How to: Fix an unbootable Intel SSD suffering from the 8MB bug

A friend of mine was having issues booting his laptop. The BIOS recognized his SSD, an Intel SSD sa2bw120g3a, but Windows was nowhere to be found. Even bootable partition and hard drive managers showed no sign of the SSD. This got me thinking that the SSD was dead, which was odd, as the BIOS was still recognizing it.

Several minutes of Googling lead me into the right direction; My friend’s SSD was suffering from the 8MB bug that was discovered in (almost all) Intel SSD firmwares, back in July 2011. As my friend never encountered issues with his SSD and wasn’t up to date about this fact, he never updated his SSD’s firmware, which could have prevented this bug from happening.

The 8MB bug is caused by an unexpected power loss under specific conditions. This will reduce the capacity of the SSD to 8MB and change the serial number to “BAD_CTX 0000013x”. Once this error occurs, no data on the SSD can be accessed and the user cannot write to or read from the SSD. The only way to get the SSD back to work is to erase it. That’s right, all data on the drive is permanently lost.

Some people have been able to start from scratch by wiping the drive’s contents with utilities such as HDDErase and Parted Magic but this only works if your SSD is not ‘frozen’. And since my friend has all the luck in the world, sure enough his SSD was frozen. Fixing a frozen Intel SSD suffering from the 8MB bug requires a more technical approach but it’s no rocket science once you know what you have to do. So, let’s get started!

You need:
– Hiren’s Boot CD / USB:
Update 21-11-2016: Mini Linux was removed from recent Hiren’s Boot CD versions. The last Hiren’s Boot CD to include Mini Linux is version 13.2 which you can download from the link above.
– Physical access to your SSD (i.e. open up your computer case)

1. Burn Hiren’s Boot CD to a CD or create a bootable USB stick, insert it into your computer and boot from it.

2. Select ‘Mini Linux’ from the menu and hit Enter.

3. Once Linux has loaded, right click on the wallpaper and select ‘Xterm

4. A command prompt / terminal should open. Enter the following command to get a list of all available harddrives in your computer:

 fdisk –l

Locate your Intel SSD in the list and take a note of the device name, for example /dev/sda

5. Type the command:

 sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdX

where  sdX  is your SSD device.
This command will just print out some info about the drive. If you see the following in the output:
Serial Number: BAD_CTX that confirms that you are hit by this bug.

If at the Security section it reads frozen you CANNOT continue, you have to use a workaround to eliminate the freeze before you can continue:
Unplug and then replug the SATA data cable of your Intel SSD while the system is still powered on. So, leave your computer powered on, open up your case, locate the SATA data cable of your Intel SSD, unplug it and then replug it. This should unfreeze your SSD.

6. Type the command:

 sudo hdparm --user-master u --security-set-pass SOMEPASS /dev/sdX

Again /dev/sdX is your SSD drive, and SOMEPASS is a password you want to set for the SSD. (This password doesn’t lock the SSD or anything similar, it is just needed for these low-level dealing with the SSD.) We will need that SOMEPASS later on, so remember it/write it down. (But after the secure erase this password will be reset anyway so it is not important in the longterm.)

7. Check the drive again:

 sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdX

Now it should say enabled and not frozen at the security section:Security:
Master password revision code = 65534
not     locked
not     frozen
not     expired: security count
supported: enhanced erase

8. Type the command:

 sudo hdparm --user-master u --security-erase SOMEPASS /dev/sdX

This issues the secure erase command. Again /dev/sdX is your SSD, SOMEPASS is the password set before. The completion of this operation can take a few minutes. After this your SSD should be functional, if not, try again with this command:

 sudo hdparm –user-master u –security-erase-enhanced SOMEPASS /dev/sdX

This latter command takes much more time (30-40 minutes) and you will have to reset the password (with step 4.) before running it because SOMEPASS is likely already reset by the previous command.

9. After this check the drive again

 sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdX

The BAD_CTX thing should be gone and your drive should be functional. You can now reinstall your O/S. After all this don’t forget to update the firmware of the SSD using Intel SSD Toolbox to prevent the bug from happening again in the future.

Source & Credits:

73 thoughts on “How to: Fix an unbootable Intel SSD suffering from the 8MB bug

  1. Hi
    I tried your procedure with a drive that has all the symptoms of the 8MB bug. It did not work for me. The the SSD in question has “hp” at the end of the model number, so I assume it’s running HP firmware. The serial number is blank when the sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdX command is issued. I tried both erase and enhanced erase. Enhanced erase took only a few seconds, possibly because it was only working on an 8MB partition. Many thanks for the post. I’m certain this will have helped alot of people.

