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  1. #1
    Joined
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    26

    BAD_CTX 8MB Intel 320 SSD issue

    If rumors are to be believed, there may be a firmware issue that, during a power cycle, can cause an Intel 320 SSD to convert to an inoperable 8MB BAD_CTX state. See:

    http://intel-openport.hosted.jivesof...message/128857

    Of interest to me because my new SSD is now in that state. Details follow...


    I bought one of those 3GB/s Intel 320 SSD kits (300 GB 2.5") via Amazon. Like this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Intel-2-5-Inch.../dp/B004T0DNPG

    The idea was to do the laziest possible HDD to SSD conversion on my Vaio notebook. I had a 320 GB drive in my Vaio and had accumulated quite a bit of stuff on it. I could probably have purged most of it and dropped down to a 120 or 240 GB SSD. But I was really serious about that "laziest possible" comment.

    Anyway, after hearing what Allyn had to say about the 320 series on a PCper podcast, I went to Amazon and placed my advanced order. I waited a couple of months, I think. So long that Amazon was telling me that if it took much longer to fill they would cancel the order. Meanwhile the price tag had climbed from the low $500's to the mid $600's. But I was locked in at the lower price. So I had that going for me...

    Then, Amazon shipped the drive. The kit was really nice. I had this kewl SATA to dual USB adapter that let you write an image of your current drive onto the SSD using some Acronis software you could download from Intel's site. Free if being used on Intel SSDs.

    I do that, swap the drives. And, after fiddling with the wacky micro-SATA ribbon cable that came loose during the swap, got the notebook to boot without further incident. Pretty smooth. Then, the power of an SSD available to me, I did the Vista to Win7 upgrade I'd been putting off for a year or so. That also went reasonably smooth.

    Now, cut to a few weeks in the future. I am on the notebook when it freezes. Had to power cycle it to get any response. Upon power cycling I got a "No OS found" message. At first I was not concerned. I thought it was the micro-SATA connection that came loose. No such luck. The notebook would boot Ubuntu from a USB and Win Vista from the old HDD.

    My SSD had turned into a BAD_CTX 8MB zombie. Now I can:

    (1) Return drive to Amazon for refund. Replacement not available, only refund in this case.

    (2) Wait a few days for the 1 month Vendor responsibility period to end and RMA the drive back to Intel. A little less flexibility here, but cheaper if I want the same drive.

    (3) Try HDDerase 3.3 ala:

    http://www.iishacks.com/2009/06/30/h...ate-drive-ssd/

    Said to usually return the drive from its zombie 8MB BAD_CTX state to its normal (empty) factory state.

    Which would you choose and why?

    --
    Phillip

  2. #2
    Joined
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    26

    Re: BAD_CTX 8MB Intel 320 SSD issue

    Who am I kidding? Of course I chose the hdderase option. The consensus of people posting on the internets is that it works. Worked in my case as well. At least to a first approximation. The drive reads 300 GB or so again.

    Here is the prep process I used in 3 steps:

    (1)
    Got the right version of hdderase (3.3)
    http://www.iishacks.com/2009/06/30/h...ate-drive-ssd/

    (2)
    This is a dos program, so I created a bootable dos usb key drive using one of the innumerable methods. This is the one I chose:

    http://www.biosflash.com/e/bios-boot-usb-stick.htm

    (3) Extracted the files from the zip archive obtained in step 1 to the USB stick.

    Then for the actual erase:

    (A) I shut down the computer to be used for the erase.

    (B) I attached the drive into a SATA port on the computer. I used the top port on my main disk controller (ICH)

    (C) I unplugged all the other SATA drives to avoid mishaps. (But don't bother if you are not into risk mitigation.)

    (D) I plugged in the bootable USB thumb drive containing HDDERASE.

    (D) I powered up the computer but hit the right key during POST to enter BIOS set-up. Switched the controller over to IDE (from AHCI). Save/exit.

    (E) DOS screen just comes up. But my USB keyboard does not function. I have not seen this issue addressed, but it frequently happens to me. Sometimes USB keyboards don't seem to work and I have to dig up a PS2 keyboard. So I did. No reboot necessary at least.

    (F) I typed "HDDERASE" at the prompt and hit enter. Gave the obvious answers to a few irritating warning and legal screens.

