My Crucial SSD Hates Me

I got the new Sim City game, despite it’s rocky launch and the fact that you have to be online to play it, I love it. I’m a long-time Sim City fan, and the new game is beautiful… well, if you have a good video card it is. I was using onboard graphics, cuz hey, why do I need more than that for my Pocketnow work, right? So I got a relatively high-end video card.The thing barely fits in the computer — I even had to do some modding to get it in there. Everything was great. Sim City played well and was finally beautiful on my box.

I started getting hangs

Seemingly at random, my system would just stop responding. The mouse would still move, and on occasion I could still hit “save draft” and not lose my recent work — but I’d lose anything I tried to save to “disk”. The errors, combined with that little tidbit made me suspect my SSD was failing.

I pushed through, not having time to troubleshoot, saving often, and having to rejoin the podcast on more than one occasion after my session became unresponsive. Finally, something had to be done about it.

I began using my 1337 sk1llz that I picked up when I worked for the “crazy guy”.

  • I yanked the video card, since all the problems started happening right after that: same problem.
  • I removed Windows 8 and reinstalled Windows 7 clean, to make sure there were no corrupt drivers or software gremlins getting in the way: same problem.

I’ve never been so happy to get a Bluescreen of Death

Finally, with Windows 7 in place, I was starting to get “helpful” messages. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for the dreaded Bluescreen of Death as I was through this process! Finally I had error codes that I could look up. Sure enough, they pointed to something related to storage.

  • I moved the SATA cables to other ports (all three): same problem.
  • I replaced the SATA cables (all three): same problem.

A pattern started to emerge

My system would work just fine for a while, then would hang. This, obviously, slowed down the troubleshooting. I began to notice that it would run for “about an hour”, then hang.

At first I thought it might be heat related, and one fan wasn’t reliably spinning when powered from the motherboard. No problem, I just wired the channel fan to a molex connector, so now it spins all the time… and the system didn’t feel hot. Also, after a hang, I could immediately reboot and get about an hour of use again, and again. All I had to do was lose everything and reboot.

A little bit of searching…

I went to the innertubez, and guess what?! I wasn’t alone! Others were seeing the same problem: hangs and BSODs at ~1 hour after boot up.

The problem? Apparently there is “usage counter” inside the drive that tracks how long you’ve used it, in hours.

In. Hours.

Aha! It turns out that after around 5,000 hours of use, every time the drive tries to add another hour of use to the counter, it can’t. Why? I don’t know, I didn’t dig that deep. (If you did, leave a comment below.) When it can’t write the value, it panics and hangs, then BSODs.

The fix

There’s a new firmware available for the drive that “fixes” its panic attack when it tries to update the “hours used” value once it’s past the 5,000-some-odd threshold.

I downloaded that gem, ran it, and my system rebooted into a command prompt environment, then automatically flashed the firmware, and rebooted.

My system has been running for almost 24 hours now without a hang or a BSOD.

Now I just need to reinstall my video card and get back to mayoring all my Sims. I hope they haven’t missed me too much!

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