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Computer Unresponsive - Crucial m4 SSD is the Culprit

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Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
50+ yrs in computer industry. Everything from programming to sales. OS kernel dev on mainframes. CIO. Document imaging. EE MVE 2015 & 2016.
As hardware bugs go, this is a strange one! I upgraded a laptop in December 2011 with a 512GB Crucial m4 2.5-inch/9.5mm SATA Solid State Drive (SSD), Crucial part number CT512M4SSD2:
http://www.crucial.com/store/partspecs.aspx?IMODULE=CT512M4SSD2

The SSD installed perfectly in a Core i7, W7/64-bit laptop – no problems whatsoever. The laptop had awesome performance, thanks to both the upgrade to the SSD and an upgrade to 16GB of DDR3 memory.

Fast forward to the end of last month and all of a sudden the machine starts freezing/hanging. The first time it happened, I figured it was the odd glitch and simply rebooted, which seemed to fix the problem. But about an hour later, same thing! Another reboot, another seeming fix, but an hour or so later...you guessed it!

So I started looking for the problem. First thought was the 16GB RAM upgrade – could the memory be bad? So I ran Memtest86 overnight, completing almost three full passes. No errors!

Second thought was Classic Shell, which I installed because I don't like the W7 Start Menu. The problem seemed to occur when I hit the Start button, but this proved to be happenstance, as the problem did not go away after uninstalling Classic Shell.

Third thought was that I noticed a large number of Windows Updates that occurred late in the evening on the day before the problem first hit. I was just about to blame Microsoft, go back to a restore point, and declare victory. But knowing how painful restore points can sometimes be, I gave it additional thought, and decided that the SSD could be the problem. Sure enough, I found this at the Crucial support site:

----- Begin note from Crucial site -----
Re: Firmware Update Notifications Options
01-13-2012 12:29 PM
http://www.crucial.com/support/firmware.aspx

Release Date: 01/13/2012
Change Log:
Changes made in version 0002 (m4 can be updated to revision 0309 directly from either revision 0001, 0002, or 0009)

Correct a condition where an incorrect response to a SMART counter will cause the m4 drive to become unresponsive after 5184 hours of Power-on time. The drive will recover after a power cycle, however, this failure will repeat once per hour after reaching this point. The condition will allow the end user to successfully update firmware, and poses no risk to user or system data stored on the drive.

This firmware update is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED for drives in the field. Although the failure mode due to the SMART Power On Hours counter poses no risk to saved user data, the failure mode can become repetitive, and pose a nuisance to the end user. If the end user has not yet observed this failure mode, this update is required to prevent it from happening.

If you are using a SAS Expander please do not download this Firmware. As soon as we have a Firmware Update that will work in these applications we will release it.
----- End note from Crucial site -----

"5184 hours of Power-on time"?! In the immortal words of John McEnroe, you cannot be serious! Bizarre beyond belief, and at first I did not believe it. But then I did the math. I had the drive around eight months and for the most part ran the laptop 24x7. So, 8x30x24=5,760 hours – allow for a little time when it wasn't powered on and we're at the magic 5,184 figure! I could still barely believe it, but I decided to give the firmware upgrade a shot, and sure enough – the machine has been running for nearly a month, 24x7, without a single freeze. I have absolutely no doubts that this was the culprit.

By the way, I find Crucial's statement that this problem will "pose a nuisance to the end user" to be ludicrous. Having the system hang and need to be rebooted once an hour is way, way beyond "a nuisance" – it makes the computer unusable!

More math that may hit home for some folks. If you use the machine, say, just at work, Monday-Friday, for an 8-hour shift, the problem will strike you in around 2.5 years. If you just turn the machine off at night, using it, say, 16 hours for seven days a week, the problem will strike you in around a year. So even if you haven't experienced the problem yet, beware!

There has since been another release of a firmware update for the Crucial m4 SSD (Version 000f, 04-11-2012 11:47 AM), which may be downloaded from:
http://www.crucial.com/support/firmware.aspx

This is the one I installed that fixed the problem. I hope this article can save a few Experts Exchange members from pulling their hair out (as I did!) on this weird bug. If you find this article to be helpful, please click the thumbs-up icon below. This lets me know what is valuable for EE members and provides direction for future articles. Thanks very much! Regards, Joe
 
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Expert Comment

by:moodraman
We had the same problem with a couple of our Workstation Servers.  We thought it was the eSATA attached storage causing the issue.  These servers were a crucial (no pun intended) part of our Virtual Desktop infrastructure... I had worked on it for a month before I finally just requested new SSD's (and then stumbled across this)
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LVL 56

Author Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
Moodraman,
Please post back here on whether or not the firmware upgrade works for the SSDs on your servers (may not be an issue on the new ones you just requested – if they come from the factory with the firmware already updated). Thanks, Joe
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LVL 76

Expert Comment

by:Alan Hardisty
Perfect timing!  I just installed one to my laptop yesterday and wouldn't want to have to wait 8 months for the laptop to start freezing up on me (and I am sure the last thing I would suspect is a drive that had been working properly for 8 months).

Updated the firware from 000F to 010G and look forward to a fully responsive laptop for years to come.

Thanks for writing up your experience / findings.  I'm just glad I saw this tweeted today (I don't always check Twitter).

Yes vote from me.

Alan
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LVL 56

Author Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016
Alan,
Thanks for the Yes vote – much appreciated! And thanks for the heads-up on the tweet. I do have a Twitter account, but don't use it, so I would not have known about it. Regards, Joe
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