Ruined motherboard by secure erasing an SSD

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Ruined motherboard by secure erasing an SSD

Postby madcat » Fri May 29, 2015 11:39 pm

Hello. I was attempting to perform a secure erase of an SSD disk in preparation for re-installing Windows on it. I Google searched for "linux secure erase ssd" (since it made sense to me to boot off of my Linux drive and perform the secure erase operations using Linux). I found this page:

I followed the instructions, and it turned out my SSD was in fact frozen, so I unplugged the SATA cable and then plugged it back in, while the PC was running, and it was still frozen. So I unplugged the power cable to the SSD and plugged it back in, also while the computer was running, and that gave the desired output of "not frozen". I then proceeded with the "hdparm" Linux command to secure erase the SSD. It appeared to have worked, as the output of 'fdisk -l' showed no partitions on the drive, when previously there were.

So I rebooted, inserted with Windows CD, and proceeded to install Windows on the now "fresh" SSD. Everything appeared to be going OK, until I got to the stage where it takes forever to do all the Windows updates. It kept crashing. I kept rebooting and it kept crashing. So I rebooted to Linux, which also crashed randomly. After allot of trial and error and fist pounding, I figured out that the system was unstable if any drive was plugged into any SATA port. Even when booted off an external USB disk, it eventually crashed, although it was much more stable.

I tried things including, but not limited to, resetting BIOS settings to fail safe defaults, removing CMOS battery and leaving it out for 1 hour, flashing to an older BIOS version and reflashing the latest one. $150.00 later, I have a new motherboard, transferred my CPU, RAM, etc over to the new motherboard, and everything works fine.

It could be the Linux "hdparm" command that caused the problem. The manual page does say:

Most of these are VERY DANGEROUS and can destroy all of your data!
Due to bugs in older Linux kernels, use of these commands may even
trigger kernel segfaults or worse. EXPERIMENT AT YOUR OWN RISK!

I was willing to deal with potential data loss greater than the one disk I was planning to erase, and had everything backed up. But it looks like I experienced the "or worse" part of that warning. While I suppose it is possible that this particular "hdparm" command:

Code: Select all
sudo hdparm --security-erase NULL /dev/sda

is what caused the problems, I think it is more likely I caused the damage by blinding following along with these instructions:

To do this, unplug the SATA cable from the SSD’s backport and then plug it back in, while your computer is still running.

One thing I did not think of, at the time, was that my BIOS settings had the hot plug feature set to disabled for all SATA ports. This is my best guess as to what caused the problem, but I'm not entirely certain. Which brings me to the advice I wish I had before I attempted this:

1. Never, ever, ever unplug anything connected to your motherboard while it is powered up for any reason under any circumstances. It's not worth it. Power it down completely and switch off the power supply each and every time, no matter what component is being attached or removed.

2. Do you have an older PC lying around? If so, use that one for these "VERY DANGEROUS" commands.

3. Try to find a different way to get your drive "not frozen" other than randomly unplugging and plugging back in cables while it is running. Does your SSD manufacturer have software that will accomplish this? It might be some annoying bloatware, but if you're going to re-install Windows anyway ...

4. If you must unplug / plug in a SATA drive to your motherboard while it is running, make sure the hot plug feature is enabled in your BIOS settings.

My questions are:

1. Does anybody have any other thoughts as to what might have caused the random crashes?

2. Does anybody have any suggestions about how I might revive this motherboard?

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Re: Ruined motherboard by secure erasing an SSD

Postby madcat » Sat May 30, 2015 12:28 am

Sorry ... Forgot to mention the motherboard is a ASUS Z-87 Plus and was running the latest BIOS update at the time.
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Re: Ruined motherboard by secure erasing an SSD

Postby Karlsweldt » Sat May 30, 2015 5:38 am

The BIOS is more or less "locked down" when in OS mode, after the bootstrap handover. Unless a specific program to access the BIOS is used.
When an OS is active, it is very protective of system and operating files. The proper way to redo a disk setup is to boot to an OS install disk or USB maintenance device, without the resident OS being active. Then do the Fdisk routine, killing off all partitions. Shut down with none formed, reboot and create new as needed.
Only if there is that third voltage source to a SATA drive, can it be considered as "hot-swap" or removable when powered. Data can become corrupted beyond salvage otherwise. The "locked" condition of any drive may be due to a password that prevents unauthorized access or modification on the drive. We do not provide help on that issue, due to ownership proof. Find the person or program that put such a condition on it.
During the partitioning and pre-formatting, an OS install will check for good health of sectors on a drive. Any problems found will be noted prior to doing an actual setup.
A regular mechanical hard drive may suffer physical damage, if unplugged while operating. But an SSD type should not have problems other than possibly corrupted data.
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Re: Ruined motherboard by secure erasing an SSD

Postby Mr T » Sun May 31, 2015 3:11 am

You may have partially blown the SATA controller by unplugging with the system powered on. I have found it is always best to power down with SATA unless it is ESATA and you eject it like a USB. If this is the case, try a SATA card in a PCI-e slot and disable all the onboard SATA. You shouldn't have to secure erase any hard drive unless you are selling on the system and even then, it is better to put a new drive in. I only secure erase drives to repair bad sectors etc. , but never using an operating system, I have machines to do so (which you can pick up quite cheaply now). If I did use software, Parted magic is what I would use - not free anymore - however people have experience similar issues to what you did using thuis and other software.
I have been programming on computers since the ZX81.
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