Samsung 2TB Ecogreen F4 HD204UI firmware-Upgrade

Wow, that was a real fight. You get quite a nice hard disk with the 2TB Samsung Spin Point EcoGreen F4 (bang-for-the-buck-wise). Unfortunately, patching the firmware is anything but a walk in the park. Here is the experience I could gather in the process – scraping all necessary information from different places on the net. (thanks pixelr0n1n for the hints on how to get this stuff done on a Mac Pro – see comment section below) So let’s get started:

  1. The drive has a firmware bug which causes the hard disk to just “forget” to write data if you enable the write cache (which you probably want to do) if there’s a SMART-command sent to the disk at the same time.
  2. On Samsung’s web page, there’s a tool to patch your disk up to the latest firmware. Sounds great and pretty easy. But:
    1. The old and the new firmware have exactly the same version number. I don’t know any procedure to tell a broken firmware from a good one – but to run a stress-test, e.g. copy a large file and issue a SMART-command, say using smartmontools. Do a byte-compare afterwards (the writes do not fail with an error, but silently screw up your data while [not] writing it to disk).
    2. If you have a disk manufactured after 12-2010, you can be sure that the firmware is ok. That date is printed on the disk label.
    3. That’s an FAQ: flashing the new firmware does not erase your data. However: If you used that disk already, you cannot be sure that all data on that disk is ok. Additionally, having a backup of your data never hurt anyone. Not having one did.
    4. You can write the firmware-update to a disk twice. No use, but possible.
  3. So go ahead and grab a FreeDOS-Iso (Update: Quadzilla posted a link to an ISO which already contains the Samsung tool!). Using isomaster (if you use  Linux, it’s free – you can also modify the iso in a virtual machine), put the F4EG.EXE into the iso image. Just dump it into the top level of that image. You cannot easily put it into the FreeDOS floppy disk image, I tried that, because I ran into some nasty problems with the FreeDOS CD-ROM drivers. If you want to boot FreeDOS as a “Live CD”, it won’t easily recognize SATA-CD-ROMs. Or other brands of CD-ROMs. If you use the right mode while booting FreeDOS, that’s no problem. See below!
  4. Now, grab a PC (we Mac users have a problem here, you cannot use SATA-USB converters neither for flashing). The PC should not use any SATA-PATA emulation layer (if it does, you have to disable it in the BIOS settings, otherwise, F4EG will yield an “internal error” while flashing – and won’t write the firmware! I also came across a machine where you couldn’t disable this emulation – if you’re one of this lucky clan, look for a different PC).
  5. Now for the fun part:
    1. boot FreeDOS by choosing 1:
    2. Next, do not choose Live CD only, which might work if you have the right CD-ROM and FreeDOS supports it. Instead, choose “Install”, option 1:
    3. Choose your language:
    4. …and next, chicken out to the prompt (before FreeDOS does something nasty with its fdisk). Now, your CD will be mounted as drive X:
    5. Now, change to drive X: and launch F4EG. It will inform you when all went ok.
    6. Now: switch off your PC. If you just do a reset, you will not be running the new firmware!

Veeery easy. Yes. If you know what you have to do after what with which tool and with the right hardware… I hope this helps a few of you. If you feel as adventurous as I did when I bought the Samsung disks (which run fine now, btw!).

11 Responses to “Samsung 2TB Ecogreen F4 HD204UI firmware-Upgrade”

  1. Wolf Says:

    Danke für die Anleitung! Als ISO-Programm für Win kann ich noch ‘UltraISO’ empfehlen, das zwar Shareware ist, aber unbegrenzt benutzt werden kann (so wie WinRAR).

  2. pixelr0n1n Says:

    After many hours of trying to find a PC, then researching if it’s possible to do it on my mac pro, with different flavors of DOS and magic ISO maker on a PC to add the firmware, your fomula to make it work has done it, and on a mac pro early 2008!
    I would add that it is possible to do exactly as you instructed for a mac pro user, but to remove all the other drive bays and insert the HD204UI that needs firmware flashing in drive bay 1.
    all other instructions to use freeDOS, modify it with isoMaster to add the firmware, AT THE TOP LEVEL of directory, and booting it from a MacPro CD drive has worked like a charm. thank you for sharing the info and screenshots.

  3. Quadzilla Says:

    http://de.hardware-wiki.org/wiki/Samsung_F4_EcoGreen-Serie:FW-Update

    Dort gibt es ein minimalistisches BootCD-Image zum runterladen, das das Firmware-Update enthält.

    Man muss nur die ISO-Datei runterladen, das Image auf CD oder DVD brennen und davon booten. Einfacher geht es nicht.

  4. Marco Says:

    Auf der von Quadzilla geposteten Seite steht, dass alle Platten ab 12/2010 bereits die neue Firmware haben, auf dieser Seite hier steht hingegen, dass alle Platten NEUER ALS 12/2010 die neue Firmware haben. Welche Firmware haben also Platten, auf denen 12/2010 steht? Denn so eine habe ich erwischt, kann sie aber mangels Rechner vorerst nicht patchen…

  5. Joerg Says:

    Leider weiß ich das auch nicht genau – die Informationen darüber sind leider sehr spärlich. Man könnte höchstens mal testen, ob die Fehler mit einer 12/2010er auftreten… ;)

  6. Robert Says:

    Originalzitat aus der c’t 6/2011, wo diese Info ab 12/2010 herstammt:

    “Die Festplatten des Typs Samsung EcoGreen F4 HD204UI (F4EG) mit Produktionsdaten ab Dezember 2010 enthalten bereits den in c’t 1/11 (S. 19) erwähnten Firmware-Patch; ein Update ist bei jüngeren Platten unnötig. Mit der Original-Firmware können Datenverluste auftreten.”

  7. Joerg Says:

    Ja, prima – dann gehen wir mal davon aus, dass „einschließlich Dezember“ gemeint ist. :)

  8. Ben Says:

    Danke für die Anleitung. Hat gut funktioniert!

  9. John Says:

    Thanks, I’ve looking for a confirmation that new disks (got two yesterday) actually have the right firmware. Urgently need to replace running but defect system disk of WHS system.
    Any suggestions for testing the disks, with one SATA connection available?

  10. Joerg Says:

    John: Nope, I’m sorry. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine the version of your firmware (that I knew of). The firmware string the disk displays is stupidly the very same for both the broken and good one…

    The only sound way to determine if you have a bad one is the manufacture date printed on the disk’s label.

  11. NeoMatic Says:

    I had to do this a wile back.

    What I did:
    - Put Hirens on USB.
    http://www.hirensbootcd.org/usb-booting/
    - Add HD update .exe to the root.
    Naturally you could also add the update .exe to the hirens iso and put it on a disk instead, but having hirens on usb is quicker (especially starting mini win) and hirens is usefull for lots of things besides this activity.
    - Started Hirens and selected DOS prompt.
    - Found the correct drive A: / C: / D: and so on (could be easier but I wouldn’t know the correct command)
    - Executed the update .exe

    If you have more HD’s to be sure you end up flashing the correct drive disconnect all others.

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