Laptop to NGFF to TB3 (in that order)
I have a bit of an interesting setup that I am looking to see if it's possible to build. I have a laptop that it does not have TB3 capabilities, but would like to be able to get it to connect to a TB3 setup. I was thinking if it would be possible to connect an M.2 (NGFF) to PCIe riser, and connect a TB3 card to the riser. Kind of creating a "Thunderbolt" adapter of sorts for the laptop.
If this can work, I am thinking that I would attempt to create some sort of "3d printed enclosure" for this setup, and retrofitting somewhat of an external connector for the laptop itself.
Do you think this can be done? If so, what parts would you recommend. I was thinking of the following:
- https://www.amazon.com/Sintech-M-Key-Extention-Cable-20CMS/dp/B07DZCCGJN - Sintech M.2 NVME Extender,NGFF M-Key PCIe SSD Extention Card
- https://www.amazon.com/ADT-Link-Extender-Graphics-Adapter-PCI-Express/dp/B07YDH8KW9 - ADT-Link M.2 NGFF NVMe Key M Extender Cable to PCIE x16
- https://www.amazon.com/Gigabyte-Alpine-Thunderbolt-Components-GC-Alpine/dp/B0722SV69N - GC-Alpine Ridge
I know that this sort of setup does not allow for Power Delivery, but I'm looking to add TB3 connectivity through this setup as the primary driver for this. My main questions are:
- Would this work? I do not have that much experience fiddling with TB3 other than "plug-in-and-go".
- Would I need power for the ADT-Link? or can the M.2/NGFF port supply enough power for the Alpine card?
Note: I am aware that connecting the ADT-Link to a video card would be more practical to build, but I already have laptops that support TB3. This is mostly for educational purposes.
I have a custom eGPU enclosure that I built, and it's connected as follows:
- Macbook connects to a Thunderbolt 2 > 3 adapter
- The adapter connects to a JHL7440-based externally-powered Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station (with NGFF NVMe PCI-Ex x4 slot)
- A Riser adapter (with an extra 4-pin floppy-drive power plug) from NVMe (PCI-Ex x4) to PCI-Ex x16 connects to the Docking Station
- A PC-like power supply offers both the 6-pin 12V PCI-Ex power for the graphics card and the 12V/5V 4-pin floppy-drive power for the Riser adapter
It works flawlessly. The adapters are just expanding one of the links Thunderbolt has inside of it: PCI-Express. As long as they are well-made and everything is properly powered, it should work fine. Treat the signal links as signal only. Always prefer to power those adapters externally, so you don't have to deal with burned chips nor signal lost.
Regarding your question about creating a Thunderbolt 3 host, it's totally possible using the Gigabyte card, as long as you use an Intel processor and the motherboard has a 5-pin TB header like this, the same that is found on motherboards with Z77/H77 chipsets as shown here.
AFAIK, it won't work on laptops. Even though most laptops have at least one NGFF NVMe slot, the BIOS won't allow a route communication to an external PCI device, such as a graphics card. Click here to see a failed approach of that.
I don't know too much about that, so there may be newer solutions and I'm outdated.
@teltersat2, This person tried it:
Would I need power for the ADT-Link? or can the M.2/NGFF port supply enough power for the Alpine card?
No, the slot itself doesn't provide 12V so you'll need external power. Notice that the ADT-Link adapters have a 4-pin power plug on them for this reason.
In my case, I tapped the laptop battery directly, but I wouldn't recommend this route unless you know exactly what you're doing (my battery provides 11.1V which is "good enough" to feed the 12V rail of the card).
@teltersat2, This person tried it:
This is me, feel free to send me any questions.
@flyingfishfinger - It's great to know that you were the one who actually did this! I do have so many questions. I am actually looking at this because I got a X2100 - aware that there was no thunderbolt support, but started thinking with the idea of making it happen if it's possible. My plan is to have an external "adapter" of sorts, and use an extension cable to put into the bottom of the laptop. Once I get a complete read at your article, and with the laptop in hand will definitively attempt this!
@teltersat2: I'm glad you're interested in trying. Since you're thinking about an external adapter, you'll have fewer of the problems I did. Note that you'll still need to ensure that whichever adapter you choose, you tie the #CLKREQ pin to GND - it's not actually found on PCIe cards & the M.2 slot needs to know to provide a clock output.
@cmd8086: Sure, will this picture work? This is the card side obviously, I've updated Part II of my blog post with details about this.
@flyingfishfinger, One thing I fully understand now is that I definitively need to supply power to the TB3 card (e.g. an Alpine Ridge). Will need to do some research on how to build something slim that is easy to connect (I could repurpose a Lenovo square plug adapter for this purpose (but I know I need to convert the power that is delivered and all that) It will definitively be an interesting project for the next couple of months!