Turn Old mSATA SSDs To Fast USB 3.0 Flash Drives

Looking down the barrel of the mSATA drive

mSATA USB Sticks

Since the M.2 NVME form factor has won the high performance solid state drive war many of you may be stuck with older micro SATA (mSATA) drives.  These still have a very awesome use that will only cost you a few bucks to take advantage of.  A blistering USB flash drive can be created out of them instead of throwing them away!

Unbeatable Performance

These are full blown SSDs and their performance blows a regular USB flash drive out of the water.  They support the trim command and show up as “fixed disks” instead or removable storage.  This means they support premium features such as very large and fast caches built into the drive that normal removable drives don’t have (that type of cache is expensive!). 

This allows you to do all sorts of awesome things on them.  Some examples:  Windows to Go, Fast Portable Linux, Virtual Machine storage, etc.  You can also just use it as a really fast drive to transfer files back and forth with your friends while looking like a total techie badass.

Exhibit A – USB 3.0 SSD mSATA “Flash” Drive

Equipment used:

mSATA to USB 3.0 Adapter (Tanbin)*

Tanbin USB 3.0 to mSATA USB Adapter

Any mSATA SSD (Transcend 128GB mSATA III SSD* used in this build)

Transcend 128GB mSATA Solid State Drive (SSD)

Build with pictures:

Back of the drive
Looking down the barrel of the mSATA drive — here you can see the blue of the USB 3.0 connector
View of the top of the drive

Exhibit B – Enclosed USB 3.0 SSD mSATA “Flash” Drive

If you want more protection for your drive or want a more finished look to it you can use a enclosure.  These are only slightly more but will add little bit of bulk.  In exchange you get a much more finished look and far better protection:

VL716 mSATA Enclosure

The VL716 mSATA enclosure lets you connect micro SATA drives to the Pi. These drives are an older type of SSD (usually seen in laptops) predating the M.2 slot but are still widely available and perform extremely well!

Links: AliExpress.com*, Amazon.ae*, Amazon.ca*, Amazon.com*, Amazon.com.au*, Amazon.com.mx*, Amazon.co.jp*, Amazon.co.uk*, Amazon.de*, Amazon.es*, Amazon.fr*, Amazon.in*, Amazon.it*, Amazon.nl*, Amazon.pl*, Amazon.sa*, Amazon.se*, Amazon.sg*

How To Get

These are widely available for dirt cheap on eBay if you use the right search terms like this*. You can get really big sizes for far cheaper than you could buy in any other type of SSD because these are largely obsolete. They’re no longer used in newer PCs which makes them perfect for this use!

Verifying Performance (Optional)

Once you have built your drive run my Raspberry Pi Storage Benchmark and compare your drive with other similar drives in the mSATA section to make sure you are getting the correct performance. They can be extremely fast!

USB Booting with Raspberry Pi 4 (Optional)

These are a great compact option for a fast operating system drive for the Raspberry Pi 4. If you’re looking for a guide on how to do this check out my Raspberry Pi 4 USB Mass Storage Device Boot Guide.

Conclusion

Despite mSATA falling out of favor these drives still far outperform any USB flash drive you will come across.  They absolutely destroy my SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 Solid State “Stick-Like” drive*

The advantages of these drives being classified as “fixed disks” enable many performance enhancements that are not applied to traditional “removable storage”.  These include write-caching, trim, dedicated memory buffers, and many more!  Build your own supercharged portable SSD today with yesterdays technology!

Check out my 2020 roundup of the fastest storage devices on the planet here to learn more about potential storage and drive options!

7 thoughts on “Turn Old mSATA SSDs To Fast USB 3.0 Flash Drives”

  1. All your link URLs have “origin.jameschambers.com” instead of just “jameschambers.com” and consequently return 502 error from the server
    Generated by cloudfront (CloudFront)
    Request ID: 8Sy_Gei0RYlxSDmIF3ygMD-0UZ_qZE_eLqSzrFPvOgWB8E6er7E_-Q==

    1. Hey Ed,

      Thank you very much for lettihg me know! I think I’ve fixed the link issue and my CDN may not be working temporarily, but that is better than all the links going and I should be able to fix it later today.

      Again, thanks for letting me know, it probably would have taken a while before I realized, and I’m not sure how long it has been like that!

  2. Hi James, as the NFHK N-30U is an adapter mini PCIe, do you think it will work with a wlan from a laptop?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hey Poyensa,

      Sorry I didn’t see this for so long but definitely this is only meant for storage and won’t work with the WLAN adapter. Even though it will physically plug in as you pointed out it’s mini PCIe and not the type of device the adapter is expecting!

  3. James,

    Thanks for the quick response!

    The drive registers as uninitialized in Disk Management. It shows up as “USB 3.0” in Devices, as “USB attached SCSI (UAS) Mass Storage Device” in Device Manager. But it does not show as a drive in “My Computer.”

    I followed your instructions for diskpart twice. The first time a disk was discovered, Online but size 0. It immediately said “clean” but when I tried to initialize i got an error:
    “the request failed due to a fatal hardware error.”

    The disk is a Toshiba THNSNJ128GMCT. The adapter is generic, it is stamped NFHK N-30U V1. FYI, one ad for the adapter cautioned that it would only work with drives with the Intel pinout. I only found a reference to Intel drives being unique in one other obscure place, it is not something that is mentioned in specs.

    Any thoughs?

    Thanks for your help!

  4. Hey! Thanks for all the great info. I went big with the mSATA drive and USB connector, and I’m running into (apparently common) problems getting it recognized. When I insert it into my PC, it does not appear as a letter drive. Disk Management sees it as uninitialized, but cannot initialize it. Device manager sees it only as an SATA interface (?). I can eject it as removable media. Any idea what’s going on? If I can’t initialize it, I can’t format it, and my daughter doesn’t get an Oreserver.
    Thx!

    1. Hey Scott,

      In the past when I’ve had drives having trouble being recognized I have ran the diskpart clean utility on it.

      Try going into a command prompt and typing diskpart. This should open another window. Type list disk and see if you can see your solid state disk in there. If you see it press select disk #. Be extra careful and make sure that it is not your main hard disk or anything like that. Now type Clean.

      After the operation completes go back to the disk management tool and see if you can initialize the drive. You should then get the option to format the drive and give it a assigned drive letter.

      If this fails can you post the exact model of adapter that you bought?

      -James

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