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Add M.2 connector to laptop motherboard?

I’ve bought several faulty Geo Flex 11.6" laptops for cheap with the intention of cobbling together the parts into working machines.

They all come with a 32GB onboard eMMC, but during my tinkering I couldn’t help but notice their unpopulated SATA B-Key m.2 connector.

From a usefulness standpoint their limited storage (which isn’t particularly quick either) is their biggest weakness, so adding a 128GB/256GB SATA m.2 is quite a desirable upgrade.

Now soldering isn’t my forte, especially a connector with such small pins.
However, assuming I can overcome that obstacle, what are people’s opinions on the likelihood of this to succeed?

The BIOS knows the SATA interface exists, and reports it as unpopulated, so I’m hopeful that there won’t be any problems from the firmware side of things.
There are also a number of other laptops from the same manufacturer, with similar specs, that I know to come with the m.2 connector present & functional. (Geobook 3/3x for example)

My primary concern, is that there are going to be missing surface mount components related to the m.2 port, and without the motherboard schematics, I’m going to be working blind.
There certainly seem to be several empty resistor & capacitor sized solder pads in the area of the socket:

Top:


Bottom:

Has anyone attempted something similar?

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Over at notebook review forums it’s been done before with mSata ports back in the day. I remember a fellow user “triturbo” figured out where to buy the the mSata ports AND important part, figured out what resistors and capacitors were need for the specific mother board!

I’d probably ask around on notebook review forums to be honest, those guys especially the old school members are crazy and knowledgeable it’s probably the ONLY forum in the entire world with that knowledge except maybe two other forums

I think like you they found another model from the OEM and measured put the resistors and caps and just got some of what ever those were

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If you get a decent iron and a buttload of flux you can do it!

From the pics it looks like a couple of bypass caps and some resistors. You will need a fine tip and some tweezers.

Edit: that’s mSATA not m.2. See Mini-SATA (mSATA) connector pinout diagram @ pinoutguide.com

Edit 2: mSATA is just regular sata in a different form facot, you can probably measure the approximate resistor values on another sata comtroller.

I’m quite certain it’s m.2;

  • 21mm gap between the circuit board edges that flank the connector. mSATA would be closer to 30mm.
  • 6(+5) pins on the keyed section (righthand side), making it m.2 B-key.
  • 28(+28) pins on the main section.
  • 4(+4) pins lost to keying.
    6+5+28+28+4+4 = 75 pins; the correct number for m.2.

The only anomaly in this layout, is that the connector solders to the underside of the motherboard.
This in turn means the top face of any m.2 card (typically where the flash & controller sit) will be facing upwards, towards the laptop’s keyboard. This can make it a tight squeeze getting most cards to fit.

While this arrangement is atypical, it’s consistent with the manufacturer’s other laptops (Geobook 3/3x for example).
It’s something I may be able to compensate for when soldering on the connector; I’ll have to see how it looks at the time.

I’ll update if/when I succeed/break something =D

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That kind of laptop mods have also been done with Dell Inspiron 11 models which were sold with eMMC or SATA storage yet used the same motherboard, if I recall someone did a similar mod of re-adding the SATA connector which required a few small changes of resistors.
The only hardware risk is the BIOS may still default to eMMC boot.

I’m apparently gone blind! I only counted the lower smd traces which is around half of the pins.

Get a spare connector and try it out. If you need practice you can get a bunch of pcbs made with the footprint and go nuts.

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I’ve yet to find anyone selling m.2 connectors that have their underside pins going perpendicular to the connector (i.e. into the board on which it’s mounted).

Usually the underside pins are arranged parallel to the connector, going forwards (beneath where the m.2 card will sit); in opposition to the topside pins that are conventional tails.

Any idea if there’s a specific name for such a connector?
Or have I horribly misunderstood something, and am looking for something that doesn’t exist?

:edit:

ah! I think I’ve found the connector type that I’m after.
Kyocera call it “M.2 Connector M1.8 Type”
The pins aren’t perpendicular to the connector, but they don’t go forwards of the connector either. They sort of tuck in underneath.

How on Earth is such a connector soldered? 0_o
Through the board? is that why the pads for those pins are holed out?

Maybe you need to bend them? But that seems unlikely when it’s 0.5mm pitch.

Edit: I found a post on lenovo forums with a PCB that looks a lot like the one on your picture: Adding a M.2 edge connector-English Community

Edit 2: It seems to be this connector: https://www.digikey.com/en/products/detail/jae-electronics/SM3ZS067B120AB2R1500/4880004

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go the rossmann way and remove one from a dead mobo you’d need wick and a hot air station likely.