    1. I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work out for you, but I do appreciate your reply. As far as I know, the 8MB bug can only be fixed if it’s caused due to the Intel firmware bug I am referring to in the post. Any other bug, which might look similar to the 8MB bug, probably cannot be fixed using the method described in my post.

    2. I have an HP drive as well. I found that if you reboot the system a couple of times, moving the plug to a new SATA connector each time, it will work eventually. My guess is that some motherboards don’t have a correct configuration for the SATA ports.

  2. You just saved my S
    thank you so much.

    the only problem is the syntax has a mistake missing “-”
    you have one “-” instead of “–” please fix it….

  3. When I do “sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdX”, I just get a bunch of options/list of different commands. I don’t get any info about my drive.

    1. Hi Sam!

      Please make sure to replace the ‘X’ in ‘sdX’ with your own driveletter, for example ‘sda’ :)

      Kind regards.

      1. Freek, Thank you for your reply.

        Here is what I’m writing, specifically: “sudo hdparm -l /dev/sda1”

    2. Hi Sam.

      Try one of these
      “sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda” or “sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdb”

      Kind regards.

  4. Thanks for the guide.
    But I got this when executing the command where the password is set:
    -s: bad/missing powerup-in-standby value (0..1)

    Anyway, your guide did lead me the right way, so in hirens cd 15.2 there is a graphical tool to perform the secure erase, so I could skip that part from your instructions and the drive is now fixed.

    ps. In Hirens CD 15.2 there is no Mini Linux entry in the menu when booting the cd/usb. Instead there is an entry named something like “Partition Magic (linux based)”
    This will take you to a mini linux environment.

  5. Thanx everything worked for me, now 120GB i.o. 8MB.

    Note for other users: be aware of the extra dashes -> sudo hdparm –user-master u –security-erase SOMEPASS /dev/sdX

    1. what extra dashes?
      If comparing the text in your reply with the command in section 8 above in a text editor, then the two command lines are identical.

      But anyway, if you are using hirens cd, there is no need for that. Just follow the guide, and after section 5 you can use the Eraser tool, that you will find on the linux desktop. It will fix the drive for you from a GUI.

  6. Great article, thank you! In my case the workaround “Unplug and then replug the SATA data cable of your Intel SSD while the system is still powered on” did not help. I had to unplug and replug both SATA data and SATA power cables.

    1. No, once wiped, all original data on the drive is gone.
      Sadly, you don’t have any other option than to restore a backup.

  7. Hi every one
    for me I’ve received this reply
    Master password revision code = 3
    not enabled
    not locked
    not frozen
    not expired: security count
    supported: enhanced erase
    so what does it means ?

    1. Your drive should be ‘enabled’ and ‘not locked’, so return to step 5:
      Unplug and then replug the SATA data cable of your Intel SSD while the system is still powered on. So, leave your computer powered on, open up your case, locate the SATA data cable of your Intel SSD, unplug it and then replug it. This should unfreeze your SSD.

  8. Hello

    The command: sudo hdparm –user-master u –security-set-pass SOMEPASS /dev/sda

    returns the fault -s: bad/missing powerup-in-standby value (0..1)

    1. You need to double up the dashes. The typeface of this blog makes it look like there’s only one, but you need two.

      – – security – set – pass

      1. I tried fixing the typeface by using code brackets, it should look better now. Thanks for the tip :)

  9. Awesome!
    Cheers for the support – Only thing that took longer than it should have is me realising that i had to pull out the power and not the data cable of the ssd.

  10. I really appreciate your post you just saved my 160GB Intel ssd hard drive I was thinking of buying a new one, once again thank you….

  11. Good evening,

    I still get 8mb but in serial number it says NO_DEFMAP is there anything to do about that?


      1. Sadly no, all data is permanently lost. You can try using Recuva ( to check and see if something can be recovered but I highly doubt it.

  12. I was able to repair two broken Intel drives with this instruction.

    But both of them had to be hot swapped when the laptop was running,

    that solved the issue. Thanks.

  13. I tried the erase command several times but afterwards it’s still “not enabled” and I’m not able to update the firmware. Any suggestios?

    1. Did you unplug and then replug the SATA data cable of your Intel SSD while the system is still powered on in step 5? So, leave your computer powered on, open up your case, locate the SATA data cable of your Intel SSD, unplug it and then replug it.

