your games will load faster on NVME and won't waste time moving from the menu to the game itself. If you are a gamer that plays online, you may notice that your game loads much faster than other players and less stuttering.

Why is my SATA SSD faster than my NVMe? ›

Most SATA SSDs fall under the second category (though they're cheap because they're large), while cheap NVMe drives don't have DRAM caches built into them to cut costs. That's why your NVMe drive feels slower than your SATA SSD.

Is NVMe 2022 worth it? ›

NVME drives are going to be your option when working with very large single files. Say you're working with 4K, 8K, or 16K footage and you need to edit it as efficiently as possible, no way you're using a standard SATA SSD. Now for games, and booting Windows, you might as well stick with the cheaper option.

Can you damage an NVMe SSD? ›

Compared to hard drives, SSDs are remarkably reliable; yet, no storage technology is perfect. Even the latest NVMe SSDs are susceptible to a sudden or gradual breakdown.

Which SSD is better PCIe or NVMe? ›

SSDs have a clear advantage with faster access through the PCIe serial bus standard. NVMe was built from scratch as a new way to efficiently access storage devices that are specifically built with non-volatile (flash) memory – SSDs. NVMe enables a faster interface for leveraging the speeds that SSDs are capable of.

How long do SATA drives last? ›

Most hard drives have a lifespan of three to five years.

What shortens the life of SSD? ›

The write amplification will shorten the SSD life a lot. Of course, in order to mitigate this problem, some new technologies are applied. For example: Wear Leveling and bad block management.

How many times can a SSD be rewritten? ›

An SSD that stores a single data bit per cell, known as single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash, can typically support up to 100,000 write cycles.

Which type SSD is fastest? ›

NVMe SSD. NVMe is a protocol that allows you to reach even higher speeds than with a SATA SSD. This means that an NVMe SSD can reach a 2600MB/s read speed. That's almost 5 times faster than a SATA drive.

Does it matter what SSD I order? ›

When shopping for an SSD for general computing use in a desktop or laptop, you don't expressly need to pay attention to the type of storage that's inside the drive. In fact, with most options on the market these days, you don't have much a choice, anyway.

Does higher SSD mean better performance? ›

Are Larger SSDs Faster? The short answer to “Is a larger SSD faster?” is no. Barring differences in interfaces, if you buy a 2 TB SSD you won't experience a meaningful performance difference than if you were to buy a 500 GB SSD.

How many GB should my SSD have? ›

A 500 GB or smaller SSD is ideal for holding your operating system and a decent variety of favorite programs, including your various browsers and productivity suites. If you're only using a single drive in your system, 500 GB will also provide adequate room for some light media, gaming, and video storage.

Is PCIe the fastest SSD? ›

For now, the fastest M. 2 SSDs use the PCIe 4.0 (Gen4) standard. Gen4-capable systems are also somewhat recent and start with Intel's 11th/12th-gen Core platforms or an AMD counterpart based on a Ryzen/Threadripper 3000/5000 CPU and an X570, B550, or TRX40 motherboard or later.

Is PCIe SSD better for gaming? ›

If you want the absolute fastest drives available, then PCIe 4.0 SSDs are the way to go. They're quicker than any PCIe 3.0 drive and will make large file transfers for such things as video editing lightning fast. They will also be prepared for the future of gaming.

Which type of SSD is better? ›

For most laptops, PCIe 3.0 drives are the best SSD choice, because they use less power. Believe it or not, raw speed isn't everything. In regular productivity tasks such as web browsing or light desktop work, you may not even notice the difference between a PCIe 3.0 SSD and one with a 4.0 interface.

Is PCIe 2.0 faster than sata3? ›

The performance gap between SATA and PCIe is quite huge, as SATA III maxes out at 6 Gbps or 600 MB/s. On the other hand, two lanes of PCI Express 3.0 can provide more than 3 times the performance of SATA III based SSD at nearly 2000 MB/s. All this while consuming just 4% more power than a SATA III SSD.

Which SSD has the highest endurance? ›

SLC, or single-level cell, flash has the highest endurance of all grades of flash. As such, drives with SLC flash typically offer the longest lifespan. With SLC flash, only one bit of data is written per cell, which limits the necessary P/E cycles.

Is SATA SSD enough for gaming? ›

For computers that are primarily used for playing games, our research suggests that you'll only see minimal improvements to game load times by swapping a standard SATA-connected SSD for a more expensive NVMe drive, even if it boasts significantly higher read and write speeds.

Should I get SATA or NVMe for gaming? ›

For gamers and other computer users who depend on applications with lots of data, NVMEs are the way to go. While NVME can deliver sustained copy speeds of up to 16GB/s, SATA drives can only manage as much as 600MB/s. They are also older and much slower.

Is PCIe 3.0 enough for gaming? ›

The reduction in PCIe bandwidth from 4.0 x8 to 4.0 x4 hurt performance by 22%. Then switching to 3.0 destroyed it making the game virtually unplayable with a 35 fps average. The margins grew slightly at 1440p, but the results were much the same overall.

How long do SSD drives last? ›

SSDs Have a Long Lifespan

In fact, most SSDs can last over five years, while the most durable units exceed ten years. However, how long your SSD will last depends on how often you write data into it, and you could use that to estimate the lifespan.

What happens if you put a PCIe 3.0 in a 4.0 slot? ›

Like PCIe 3.0, PCIe 4.0 is forward and backward compatible. However, if you connect a PCIe 3.0 card to a PCIe 4.0 slot, the card will perform to the PCIe 3.0 specs.

Is PCIe 3 obsolete? ›

But PCIe 1.0 and PCIe 2.0 are outdated. Today, PCIe 3.0 is a motherboard standard, at least until the industry universally adopts PCIe 4.0 and eventually PCIe 5.0.

What if I put PCIe 4.0 in a 3.0 slot? ›

Another helpful aspect of PCIe devices is that they are backward and downward compatible, so a PCIe 2.0 x2 will still work with a PCIe 4.0 x8 interface. Likewise, you can put a PCIe 4.0 device into a PCIe 3.0 slot, and it will work, albeit at PCIe 3.0 speeds.


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