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Do I need a heatsink for PCIe 5.0 SSDs?

Aug 25, 2023

PCIe 5.0 SSDs require a heatsink for optimal performance, but whether you need to buy a heatsink alongside a PCIe 5.0 drive is something else.

You've probably heard how hot PCIe 5.0 SSDs are, so whether you're getting a lower-end PCIe 5.0 drive or one of the best you can buy, you'll absolutely need a heatsink. The real question, though, is actually whether you need to buy a PCIe 5.0 SSD that comes with a heatsink, as many PCIe 5.0 drives offer a model that doesn't come with a heatsink. However, you probably don't actually need to buy a PCIe 5.0 SSD that comes with a heatsink.

To be clear, you should use a heatsink on PCIe 5.0 SSDs because they consume lots of power, which turns into heat. This is very different from PCIe 4.0 SSDs, which can also get quite hot or come with heatsinks, so that thermal throttling isn't required to keep the temperature in check. The main difference with PCIe 5.0 drives, at least with ones that exist so far, is that they consume so much power and get so hot that normal operation is impossible without a heatsink. Of course, all this power and heat is necessary for these drives to be the best in the world.

So, what would happen if you ran a PCIe 5.0 SSD without a heatsink? Reviewers who have tried immediately encountered fatal software errors or even thermal shutdowns, which is a last resort for SSDs and other electronics to prevent heat from causing permanent damage. Running a PCIe 5.0 drive without a heatsink prevents you from using your computer at best and could damage it at worst.

This is an important question because, for a few years now, heatsinks for M.2 SSDs haven't been solely available through SSD manufacturers. In fact, most desktop motherboards you can buy at retail come with generic SSD heatsinks that are screwed into the motherboard and come with thermal pads that make contact with the SSD in order to transfer heat. Many motherboards even include massive heatsinks that are far larger than the ones that come with PCIe 5.0 SSDs.

While every PCIe 5.0 SSD should definitely offer a heatsink as an optional add-on, they're not necessary if your motherboard has a heatsink already. Pretty much any motherboard that supports PCIe 5.0 SSDs will include a heatsink for its PCIe 5.0 slots, so it's not like heatsinkless SSDs like Corsair's MP700 are paperweights just because Corsair doesn't offer a heatsink.

Of course, there are devices that wouldn't include an M.2 heatsink with the motherboard, like laptops and OEM desktops. At the time of writing, there are no laptops that support PCIe 5.0, but you may have an OEM desktop that supports PCIe 5.0 drives but doesn't have a heatsink anywhere on the motherboard. In this case, you'll definitely want to buy a PCIe 5.0 SSD that comes with a heatsink.

The MSI Spatium M570 is a PCIe 5.0 NVMe SSD with an eye-catching heatsink.

Matthew is a PC Hardware Writer at XDA, having previously written for Digital Trends, Tom's Hardware, and other publications since 2018. He's mainly interested in the three way fight between AMD, Intel, and Nvidia in PCs and servers. He also has a degree in history and linguistics.