Upgrade your Raspberry Pi 4 with a NVMe boot drive

Alex Ellis
6 min readNov 20, 2020

You can upgrade the storage in your Raspberry Pi 4 with an NVMe drive. These drives usually plug into a PCIe lane which gives them a potential throughput of over 3000Mbps for read and write access.

Yes I can hear you shouting already from Hacker News, Twitter and Reddit, so before we get into the tutorial, let’s start off with a disclaimer:

The Raspberry Pi 4 itself will not be able to achieve its full potential with the NVMe drive, but it will have two advantages over your SD card — reliability and sheer speed. Buying an NVMe and its associated adapter isn’t much more expensive than a SATA SSD, but is quicker and more useful if you need to repurpose it later on. The the CM4 also has a PCIe lane, meaning you can connect an NVMe to it.

We will also cover UAS and TRIM support in the addendum.

If you have an external USB SSD or SATA M2 drive you can also follow this tutorial.

Parts list:

  • Raspberry Pi 4–in my case I’m using a model with 8GB RAM
  • Official power supply
  • SD card — 16-32GB should do
  • SD card writer
  • USB NVMe adapter — make sure that you get a USB3 model, otherwise you will be constrained to slower speeds
  • NVMe drive — with one notch. A SATA M.2 SSD drive by contrast looks almost identical, but has two notches instead of one and can achieve a slower maximum speed.

Whilst the Raspberry Pi cannot achieve full speed, a SATA SSD will perform to the tune of hundreds of MB/s instead of the thousands that can be achieved with an NVMe.

Here’s all the parts ready to be assembled

Carefully insert your NVMe drive into the caddy, and connect it to your PC to see if it shows up as expected.

The internal PCB unit is not secured, so be sure to connect the cable whilst you have it open.

The Samsung EVO 970 Plus is faster than the WD blue drive, but also worked out about 40–50 GBP more expensive. Since our RPi’s USB3 bus will limit the speeds, we don’t need to go too crazy on our spend.

Prepare the Raspberry Pi OS

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