Lets Build – SSD And It’s Elusive Firmware

I did it, you will be pleased to know – but how? The next few blog posts in the “We Must Rebuild” story will be about how I built the new beast and the problems I encountered along the way – so that if you are looking at building your own computer, maybe you won’t be as scared as you see it is possible. I tried to take many photos as I built so that, for example, if you were looking at buying an OCZ 600w PSU like mine, you know and can see exactly what comes in the box, and it may help you make a more informed decision for if you want to go for that exact product, or something a bit different.

Tuesday

Today the case came! Hoorah! It was the right case, it wasn’t damaged, and all the bits came with it – all of which I was fearing. In the morning I had already got up to update the SSD firmware and maybe start getting the board ready for when the case arrived. However, I didn’t count on the SSD update being so fiddly.

SSD Problems

On the OCZ site, it tells you to download this little program (OCZ Toolbox), that will detect the drive and update its firmware. Bingo, I thought. No. I plugged in the SSD to a SATA port (had to unplug my data drive (not OS!)), so I could still boot my normal Windows – (you can’t update the drive you are booting off this way, incidently). I ran the ToolBox, and it did not detect the drive… problem #1. A short time later, I found that my board had to be set in AHCI mode. A long time later, I eventually came to the conclusion that my board did not HAVE a AHCI mode :(, and thus that option was out of the window. The other option from OCZ is a “linux-based” firmware updater tool, however this is not a little bootable image or anything – its like a linux program that you untar and run. Okay fair enough, so I booted my virtual Super Ubuntu in VMWare Player. Gave it full access to the OCZ SSD, and downloaded the file and decompressed it. I wasn’t quite sure what the device was called (should have looked in the linux version of my computer – hover over it and it tells you – mine was sdb1 I think). Even using the commands off the guide, and other ones I found on the internet, still no luck. I don’t have ubuntu installed on my PC – and I could not use my netbook as you can’t use a USB to SATA adapter… problems #2 and 3.

Solution? I remembered I had an installation of BackTrack 3 (UNIX) on a flash drive, and booted my pc up with that. Perfect – it recognised the SSD, could use the little OCZ program, but.. problem #4 – you need internet. Where I currently live, there is no wired LAN – we use wireless, and I did not have the driver (for linux) for my new TP link wireless adapter. After some rooting around, I found a pair of Belkin adapters that I had bought for use with BackTrack3 (investigating WEP network security). Popped one in, then the other (first one was dead – but I think windows likes it) and it worked! I could see networks – so I hit our home network and connect… could not connect.

Problem #5 – MAC address controlling. Our wireless router lets computers connect by registering their MAC address first within the router, and as I was using a different wireless adapter – it’s MAC address was different and could not connect. Just register it, you say? Problem #6 – the router belongs to one of my housemates, and despite asking him countless times to tell us the password for it, he still wont. So we have to ask him to register new things, and he will only do that if he wants to… So again, lets think outside the box – need another way to access the internet – BTFON! If you have a BT homehub and broadband, you can subscribe to BTFON and BTOpenzone. These services allow other BT users to connect through the Openzone or FON network that is now emitted by your router, and in return you can connect to other FON or Openzone spots. As we have BT total broadband at home, bingo – logged onto the FON spot (with the poor ancient Firefox browser in BackTrack3 that didn’t know what JavaScript was… which was an issue).

So after all that, I used my old PC, running BackTrack3, with a compatible wireless adapter, on a BTFON network. Once I had eventually tempted the FON to actually connect and work (JavaScript issues), I ran the command again (fwupd /dev/sdb1) and it connected to the internet, downloaded the latest firmware (2.15) from 2.13 I believe. Finally, SSD firmware updated and ready. At some point, I think when I was in Windows – I formatted it to NTFS, but that was earlier – I know this because when I tried to boot Windows again, it kept hanging on the loading screen.. I had somehow managed to break both of my 1tb HDDs.. probably by trying to give them some OCZ firmware.. That put my main PC out of service for the rest of the build. Eventually fixed it by letting it CHKDSK /r from a Windows repair disk  that it made a while ago (took about 4 hours).

Recommendations: Check whether your board has AHCI. Be competent with Linux if not. And unplug any non-vital hard drives! Also back up :) Always backup.

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