PCIe SSD Installation Is Easy: Part 1

By Doug Rollins - 2014-01-08

PCI Express (PCIe) SSDs are like a good cup of French Roast coffee with a nice, fresh bagel on a crisp winter’s morning…when the sun’s just coming up over the horizon… Good stuff.

So how on earth do coffee and bagels relate to SSDs? I can’t roast my own beans, but I like coffee; and I can’t make my own onion and garlic bagel from scratch, but I sure like it when the bagel shop does. We tend to think of PCIe SSDs in the same way. We know we can buy a system with SSDs preinstalled, but install them ourselves in an existing system and get them working? Isn’t that a bit like roasting your own coffee beans and making your own bagel—too hard to really be worth the effort? 

The answer is no! PCIe SSD installation is just as easy as, well, pushing “brew” on the Keurig and toasting a bagel.

I’ve heard time and time again (so often, I’ve lost count) that IT organizations have a litany of servers that they’d like to make last for more purchasing cycles. So, how about adding some really fast PCIe storage to the servers?  Would that help?  Yup.  And installing and configuring PCIe SSDs in-house is essentially as simple as turning a screw and counting to four. It’s really that easy!

"Turning a Screw"

Follow these easy steps to install your PCIe SSD. (I’m only talking about the card form factor PCIe SSDs here—not the new, hot-plug 2.5-inch drives.)

  1. Power down the system.
  2. Once the system is powered down, “pop the hood,” and find an open slot, as shown in the figure below.
    1. This figure shows a tower case and motherboard, but the same principle applies to rack mount cases and risers.
    2. For the best performance, use a slot that is electrically as “wide” or “wider” than the PCIe SSD you are installing. Some systems offer slots that are, say, x8 physically but only x4 electrically. The card will fit in these slots, but performance may be reduced.  So if the SSD is x8 PCIe Gen2, use a slot that is electrically Gen2 and at least x8.
  3. Find a good candidate? Excellent! Remove the slot cover by unscrewing the retention screw.
  4. Insert the SSD into the slot like with any other PCIe card, SAS controller, or 10 Gb/E network card, as shown in the figure below.
  5. Once inserted, fasten the SSD using the same retention screw that held the slot cover.
    • Ensure that the SSD is seated correctly by verifying that you can see the LEDs on the card rail when looking at the system from the rear.
  6. Replace the cover, and power up the system.
  7. When the system is powered up, log in to the OS as normal.

OK—now we’ve “turned a screw,” so to speak, and the PCIe SSD is properly installed in the host platform. What’s next?

Be sure to stay tuned for part 2 of this post to finish the PCIe upgrade—it’s essentially as easy as counting to four. In the meantime, please post any questions or comments below.

To finish the PCIe upgrade, read part 2 of this post - it's essentially as easy as counting to four. In the meantime, please post any questions or comments below.

Doug Rollins

Doug Rollins

Doug Rollins is a principal technical marketing engineer for Micron's Storage Business Unit, with a focus on enterprise solid-state drives. He’s an inventor, author, public speaker and photographer. Follow Doug on Twitter: @GreyHairStorage.