      1. Tried the same procedure on a different computer and it worked perferctly. Thanks for the supplying.

  14. Thanks all.
    After reading this I used Hiren’s 15.2. The Linux has GUI utilities to do above. Saved an Intel x25 from the scrap heap. Great work.

  15. Thankyou for the info.
    everything else worked like you said but I got “locked”. how to get ” not locked”

    1. Sorry, that I don’t know. I only know how to unfreeze the drive, as written in the article, but I don’t know how to unlock it. Sorry!

  16. Great article.

    It worked for me, you saved my money :) . I was thinking to buy a new drive.

    One thing i would like to ask is that when i am trying to update ssd firmware with ssd toolbox the update button is disabled.

    Is there any other way to update firmware ?

  17. It showing serial number *assert 120 55. In memory it showing 8mb after step 5 i unplug it then plug it but it showing not enabled what can i do

  18. Thank you very much, I’ve resurrected my SSD. One small thing I’d like to add: for some reason the Mini Linux distribution on Hiren’s CD downloaded via the link couldn’t enter sudo mode (command not found). But this is no problem, because one can easily download any lightweight Linux distribution, you only need access to the terminal. I used Mint, but any should work.

  19. Hi,

    My name is Paulo Celso, from Brasil, rain forest, and your article helped me a lot!
    Can I translate your article into brazilian portuguese, giving you the fair and proper credits?
    It would help brazilian technicians a lot.

    Thank you so much!

  20. It’s amazing article. It worked . In my case I had to do some tweets
    . Set password with –security-set-pass newpass
    . After the erase , the size didn’t detected, but restarting the system, it detected.
    . Used the ubuntu bootable usb for this task.
    Overall it saved big bucks foe me

    Thanks a lot Freek

  21. It’s works!
    Erase completed without any message. Since disk information has been cached next erase command failed due Input/Output error.
    After unplugging/plugging SATA power cable the “fdisk –l” command listed my disk with full capacity in list.

  22. In my case, I had to power off the drive, then power it back up for the capacity to change back to 160GB instead of 8MB, after doing the secure erase procedure. Took me a little bit to figure that one out. Hope this helps someone!

  23. This is pure gold. Thanks a bunch, got the situation sorted out with your instructions.

    Had a bad news when booting up an old NUC with Intel ssd 40gb inside that was taking dust in the closet… And found out this page.


  24. Also worked fine for me. Thanks for the guide.

    Note for those asking about data recovery, there are several services that claim to be able to recover data of a disk that has this issue. I requested a quote from one, which came back as anywhere between 300 USD and 8000 USD depending on how much work it ended up being. It’s not ideal but if you can’t live without the data, then maybe it’s worth it. Just google for “intel SSD bad_ctx 8MB data recovery” or ask a data recovery specialist in your area.

  25. Tried every trick i could find to unbrick my SDD, but to no avail until now! Had almost given up, but your method works, quick and easy!

    Thank you very much for this instructive guide!

  26. Did not work, but I did see the drive was not locked, so this helped somehow..I got rid of the BAD mark in the SSD id.
    however it was still only 8Mb

    Hence it seems to do with the low level allocation table being screwed up I tried a different approach:

    Ran a low-level format tool from hirens boot cd on it and it took about 1.5 hour to complete (on USB2.0 docking station), it was still not visible in win10, but after using minitools partitioner home edition from the same hirens bootcd, I partitioned it and formatted it to primary ntfs partition and now it runs fine at full 120GB (111 real GB) capacity.

    Then the firmware needs to be updated to prevent this bug from coming back….

    However…. I got stuck at the firmware updater.
    The iso image containing the firmware and a linux distro (poky?) failed to load in bios mode.
    PC has no uefi.
    No possibility to use the intel tool that runs under windows.
    Used rufus on a laptop while making bootable usb, to add the missing linux files to the distro to prevent the message cannot load…..
    Now I get it to the grub menu and then using the default GUI menu option or the console option both result in a green screen of death (hangs during boot of the kernel)
    Setting vga=ask does not work to solve it, all choices result in the same green with white text screen or a black screen which needs a hard reset to reboot (power cycle).

    It seems that intel gave up on us hence they simply state that the flash utility cannot be extracted from the linux distro, to make it work or loadable in your own working linux version and you should just open up your pc and place the drive in the secondary sata port to make it recognized by the intel windows utility… this is of course no option running linux.

    Last resort will be pulling my nvidia card out and try again but that did not seem to work either…

    Must be another hardware / driver conflict causing the firmware-upgrade distro boot to hang.

    Got this drive for free. but I will never buy an intel drive, that is for sure….
    Bad support!!

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