    I got a list of 4 ports, all of the EMPTY. Exited HDDERASE and reattached the SATA port on the drive again. Started HDDERASE. (Repeated a couple of times until ...) Drive magically is there. I choose the SSD for erasure, endure a few more screens warning me that should I continue my life will likely be taking a change for the worse in the very near future, but it will be entirely my fault, not the fault of some hapless programmer who never could have guessed the crazy purpose to which I would put his innocent program. (Or maybe that did not happen and I am now sublimating the irritation I felt reading the earlier warning screens.)

    Anyway, it threatens that it will take >20 minutes, but only a couple elapse before it declares the erase a success.

    (G) I exit the program, shut the computer down, reinstall my normal drives, remove the USB key and power the computer up. I change my BIOS back to AHCI for the ICH controller, save/exit and my Win7 box boots as normal.

    My erased drive is visible in the Win 7 Disk management utility and is now around 300GB, rather than 8MB.

    Now I have to decide whether to swap it back into my notebook now or wait until that firmware update is release the end of July. Well, if the rumor is true...

    --
    Phillip

  3. #3
    Joined
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    2

    Re: BAD_CTX 8MB Intel 320 SSD issue

    Thanks for the post. I'm having the same problem with my new 320 120GB. Gigabyte motherboard is faulty and doing this boot cycling thing, and it subsequently fried the SSD (boot drive at the time).

    I followed your instructions and I am ALMOST there. I start hdderase but it's a bit different. I get the 2-3 warning screens right at the beginning, and then finally to an intro screen with: "WELCOME TO SECURE ERASE FREEWARE: COMPLETELY ERASE YOUR HARD DISK DRIVE Version 3.3" at the top. And just a blinking cursor below it. No keystrokes work at that point. Never see a list of ports or drives or anything. So you're saying you see a list at the beginning of hdderase?

  4. #4
    Joined
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    2

    Re: BAD_CTX 8MB Intel 320 SSD issue

    Got it to work! I just had to change one more BIOS setting, some drive thing from "Native" to whatever. It's always something. Anyway, the drive is now showing up in BIOS as 120GB instead of the dreaded 8MB.

    Now I just have to decide if I'm really going to keep it or not. This is for a new build and I have a working system, so I'm not in a HUGE rush to use it. I may just install Win7 and mess around with it a bit, wait a few weeks and see if Intel says anything...

  5. #5
    Joined
    Jan 2009
    Posts
    65

    Re: BAD_CTX 8MB Intel 320 SSD issue

    Fellas:

    http://www.pcper.com/news/Storage/In...ix-coming-soon

    Intel has been investigating the ‘Bad Context 13x Error’ as seen on select Intel® SSD 320 Series drives. This was previously noted in the Intel community post as “SSD Power Loss”. To summarize the error: In certain circumstances, after an unexpected power loss, a small percentage of SSDs may experience this error on the next attempt to boot the system. In this situation, the system’s BIOS reports an SSD as an 8MB capacity drive.

    Intel has reproduced ‘Bad Context 13x Error’ utilizing strenuous testing methods. This ‘Bad Context 13x Error’ can be addressed via a firmware update and Intel is in the process of validating the firmware update. A future update will define the schedule to deliver the firmware fix.

    The Intel SSD 320 Series continues to be shipped and is available for purchase. If you experience this error with your Intel SSD, please contact your Intel representative or Intel customer support (via web: www.intel.com or phone: www.intel.com/p/en_US/support/contact/phone) .

    For those with Intel SSD 320 series SSDs who are concerned but currently unaffected, Intel advises the following actions:
    • As with any storage device, backup your data regularly
    • When shutting down your system, follow your system’s standard shutdown process
    • Minimize unplugging the SSD while your system is powered

    Intel takes these issues seriously. Please watch for further updates on this site.
    Allyn Malventano, CTNC, USN
    PCPer Storage Editor

  6. #6
    Joined
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    26

    Re: BAD_CTX 8MB Intel 320 SSD issue

    Hi Allyn,
    Thanks for that information. The update is available now:

    http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Deta...&DwnldID=18363

    Regards,
    Phillip
    PS Hilarious. I was listening to the PCPer Podcast as I wrote this. After submitting, you mention on the podcast that the firmware update is available.
    Last edited by pmiguel; 08-26-2011 at 08:21 PM.

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