A couple of months ago, I bought one of the MicroCenter G2 SSD drives for $99.99 as it seemed like a pretty good deal on a 64GB drive. I took my chances on some of the issues reported from the SandForce-equipped drives and put it in my bedroom HTPC. I was very happy with the results and I encountered no issues…until about a week ago. My bedroom HTPC stopped resuming from S3 suspend. It would power on properly, but was completely unresponsive. At first, I didn’t know what the cause was, then I remembered that was the reported issue out of the SandForce 1200-series drives. Well, I fixed mine last night.
The SandForce 1200-series SSD controller has been plagued with resume from standby issues since it was released. So far, it appears the A-Data, OCZ, Corsair, Crucial, Patriot, etc. manufactured drives are all affected since they produce drives using this processor. The MicroCenter-branded SSD I bought is actually a re-badged A-Data S599 drive under the IPSG moniker.
At some point last week, I started experiencing the issue. Looking around the Internet, it appears systems can have different symptoms, but they all point to the SSD as being the culprit. Resuming from standby causes blue screens, unresponsive systems or just does not resume at all in some cases. Mine would power up properly, but that’s as far as it went. Video never initialized, I was unable to ping the system…dead in the water. The only way to get things going was to do a hard reset and let it boot back up.
There had been mention of a firmware upgrade fixing this issue ever since I bought the drive back in December, but since I didn’t experience anything like that, I sort of just moved along. Now that it was happening, I had to revisit what I had read and pay some attention to any progress that had been made the past couple of months. My firmware was at revision 3.1.0. I saw some links to a 3.4.6 revision on the A-Data site, but that was a dead end. I can only assume A-Data yanked that release for whatever reason. Digging further, I decided to visit the IPSG site and that’s where I found the 3.4.6 firmware available for download, with upgrade instructions in PDF format. I snatched it up and read the instructions, which seemed simple enough.
Now, the manual instructs us to run the included firmware updater with administrator privileges by using Run As, but I would just disable UAC altogether. I had a lot of trouble with this upgrade, so I would start now in avoiding any possible issues. It’s up to you…otherwise, just right click the EXE and run with admin privileges.
Once launched, the application will begin scanning for any compatible drives in your system. Notice the MicroCenter branding on the one I downloaded from IPSG. This is the same utility provided by many other manufacturers, so branding may differ.
This is where things started going south for me. The utility did not find drives for me. The SSD is installed in my bedroom system, which uses a Zotac GF9300-G-E motherboard utilizing the NVIDIA GeForce 9300 chipset. Apparently, the utility does not support this chipset. AHCI was enabled, Windows was being used…all the requirements were met. It just found no drives. Knowing I had to resolve this, I decided to toss it into another system, so I used an old one I put together for my 5 year-old son. It had a VIA P4M800 chipset and ran Windows XP. Sure enough, the drive was detected in it and I went through all the steps to download, only to fail at the very end.
At this point I was pretty discouraged and didn’t really know what else to try. My son’s system did only have an IDE drive in it, so I thought maybe it was because AHCI wasn’t enabled in the BIOS, so I decided to try one more system. This one was the kids’ playroom HTPC and it had a newer Intel 965P chipset in it. It didn’t have AHCI enabled either, but I did a little registry hacking to get it going on an already installed Windows system. First, I went to the following key in your registry (regedit will need administrator privileges on a UAC-enabled system):
From there, I double-clicked the Start REG_DWORD value to open the editor. I changed the Base to Decimal and changed the Value data: value to 0. I had a value of 3 in mine, but 4 is also common. If 0 is already there, Windows has AHCI enabled (double-check in your BIOS though). Next, I rebooted and entered the BIOS when I reached the POST screen. In the BIOS, I was looking for something similar to the image below to change my SATA Mode:
I wanted AHCI. If you are actually running a RAID array, you have to leave it alone as you won’t be able to boot. Depending on how new your chipset, running RAID will also have AHCI mode already enabled anyway, so you’ll be good. Older configurations may take some work to get things right.
After enabling AHCI in the BIOS, I saved the settings and let the system go through another reboot. Once back into Windows, it discovered a new AHCI-enabled disk and installed a new driver for it. This required yet another reboot. DON’T SKIP THAT REBOOT! After the system is up again, it was time to try the upgrade process. This time, I had success again, as my G2 series drive was found.
I checked off the found drive again and loaded the package file included with the download to allow it to load.
Once the package file loaded, I hit the Download Firmware to Selected Drive and received a warning that I should backup all of my data prior to beginning. I didn’t, but this is only an HTPC. If you have any important data stored on your drive, I would highly recommend you perform a backup also. Clicking OK, the download process began. I noticed that, compared to the failed attempts on the other system (I tried multiple times), the download process completed much quicker this time.
After the download is successful, the system rebooted automatically. The manual states that even though the reboot process is automatic, some systems require you to completely power down the system and start it back up as the SSD drive may not be detected on a reboot alone. I didn’t experience that, but I thought I would include it.
After the system rebooted and Windows loaded, I checked that the drive was still available and accessible. I then re-ran the update utility and was met with some good news…firmware upgrade was a success! The utility showed the new 3.4.6 firmware revision.
I then shut the system down, removed the drive and reinstalled it into my HTPC. After booting into Windows, I immediately tried several sleep/resume exercises and found that it resumed every time. It also resumed after an extended period of standby last night and again this morning after being in standby for roughly 6 hours. Problem solved!
One issue I have seen with this firmware release, however, is drive temperature. I can only assume it is a fluke as HD Tune reported a drive temperature of up to 85C! That’s twice as hot as my CPU and over 1.5 times as hot as the NVIDIA GPU. I’ve seen similar reports here and there on the Internet and a new firmware is rumored to be released in the next few weeks to resolve it. I can only imagine that is why A-Data yanked their firmware.
Anyway, I hope this helps many of you. If you live close to a MicrCenter store, now would be the time to check the open box bin as this is why most of these drives have been returned. Word has it they are marked down as low as $79.99. It’s an excellent deal and a pretty easy fix.