Computer Unresponsive - Crucial m4 SSD is the Culprit

Joe WinogradDeveloper
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As hardware bugs go, this is a weird 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. This article describes an extremely strange problem that occurred with the SSD — and how to correct the problem.
The Crucial m4 512GB SSD (part number CT512M4SSD2) 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 (copied here under "Fair Use"):

----- Begin Crucial note (link below is now broken...see later in article for current one) -----
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 Crucial note -----

"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 have since been other releases of a firmware update for the Crucial m4 SSD, the latest of which may be downloaded from:

https://www.crucial.com/support/ssd-support/m4-25-inch-support

The firmware update fixes 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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Joe WinogradDeveloper
CERTIFIED EXPERT
50+ years in computers
Development•Sales
CIO•Document Imaging
EE — FELLOW 2017
MVE 2015,2016,2018
RENOWNED 2018,2019
CERTIFIED GOLD 2020

Comments (4)

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)
Joe WinogradDeveloper
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Commented:
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
Alan HardistyCo-Owner
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Commented:
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
Joe WinogradDeveloper
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Commented:
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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