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Apple MacBook Pro firmware fritzes third-party HDDs

Fast Sata drives fail post patch

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Apple's firmware upgrade, which restores the 3Gb/s Sata link speed to MacBook Pros, has also caused some 'unauthorised' hard drives to fail.

An Apple Discussion board thread has 65 comments about the issue, which may occur when the Apple-shipped drive in the MacBook Pro is replaced with a third-party drive and the fast Sata firmware upgrade is applied.

One poster, Ian Burrell, first noticed the issue with a WD Scorpio Blue drive. His MacBook Pro froze randomly and he suggested that there were intermittent data errors. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no way to revert to the previous firmware and so recover from the problem.

A poster called Whaleface, with a WD SCorpio Black, wrote: "No disk access can happen at all for 20-30 seconds, then usage spikes, then no disk access at all."

Another poster found his Intel X25-M solid-state drive worked before the update but not afterwards. Andrew Myers wrote: "I would like to add that I'm experiencing the same thing as the above users. I am using the Intel x25-M. This is terrible, the laptop is near-unusable."

Some users report their Sata II drives work fine after the update. Others say they are having problems with stock Apple drives. One poster reverted to a 1.5Gb/s Sata drive and the problem went away.

Apple Store contacts are variously reported as saying that the company warrants its software - and firmware - to work with Apple-shipped drives, which happen to be 1.5Gb/s Sata units in the MacBook Pro, but not with uncertified and retro-fitted drives, such as many of those listed above.

Poster jlamarp wrote that Apple Technical Support told him: "Apple is not responsible for maintaining compatibility with third-party aftermarket hardware with their firmware updates."

Indeed, the blurb accompanying the recent Firmware 1.7 release says: "While this update allows drives to use transfer rates greater than 1.5Gb/s, Apple has not qualified or offered these drives for Mac notebooks and their use is unsupported."

Apparently, Apple "Geniuses" at Apple retail stores may be able to roll back the firmware upgrade if there was a problem during the upgrade itself, but not otherwise. Apple was not immediately able to comment directly on the issue. ®

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