Intel to issue bug fix for SSD 320 drives in two weeks

The firmware upgrade will fix a bug that causes SSD 320 drives to crash

Intel on Monday said it will issue a firmware upgrade within two weeks to fix a bug that causes its SSD 320 solid-state drives to fail, which should resolve months of criticism of the company's slow response to the problem.

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 Monday.

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

Intel was criticized in its forums by frustrated users who complained that the company was slow to address the problem. Intel said the bug affects a small number of users and asked affected owners to contact customer service until the firmware was issued. Intel was previously issuing replacement drives to customers who experienced the error, which has come to be known as the "Bad Context 13x Error."

"Intel has reproduced 'Bad Context 13x Error' utilizing strenuous testing methods. This can be addressed via a firmware update and Intel is in the process of validating the firmware update. A future update will define the schedule to deliver the firmware fix," Intel said.

To avoid the error, Intel is asking users to follow standard shutdown procedures and to avoid unplugging of SSDs on powered computers. The company is also asking users to back up data regularly.

Intel said that users could conduct a secure erase of the SSD using the SSD Toolbox to make an affected drive operational, although naturally that course would wipe out data on the drive. The SSD Toolbox software monitors and manages the performance and health of Intel SSDs.

The SSD 320 was released in March and is being used in both PCs and Apple Mac computers. The drive, which has received positive reviews, is offered with capacity ranging from 40GB to 600GB.

Intel has had past issues with SSDs. In 2009 the company pulled a firmware upgrade for its X25-M consumer SSDs just a day after users complained about the software crashing drives.

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