So I recently purchased the ASRock X99 Extreme4 motherboard ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157543 ) and I have been reading through the instruction manual. In the manual it lists "M.2 SSD (NGFF) Module support list", under the list there is only one entry for Samsung SSDs and it reads

Samsung XP941-512G (MZHPU512HCGL)

I also managed to find a supported devices list for the Extreme4 on their website ( http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/X99%20Extreme4/?cat=Storage ). On it, it lists 3 Samsung modules

Samsung 256GB PCIe3 x4 2280 SM951 (MZHPV256HDGL)

Samsung 512GB PCIe3 x4 2280 SM951 (MZHPV512HDGL)

Samsung 512GB PCIe x4 2280 XP941-512G (MZHPU512HCGL)

The issue I am facing is that I also purchased a Samsung 950 Pro ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147467 ) which does not seem to be on the list of supported devices.

From what I understand M.2 is just a protocol. If two pieces of hardware support M.2 then they should be compatible. Is the manufacturer just bragging that it can support "all these devices" or is there some reason they might have to implement specific software for each devices?

EDIT: I have some more information. After finally booting up and entering the BIOS I can see the Samsung as a possible boot option. Though under the "Advanced -> Storage Options" there is an entry "M.2 Ultra" which reads "No device installed". Further more when booting into the Windows 7 setup I can only view my HDDs, the Samsung drive is not in the list of drives to install the OS to.

EDIT: I might have found a solution. Though I don't have time just now to try it out.

The rep from microcenter that helped me get all my parts responded to me and confirmed my suspicions that Win7 does not have an NVMe driver by default. I did find a link to the Samsung 950 Pro NVMe driver on their website (4th one down http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/mi... ) but this is a windows installer, I really needed the driver files themselves. The rep managed to find a download for the files themselves and linked me ( https://mega.nz/#!IJcSDIIB!xdxM-atprqjeTTN6ZxSfyh2dJZXVSi5GsJeIy3iVNk4 ).

So tonight I am going to try to use this driver within the Win7 setup which should be able to identify the SSD. Along with the partial solution ( http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/186875-uefi-unifie... ) I should be able to install Win7 on the SSD.

As far as the Extreme4 not recognizing the device in the M.2 port. After watching this youtube video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=No-ct8pQcIg ) I think it should recognize it after the install. Around the 2:08 mark the speaker says "You'll now notice that the windows boot manager recognizes your AHCI M.2". I hope this means that the motherboard should recognize it, though I am not sure how the windows boot manager and the motherboard interact.

I will post later, hopefully, with a successful install!

  • 2
    Actually, M.2 is a form factor. It defines a PCIe (and SATA/USB) connector. It’s not a protocol. If anything, this is about AHCI vs NVMe. – Daniel B Nov 23 '15 at 23:01
  • This is what I have found after further research. I ended up reading through the wikipedia entry for M.2, PCIe, SATA, AHCI, etc. – KDecker Nov 23 '15 at 23:04

All modules listed on ASRock’s page have AHCI controllers. That’s because initially, this board did not support booting natively from NVMe drives. According to the firmware changelogs, this support has been added and refined in versions 1.80 and 1.90. So if you aren’t running these versions yet, update first.

Next, some reports on an Intel PCIe SSD say that NVMe booting will only work in UEFI mode (means minor extra hoops with Windows 7) and native supports (means no Windows 7 except perhaps with this hotfix slipstreamed). IMHO Windows 8.1 is vastly superior anyway, so go with that if possible.

  • Could you link me to the new firmware, or the source of that information so I can read some more? Also, what do you mean by "native supports"? Windows 7 is almost the only option for me. I really dislike any version higher than 7 or XP... – KDecker Nov 23 '15 at 23:33
  • It’s all on ASRock’s page, in the download section. They still call it BIOS, though. It can probably update itself though. // You really need to face the facts. Windows 7 mainstream support has ended almost a year ago, meaning you’ll receive only security updates. Native support means Setup will complain the drive isn’t bootable. – Daniel B Nov 24 '15 at 18:24
  • Ahh, I found them. I did a flash at lunch today to the most current version but the drive still does not show in the M.2 slot. I contacted them, so well see what they have to say. // I haven't given up hope just yet. But the more I get into this it seems it is the only option. – KDecker Nov 24 '15 at 18:44

There are a couple possible reasons:

  • The motherboard manufacturer has tested these devices and guarantee that they will work.

    This is quite common with RAM - you'll have specific brands/models listed as compatible even though just about any RAM supporting a common JEDEC standard would work. It's also possible that they're paid by specific RAM manufacturers to list their brand, even without technical restrictions preventing others.

    Newer hardware might not have been available at the time this compatibility testing was performed. IIRC the 950 Pro is relatively new.

    These compatibility lists are almost never exhaustive.

  • The motherboard manufacturer has implemented a whitelist and only those specific ones will work.

    I've not heard of this happening with desktop hardware, but it is somewhat common on laptops. Often you'll have a whitelist on the mPCIe slot to only work with specific Wi-Fi modules.

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