Turn Old mSATA SSDs To Fast USB 3.0 Flash Drives

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 $10 to take advantage of.  A blistering USB flash drive can be created out of them instead of throw 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 cache write optimizations that normal USB removable drives don’t.  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

Parts needed:

Build with pictures:

Back of the drive
Back of the drive
Looking down the barrel of the mSATA 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
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 ~5$ more but will add little bit of bulk.  In exchange you get a much more finished look and far better protection:

Black enclosure -- supports all platforms
Black enclosure — supports all platforms

Enclosure with the USB connector instead of using a cable (my preference)

Enclosure with the USB connector instead of using a cable (my preference)

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 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!

Comments 3

  • 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!

    • 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

  • 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!

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