42

My question:

Can anyone confirm or disprove the support of NVMe drives (like the Samsung 960) by the Sintech M.2 PCIe SSD MacBook adapters for macOS Sierra and High Sierra, or would you have any information that could help me confirm or disprove this support?

Below are the results of my research so far.


SSDs comparison

"Official" MacBook SSDs

Officially supported MacBook SSDs are really expensive. For example, with the Macbook Air/Pro 2013, 2014 and 2015 models:

Equivalent PC SSDs

Globally, an officially supported MacBook SSD (PCIe M.2 AHCI with a proprietary 12+16pin connector) cost from about $1 to $2 per GB, while equivalent PC SSD (PCIe M.2 AHCI and NVMe with a key M connector) cost from about $0.4 to $1 per GB.

NVMe:

AHCI:

So standard PCIe M.2 devices seems to be up to 3x cheaper than the MacBook PCIe M.2 SSD. Plus, NVMe SSD are globally way faster.


NVMe SSD compatibility?

Connector adapter

At first for the connector, I often seen the Sintech adapter recommended to use the AHCI SSD above in a MacBook Air/Pro. The product page clearly stipules only compatible with a limited set of AHCI SSDs, but I do not see any reason for these "incompatibilities", as there is no other software/hardware standards for the PCIe M.2 AHCI models. It seems they simply give as compatible the list of the AHCI SSDs they've tested, and as incompatible the most known NVMe SSD models.

Interface compatibility

Then for the interface, what I understand from AHCI/NVMe is that it is only a controller interface, depending on the system drivers on the MacBook and not on the hardware itself.

Which seems to be consistant with:

I emailed the store which sell that adapter and problem is that macOS doesn't support 3rd party NVMe SSDs, but Windows 10 and Linux do.

-- From a Youtube comment on a upgrade video with a AHCI SSD and the Sintech adapter.

So Sintech may have given these NVMe SSD as incompatible not because of the adapter incompatibility, but because of the destination OS incompatibility.

System support

Finally for the system, macOS now support NVMe SSDs, from unofficially OSX El Capitan (with a patch to boot) and natively macOS High Sierra (even as boot, see an article about the NVME support and a confirmation from the Hackintosh community).

I sent an email to Sintech to get more informations on their adapter. I got a reply with some references (added to this post), but no answer since.

Edit (23/06):

Unfortunately, we are busy in other projects, and still can't get new system to test it.


Similar researches

After I created this post, I seen there is some people with the same question in other communities, waiting at the same step. I share the links there in case of some of them got a return from a test with the Sintech adapter or an other one.

On IFIXIT - MBP early 2015 SSD can upgrade with Samsung 950 pro?

  • Por Chumjan (02/27/2016):

    I think about to upgrade. Samsung 950 pro is interesting. But i'm not sure it can use for this model.

  • trumanhw (12/21/2016):

    You can buy an adapter from M.2 to MBPr or Air for about $20... (...) The REAL question is if the NVMe protocol will be a hiccup (as in, I don't personally know that answer) ... and if it'll get the full speed of the 950. In principle, I don't see why it wouldn't. And I WILL be testing this out.

  • Fabio (06/10/2017):

    [ About the patch ]. It is meant to be used on hackintosh but I think it might work on a macbook pro from 2015 with the adapter and a nvme ssd like the samsung 960/950 evo/pro. If someone tries or has tried it please let me know.

  • 5
    My pleasure. :) I hope you get a definitive answer - I think this is a great question! There's a couple of guys around the community that I think may be able to help, so hopefully they chime in. – Monomeeth Jun 23 '17 at 10:43
  • At least 2x cheaper (and faster) SSDs : I hope someone we be able to test it. This will put the prices down if it is confirmed. – ncoden Jun 23 '17 at 10:46
  • First you need a NVME SSD that can be formatted 4096 block size, unfortunately that is not Samsung but the OCZ RD400 works great once formatted with the OCZ SSD Utility (PC required). Next, Apple would need to include an NVME driver in the MacBook firmware so we can boot off it. – malhal Aug 28 '17 at 13:30
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a little update here...

macOS High Sierra beta 9 (and GM) brings us a BootRom update for ALL Macs supported by HighSierra, so that they can boot from APFS drives.

