Intel Plans to Issue Bug Fix for SSD 320 Drives

The drives were messing up storage capacity metrics due to a bug which caused a PC's BIOS to see those SSDs as providing a mere 8MB of capacity instead of up to 600GB.

Software bug and security fixes are released all the time from top-tier companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and others, but it's relatively rare when such a notice emanates from Intel.

The world's largest chipmaker on Aug. 15 wrapped a firmware fix for its solid-state 320 model drives that eradicates a problem involving storage. The affected drives were messing up storage capacity metrics due to a bug which caused a PC's BIOS to see those SSDs as providing a mere 8MB of capacity instead of up to 600GB.

Intel said the fix would become available at the end of the month.

In a make-good effort, Intel offered to replace these faulty SSDs -- the whole drive, not just the firmware -- according to user preference. However, Intel said, data will not likely be recoverable from the replaced SSDs.

Intel has been investigating the "Bad Context 13x Error" as seen on select units of 320 series solid-state drives for months. The bug was previously noted in the Intel community post as an "SSD Power Loss." Intel summarized the error by explaining 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 basic input/output system (BIOS) reports an SSD as an 8MB capacity drive.

A few months ago, users reported problems in which a power loss caused Intel's SSD 320 drives to crash and lose data in some instances. On rebooting the system, the system BIOS reported the SSD as having only 8MB of storage capacity. Intel in late July acknowledged the bug, saying the problem had been isolated and that a firmware upgrade to fix the problem was on its way, though it did not provide a release date.

"The new firmware update is in final validation testing and is targeted for release on Intel Communities within the next two weeks. Intel takes firmware updates and issues of reliability very seriously and is taking extra steps to support a smooth release," an Intel spokeswoman said in a statement Aug. 15.

The pending firmware can be installed without a secure erase of the drive, though no lost data will be recovered, the company said.

The 320 series SSDs were released in March and are being used in both PCs and Apple MacOs computers.
Based on its 25nm NAND flash memory, the Intel SSD 320 replaces and builds on its X25-M Serial ATA SSD. The series offers 40-, 80-, 120-, 160GB plus higher-capacity 300- and 600GB options with enhanced security features for desktop/notebook PCs or server data center storage. In this rendition, Intel used spare area to deploy added redundancies that are designed to help keep user data protected, even in the event of a power loss. It also includes 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard capabilities on every drive, to help protect personal data in the event of theft or loss.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...