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ReadyNAS NV+, Seagate Firmware Update Take 1

If you have ever heard of Seagate (the hard drive manufacturer), then you surely know that last month they had a flurry of hard drive failures in their popular 7200.11 line of hard drives. After a couple of PR snafus, Seagate finally got their act together and issued firmware and update instructions for the affected drives. I’ve been a long time Seagate user and I have two 1TB ST31000340AS running the SD15 firmware in my ReadyNAS NV+. If you own an NV+ you can find out the model and firmware info by going to the Status->Health page on the NAS’s Frontview panel. Then click on the SMART+ button for each drive to get the info for that drive. If you don’t own a NV+, you can check out this page to see if your drives need an upgrade. According to Seagate my drives were due for an update.

It is Sunday morning and the family is away. The dog is fed, I’ve had my morning cup of tea. What’s a geek to do to pass the time before something good comes on TV? Any self respecting geek would/should be going back to bed right about now. However, I happen to be the dad of an active 18 month old toddler (what 18 month old isn’t active??) so the idea of sleeping in or going back to sleep at any point before afternoon nap time has been obliterated from my being. Even when the toddler is 2000km away, there still is no sleeping at this hour. Given that, the next course of action is to update some firmware. Naturally. Come on… you know you thought it too.

The first thing to do was to get one (and only one) of the drives out of the NAS. Since the NV+ is hot-swappable, I didn’t have to turn it off. This is good since apparently the issues with the Seagate drives occur on boot-up and I didn’t want to power down both drives at the same time in case neither came back. Although the NV+ complains (as it should), it does stay on and available. Pulling out one of the drives does risk losing everything if another drive fails. If you know nothing else about RAID, know that it can’t survive losing two drives.

Next problem. I’m a Mac head. I don’t own a modern PC. That means none of the PCs I have laying around have an on-board SATA controller. Fortunately for me I had a Masscool High Speed PCI Controller Card in my parts box that I picked up a couple months back to recover a friend’s data off a failing SATA drive. The card worked in Linux and Windows and the Seagate firmware update README said:

Use a standard desktop PC with an integrated SATA controller, or a common SATA add-in controller like a Promise SATA150-TX2.

All indications were that the card should work. But, as is evident by the existence of this post, after hooking up the drive to the controller and power and turning on the machine, the Seagate FreeDOS upgrader failed to detect the drive. You see, what the README should have said was:

Use a standard desktop PC with an integrated SATA controller, or a common SATA add-in controller like a Promise SATA150-TX2. Actually you can only use a Promise SATA150-TX2, maybe. We haven’t bothered testing the firmware upgrade on any other add-in controller card so who knows if it will work. It may not even work on the one we said. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited. Must be legal drinking age. Not valid in Quebec.

Since I had nothing else to do, I called up Seagate support to see if there was a list of supported controller cards that would work with the firmware. Turns out, there isn’t. The support agent was nice but didn’t have the answer I was looking for. Basically, the information in the README file is it. And obviously the language there is a bit misleading. So, I’m outta luck for now. I put the drive back in the NV+ and the drive powered up fine and is now re-initializing into the RAID array. No harm, no foul, but no firmware upgrade either. I’ll have to think about what to do next. I’d rather not buy a whole new mobo just to upgrade these hard drives, but it appears a mobo with SATA connectors is pretty much the way to go. I’ll have to think on this.

In the mean time, time for a fresh Debian install. Lenny (Debian 5.0.0) was released last night and I’m already behind.


  1. wrote:

    This may be too late to help you, although it may help someone else out there.

    I had similar problems to you, in that I had no PC with a SATA controller available. I have lots of PCs, but most are in use. The one spare unit I had didn’t have SATA, and the Seagate firmware update utility refused to recognize my ST31000340AS drive using the PCI SATA adapter I had available.

    After some debate, I went to the local computer shop and bought a “generic” plug-in SATA to IDE adapter. It’s a small circuit board the plugs directly into the SATA drive and provides an IDE header, which allowed me to plug the SATA drive into the mainboard IDE controller.

    Believe it or not, it actually worked. The firmware utility recognized the drive and (as far as I can tell) the firmware update worked fine.

    This is good news for me, as I have no less than ten of these drives – six running inside a RAID 6 server, and four loose drives that were due to be installed into that same server (for a total of 8 Tb). Now, at least, I can upgrade the drives, even though I may have to wait 24 hours or so for each rebuild of the array.

    Just a word of warning: if you are running these drives in a RAID array, do not re-flash them all at once! There is a good chance that reflashing the drive will “disconnect” it (so to speak) from the array. If you do them all at once, you may have just destroyed your RAID array logical organization – and, consequently, all the data on it. If your array is virgin, this is OK, but if not you are best advised to upgrade the drives one at a time, and let the array re-build with the new unit before upgrading the next unit.

    Specifications for the adapter I used can be found at:

    Hope this helps,

    Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink
  2. wrote:

    Nope, not too late to help me. I haven’t had time to research a new solution, but this sounds like a good option. Memory Express carries this item (link) for those of you in Winnipeg, Calgary or Edmonton.

    Good advice re: flashing RAID drives one at a time. I was planning on doing it like that for sure.

    Thanks for the help.

    Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  3. wrote:

    My seagate external drive will not work after short time. All my photos were stored the re now what do I do?

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Permalink
  4. wrote:

    Contact Seagate support. If this is due to the firmware issue they should help you recover your data.

    Friday, March 27, 2009 at 2:07 am | Permalink
  5. wrote:

    An update – mostly because I hate people who don’t post updates. 😉

    I successfully upgraded my RAID6 array without any difficulties. With the ST31000340AS drives, and the 3ware 9650SE-16ML RAID controller card, the drive firmware update did *not* cause the drive to “forget” it was part of the array. I could theoretically have upgraded all the drives at once and it would have been OK.

    I did not do this, however, because I didn’t have to. What I did do was install four upgraded drives as hot spares first. I then removed the live drives one at a time for upgrade. I also verified the array after every drive upgrade, just to be sure.

    Still, the process did work well – if a little time-consuming, at one drive per day.

    Oddly enough, however, one of my upgraded drives failed shortly afterwards – and not due to a power cycle, either. Strange, as this array was running for over 450 days straight without any problems, and power cycling the array to R&R drives did not cause any problems at the time. Perhaps the problem drive was simply due to give out?

    I will probably be testing the Seagate warranty program as a result of this, as none of these drives are anywhere near 5 years old yet. One of my hot spares stepped in, and the array was rebuilt before I even knew there was a problem, so no worries on that point.

    Hope this helps someone.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  6. wrote:

    Thanks for the update. As I posted last month, I bought the adapter you suggested in your original comment and the drives were successfully updated.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink