Firmware Problems On HDDs, Where It Began

Hard disk drive faults can occur for any number of reasons, sometimes wear and tear on the mechanical parts of the drive’s internals can lead to a drive failure, in other cases electronic faults on the drive’s PCB can lead to the failure of the drive, however, even a drive that is mechanically and electronically sound can fail, often leading to confusion in determining exactly what the cause of the failure is.

Many years ago, when the data recovery industry was really starting to take off, new failure types started cropping up, drives would spin up, make sounds as if initialising, and then…?

But what could be the cause?

There is a very well known failure that appeared around the same time that data recovery companies started to appear en masse. This failure was found in a popular brand of consumer desktop hard disk drives manufactured by Fujitsu. These series all had model numbers beginning with either MPF or MPG.

Before long the following drive models started failing, like no drive had been known to before:

  • MPF3102AT
  • MPF3102AH
  • MPF3153AT
  • MPF3153AH
  • MPF3204AT
  • MPF3204AH
  • MPG3102AT
  • MPG3102AH
  • MPG3204AT
  • MPG3204AH
  • MPG3307AT
  • MPG3307AH
  • MPG3409AT
  • MPG3409AH

Once failed the Fujitsu hard disks behaved as normal, spinning, apparently initialising, but not becoming ready. Whilst common in all drives of the above series the problem was particularly common in the MPG family, especially the 40GB and 20GB models, MPG3409AH, MPG3409AT, MPG3204AT, MPG3204AH.

In order to repair these drives access to the micro-program that starts and controls the drive (the firmware) was required. Once access to the drive had been granted via the manufacturer’s own unpublished command set the task of checking each of the firmware modules began.

In most cases a temporary repair of the drive in order to extract a full clone onto a working device involved repairing certain logs in the drive’s own firmware by replacing the contents with those from a known working drive of the same firmware revision. Results were often instant and long-lasting, however, once a drive had failed once there was only a finite length of time before it would fail again.

Many years after the initial problems Fujitsu admitted that there was an issue with the hard drives blaming component manufacturers for the fault. The MPF and MPG series of drives showed excellent promise, with good performance, a low price point and good build quality they could have really cemented Fujitsu’s place in the consumer desktop hard disk drive business, as it happened though it lead to Fujitsu calling it a day on further desktop hard drives instead concentrating on notebook and Enterprise class devices.

You can read more about our Fujitsu Data Recovery Service on the main site.

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