The very, very good news about this is that this update ALSO brings NVMe boot ability on every mac back to the Mac Pro 6.1 (Late 2013) upwards...

So every Mac which have an Apple 12+16 PCIe connector now owe the ability to boot from any NVMe drive, once they have been at least upgraded to High Sierra (and their BootRom updated).

Put it simply :

  • take a MacBook Pro retina 13" Late 2013
  • upgrade it to High Sierra
  • clone the OS to an external USB drive with CCC
  • power it off
  • change the stock Apple AHCI SSD to a brand new Samsung 960 Evo (for example) use a sintech (or other) M.2 ngff to Apple 12+16 adapter (and protect the pin with kapton tape)
  • boot from your USB backup of High Sierra
  • copy back your OS and data to the new SSD

everything works (TRIM, SMART status, deepsleep etc.)

So since the beta of High Sierra and the BootRom update, the new results are following :

As for Apple NVMe drives:

  • Mac Pro late 2013 : works from 10.10.2 (at PCIe 3.0 4x speed)
  • MacBook Air 11" & 13" mid 2013 : works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 13" late 2013 :works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 15" late 2013 : works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 4x lanes)
  • MacBook Air 11" & 13" early 2014 :works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 13" mid 2014 : works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 15" mid 2014 : works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 4x lanes)
  • MacBook Air 11" & 13" early 2015 :works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 13" early 2015 : works from 10.10.2 (PCIe 2.0 speed 4x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 15" mid 2015 : works from 10.10.3 (PCIe 3.0 speed 4x lanes)

As for non-Apple NVMe drives, (Samsung 960 evo/pro etc) :

  • Mac Pro late 2013 : works from 10.13 (PCIe 3.0 speed 4x lanes)
  • MacBook Air 11" & 13" mid 2013 : works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 13" late 2013 :works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 15" late 2013 : works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 4x lanes)
  • MacBook Air 11" & 13" early 2014 :works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 13" mid 2014 : works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 15" mid 2014 : works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 4x lanes)
  • MacBook Air 11" & 13" early 2015 :works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 2x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 13" early 2015 : works from 10.13 (PCIe 2.0 speed 4x lanes)
  • MacBook Pro retina 15" mid 2015 : works from 10.13 (PCIe 3.0 speed 4x lanes)

PCIe 2.0 speed is around 350 MB/sec by lane so :

  • with 2x lanes of PCIe 2.0 expect up to 700 MB/sec
  • with 4x lanes 1400 MB/sec

PCIe 3.0 speed is around 750 MB/sec by lane so :

  • with 4x lanes of PCIe 3.0 expect nearly 3000MB/sec
  • 1
    So it will work but will be slow? – Gal Bracha Oct 3 '17 at 14:07
  • 1
    mate, your info is wrong, all Macbook Pro with pci-e (late-2013+) and Air 2013+ have 4x lanes motherboard, even the 11" Air which comes with standard 128GB nvme ssd is 4x (both the ssd and the motherboard). As for the non-nvme (ahci) Apple ssd that comes installed, 2013-2014 models (sandisk and samsung ssuax) are 2x and 2015 models (samsung ssubx) are 4x, I put many 4x 2015 drives on 2013 macbook and they work at 4x speed. All are pcie 2.0 . As far as i know only 2016+ are pcie 3.0. – George Dima Oct 22 '17 at 8:48
  • 2
    What do you mean by "and protect the pin with kapton tape" ? – Jean Mar 11 '18 at 6:36
  • Any difference between Time Machine backup and CCC? First time I installed new OS via recovery and got sleep problems. Today I've tried to make a Time Machine backup and restore from. Still have problem. Going to try CCC, but not sure it will help. Can it be somehow connected to SSD I bough? I have MacBook 13" 2014 Mid and installed Samsung Evo 960 (PCI Express 3.0 x4) – inferusvv Jul 1 '18 at 8:27
  • @Jean The tape is used to insulate the pins – Pascal Jul 16 '18 at 12:08
6

The short answer is Yes and No, it depends on the Mac model.

Thanks to @gillesaurejac who made the tests with the Sintech adapter and a lot of Mac models running macOS High Sierra.

His results are:

So, as for AHCI PCIe drives, (like the lite-on LGT-512B1P), they work in every 2013-2014-2015-2017 mac, but sleep is a concern with the 2014-2015 macs.

As for Apple NVMe drives, (like the Apple SSD SM2024L as found in the 2017 iMacs, or the 24GB fusion drive of the 2015 iMacs), to this date the tests I have done are :

  • Mac Pro late 2013 : doesn't work
  • MacBook Air early 2014 : doesn't work
  • Macmini Late 2014 : works
  • MacBook Air early 2015 : works
  • MacBook Pro 15" early 2015 : works

As for non-Apple NVMe drives, (Samsung), to this date the tests I have done are:

  • Mac Pro late 2013 : doesn't work
  • MacBook Air early 2014 : doesn't work
  • MacBook Air early 2015 : works
  • MacBook Pro 15" early 2015 : doesn't work
  • 1
    Yeh Samsung won't work because they use 512 block size. Apple (as of Sierra) only support NVME SSDs that can be formatted to 4096 block size, like Toshiba THNSN5512GPU7 also known as OCZ R400. – malhal Aug 28 '17 at 12:30
  • 1
    High Sierra does now support 512 byte block sizes. As the question mentions, on Sierra hackintoshers use a patched NVMe driver to support 512 with some caveats (e.g. hibernation must be disabled or it’ll cause corruption). Also, some drives come formatted as 512 but do support 4K, and can be reformatted to 4K as described here. – kirb Sep 10 '17 at 3:42
  • Yes Samsung 970 will work on macmini but apparently it only works at sata speeds. No pcie. Look the benchmarks at the end of the thread forums.macrumors.com/threads/… – Chriz74 Oct 29 '18 at 16:13
4

Update:I installed a Samsung 970 pro 1TB on macbook pro 13 2015 (A1502). And everything works well so far. Did not encountered the installation problem for PM981. The whole procedure is easy, the only thing you need to do is to format the disk to HFS+ in repaire mode (Command+Option+R) before install High Sierra using network. No usb disk is needed.

Have not encountered sleep wake problem. I'm very happy to see that my macbook has 1TB storage now!

Notice that: because MacBook Pro 13 2015(A1502) is using PCIE2.0*4. So the speed will be slower than in PCIE3.0*4. But it's also significantly faster than most of SSD at 1300-1600MB/s and 200KIOPS which is very close to the bandwidth of PCIE2.0*4.

4

Please note there's an excellent guide on the MacRumors forum by user Cmd+Q which details how to upgrade your SSD step-by-step. Additionally there is an overview of different Apple SSD connectors as well, which helped me to better understand the different models.

Summary (from the guide):

  • 2013-2014 MacBooks use a non-standard connector (12+16 pins) for the stock SSD that uses PCIe AHCI (OEM drives supposedly based on the Samsung XP941 or SM951)
  • Fortunately, there are a number of M.2 NVMe drives and an adapter available that allow for SSD upgrades in these MacBooks
  • macOS 10.13 “High Sierra” introduced boot support for NVMe drives that use 512 byte sectors (or LBAs) which opens up a variety of NVMe SSD upgrade options (Samsung, Intel, etc)
  • Unfortunately, the stock EFI firmware (or system ROM) in these MacBook comes with an NVMe driver that prevents the MacBook from waking up from hibernation (or deep sleep)
  • To address this hibernation issue, the system ROM can either be modified, or hibernation can be disabled on the MacBook by executing “pmset -a standby 0”
  • 2015 MacBooks can also be upgraded using this guide and do not require firmware modifications or other changes as they presumably all use PCIe NVMe SSDs (like the Samsung PM951 and newer)
  • This guide has been successfully tested with a 13” MacBook Pro Late-2013 and an 11” MacBook Air Mid-2013
  • That guide on MacRumors is really useful. I recently upgraded a 2014 MBPr board using most of its instructions, and it still works. Changes made: 1. No need for kapton tape. 2. I used a Sintech ST-NGFF2013-B. 3. I didn't turn off hibernation with pmset, I didn't buy a CH341A programmer either. I just looked up the MBP112 and MBP114 firmwares, transplanted the NVMe driver from MBP114 to MBP112, and flashed my Mac with /usr/libexec/efiupdater -p /path/to/EFIPayloads --force-update. Wakeup problem completely gone. – Y.H Wong Nov 4 '18 at 13:00

protected by Community Oct 10 '17 at 12:35

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