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What Does PCIe Based Flash Storage Mean? – Learn Here

Users are so spoiled for choice when it comes to picking storage devices that it becomes outright confusing. To make it easier for you, read on to see what does PCIe based flash storage mean.

Flash storage is based on memory chips that can be electrically programmed and that offer high-speed data access. Being PCIe based means that they transmit their contents via a computer’s PCIe bus to the chipset and ultimately the processor itself.

This offers a better solution for users who want fast data transfers and faster computer loading as well as application startup times.

The key takeaway is that flash is the storage technology used by the storage device, whereas PCIe is the connection standard through which the disk receives and transmits its data.

What Does PCIe Based Flash Storage Mean?

pcie flash storage
Macbook Pro Flash Storage. Source: mactrast

If you consider a regular hard disk drive (HDD), there is a spinning metallic disk inside that rotates at a given number of revs per minute. There’s also a seeking arm with a read and write head that darts across the surface of the disk (also known as a platter) to store and read data.

This process is very mechanical and inherently slow. This is where flash storage comes in.

Unlike HDDs, these have no mechanical parts involved in the reading and writing cycles. Instead, all the functions are performed electronically with the help of integrated circuits (ICs) and various other components.

To help understand what does PCIe based flash storage means, let’s look at some of the involved aspects.

Understanding Flash Storage

Because there are no moving parts, flash storage is termed as solid-state technology, and it’s what SSDs use.

It is built to electronically store and retrieve data and has the capabilities of ensuring faster performance when this is the requirement.

Instead of a moving disk and an arm, these use memory chips that can be electronically written on and erased depending on the user’s needs.

Furthermore, flash storage has grown over the years to give access to large storage capacities for users who need the space and high performance.

Flash storage can be anything from the SSD you have on your computer to external flash drives. And these work across various channels to get the data transmitted between themselves and your computer.

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Understanding PCIe

PCIe is a connection standard that is maintained by PCI-SIG (Peripheral Component Interconnect Special Interest Group). This is a consortium made up of a group of companies.

It offers a high-speed connection between different devices and the computer’s chipset, allowing for high bandwidth and rapid data transfers.

PCIe allows the connection of various devices, including storage devices to your computer. These can be both internal and external.

Since flash storage is very fast, having the connection rely on the computer’s internal PCIe bus will allow faster data transfers, and this will, in turn, result in a computer that feels much faster as opposed to running flash storage on the SATA interface.

PCIe Based Flash Storage

Now that we know the hardware involved, it’s time to see what does PCIe based flash storage mean.

Having your flash storage device, like an internal SSD, operate through the PCIe bus makes this a PCIe based flash storage.

One main thing to consider is that these come in various form factors and may use different kinds of connectors.

Nevertheless, they have advantages over non-flash storage devices and perform much better compared to flash storage devices that aren’t PCIe based.

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Form Factors

PCIe based flash storage devices come in different shapes and sizes. This makes them fit into different applications and use cases more freely.

NVMe SSDs

m.2 slot
An NVMe Flash Drive drive fits in an M.2 slot that uses 4x PCIe lanes.

Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is an interface standard. It works over PCIe, which means it utilizes the PCIe bus. It is built for SSDs, which are high-speed flash storage devices.

NVMe also comes with different form factors. These depend on the size of the drive as well as the configuration of the slot itself. The M.2 NVME slot is very popular among many small form factor SSDs slots. Its thus ideal for use with small and portable devices.

These slots are also found on desktop motherboards, and there can be more than one of them on a board.

They offer very high performance and can sustain speeds of up to and above 2000MB/s.

PCIe Add in Card SSDs

What Does PCIe Based Flash Storage Mean
These are rarely found on personal PC. They are super fast and are found in workstation PCs.

These are different from NVME SSDs mainly because they are usually larger and attach directly to a PCIe slot. They still offer high performance but are not as common as the NVMe flash storage devices.

One caveat with these devices is that because of their large size, fitting them on small form factor devices is impossible, they are hence better suited for large desktop workstations or servers.

PCIe Based Versus SATA Based Flash Storage

SATA drives are popular, and SATA SSDs even more so. This has a lot to do with their performance to cost benefits.

NVMe flash storage offers much faster performance, but these drives are significantly more expensive than SATA drives for a given storage capacity.

Furthermore, SATA storage devices are more common because the SATA interface is a staple on almost all computers, whereas some devices do not come with PCIe interfaces for storage devices, particularly older computers.

SATA 3.0 Flash storage reaches real-world speeds of 560MB/s whereas PCIe flash can do about 985MB/s per lane, giving you several times faster performance.

A typical M.2 PCIe V.3 NVMe SSD that uses 4 PCIe lanes can reach speeds to nearly 4 GB/s.

Conclusion

In builds where you’re keen on performance, going with PCIe based flash storage is a great option for users.

You end up with faster OS and application startup times as well as higher transfer speeds for your files.

Knowing what does PCIe based flash storage mean helps with the decision-making process as you get to weigh the different aspects of this technology and see how it will affect your computer as well as your overall user experience.

By coupling high-speed flash storage with the high-speed PCIe bus, there are significant performance improvements to be seen across the entire system.

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