How storage ended up tiny

Originally published at:


Truly, nothing brings me more glee than discovering extremely partisan disagreements about the most obscure of technical minutiae, and one faction calls the other “nerds”. Thanks for brightening my day.


I removed that word immediately after publication because I realized people wouldn’t see the pathetic irony. I’m getting better at the internet!


There’s hope for you yet! :smile:

You know though, once you do get it, this intarnet thing, it’ll get phased out like the U.2 connector standard did…

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Heat sink is a good thing no matter what especially in a laptop where things do get warm.
Hot swap outside of a data center is more or less moot though.


Unless you want to use it as a external drive.


But this gets us back to the whole “some giant goddamn SCSI style nightmare” vs “lightning/USB type C” thing


Which for most users that would be the USB connection taking care of that and not the drive. (what @beschizza said)

Hot swap is for not having to power down your server or SAN when one disk in the array has failed.
If the drive in your laptop has failed it isn’t a big deal to have to shut it down even if you have a mirrored drive set up.

ETA and to swap out a drive in your laptop you are probably going to have to shut it down just to properly access it.


”RAM cable”? WTH is that?

It makes a certain amount of sense that some assumed the u.2 would be the thing. If you think about how drive have traditionally worked, couple sizes, multiples mounted to the chassis. Too bulky to plug right in. Out of context you can fit more small plugs on a mobo than larger card slots, and the cabling gives a lot more flexibility in where they’re positioned. Even as 2.5" SSDs too over, like we started to see a lot of full towers with drive bays mounted behind the mother board tray and other out of the way places. So if you’re thinking in terms of where storage has usually been, flexiblity in size and positioning would seem to be important. Especially if you aren’t in the habit of thinking in terms of small form factors and most users/mass market devices.

There isn’t really anything preventing m.2 from doing those things, but the headline version of it is the tiny card style drive. Seems like one of those things where something fits the expectation or needs of tech press and ends up being pushed or covered heavily by them. Not realizing what fits for the actual public.

Sort of like how we heard for so long that tiny laptops and ultra books were the next big thing. And they’d be replacing laptops almost entirely. And ok it was a class of device that really fit the needs of reporters, especially tech reporters. But very few other groups of people gave a shit. Those things are still around but they didn’t become the default format of personal computer the way the breathless coverage said they would.

I’d be curious what particular groups fell into the “u.2 is the thing!” camp. Because I do vaguely remember when both were a thing. And a lot of what I remember was people saying “wait for m.2”. So I’d be willing to bet a lot of people called it correctly as well.

That whiny Wikipedia comparison assumes that the laptop designers won’t figure out how to incorporate a heatsink into the m.2 mounting space. I would think that top-tier laptops already have cooling provided for the m.2 slot.


As a long-time desktop support professional, I preferred the bigger SSD’s over the wee little m.2. I am decidedly fat fingered, though, and found them more difficult to handle than the bigger, chunkier ones, as well as found the cables easier to work with then those little slots. And as I freely admit, I’m decidedly old school about these things, though I can see why folks prefer them.

I would think that top-tier laptops already have cooling provided for the m.2 slot.

As far as I know, they haven’t. I worked on my son’s Alienware laptop last Christmas, and it had no heatsink for the m.2. They slot into a tiny connector kind of like RAM does, with a single screw to hold down the other end flat. You’d have to enclose them somehow, and then you’re back to the other form factor. Laptop makers love these things because of how much weight and space they save, I’m sure they’d rather not start adding weight back in. And it’s been my experience that heat isn’t as much of a problem for hard drives as it is for the CPU and GPU.


Usually it’s more or less pressed up against the bottom of the case and the case itself is used as the heatsink.

I have to wonder just how many people actually experience thermal throttling on their M.2 drives in real life. I can’t say I’ve ever noticed it.

RAM cables would be problematic because RAM is fast enough that physical distance from the CPU matters.


As nice and important as hot-swap is: consumers don’t care about it [don’t be a nerd and start explaining how you need it as a consumer; you don’t nerd]. Everything else in that list is a bunch of nonsense complaining about cooling (which is a cheap, solvable problem).

There are, occasionally, people who would like to be able to attach RAM to the motherboard with cables, for reasons. And why not? Every likes CABLES and WIRES everywhere, don’t they? But they don’t exist, because RAM latency is too low to permit it.

There are some hard DIMM risers and right-anglers you can buy, but they’re very short. A neat and fabulously nerdy project might be to fabricate some RAM cables and see how long you can get away with before things go all to shit.


I’ve never run across it; however, the M.2 stick I have at home is in a desktop ‘widebody’ mini-tower. I suspect the new work laptop is using an M.2 for it’s storage, but then, it spins up it’s fan frequently because it’s a stupidly thin laptop with an i5 in it.

For contrast, here’s a gratuitous photo of a petabyte of storage at the South Pole. It’s all spinning helium-filled 8TB drives, recording 8 gigabytes per second of raw signals from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Try doing that with your m.2 drive!


No need for cooling just use that to heat the room.


It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to cool equipment at the pole. Atmospheric pressure is only about 2/3 of that found at sea level, and with essentially no water in the air, the heat carrying capacity is pretty bad.