Earlier this morning I published an article looking into the performance of 6Gbps SATA controllers, both integrated and off-chip. In it I mentioned my recently deceased Crucial RealSSD C300 that decided to up and stop working one day. Given that Crucial is selling these drives, I wasn't too happy with the outcome.


Inside Crucial's RealSSD C300

The drive would not longer be detected on POST. In fact, with the C300 connected to any machine I couldn't get any OS to boot; the system would just hang at drive detection. After a couple of weeks of toying with my dead drive, Crucial came back to me with an explanation of what's going on.

"We determined that the drive wasn’t bricked, but that it was very slow at powering up due to errors in the firmware tables that resulted in the characteristics you were seeing. We’re still investigating these errors."

I still don't know why the firmware tables developed errors, but presumably if your drive has found its way into this state then your data should still be intact. Now the second problem.

When I got my replacement drive I wanted to see how well the C300's TRIM function was implemented. I'd recently run into a couple of SSDs that don't appear to recover well after used LBAs are TRIMed. Unfortunately, the C300 joined the list. Here's a look at a sequential write across the entire 256GB C300 after I've peppered it with random writes:

Write performance does not look good. While parts of the drive can still write at around 180MB/s, the last 60GB of the drive are limited to about 20MB/s. A quick format across the drive should invoke the TRIM instruction for all LBAs and tell the C300 that it none of the data on the drive is needed and those blocks can be recycled immediately. Performance should restore to new (constant ~200MB/s across all LBAs). Unfortunately, it doesn't:

In fact, performance got worse. Let's TRIM the drive once more for good measure:

Ouch. The drive won't come back, period. The only way to restore it to full performance is to perform a secure erase. Now this scenario is a corner case and it's not one I'd expect any desktop user to run into in a short period of time. However, it is possible that after several months or years your drive might find itself in a situation where its performance never recovers. Crucial's response to the issue is below:

"...we have been able to replicate the circumstances where performance after a format does not return to acceptable levels, and we have developed a solution. We plan to integrate this into our production line and we’ll make it available to current customers. We’ll send you the code after it’s been thoroughly tested.

As we’ve mentioned before, we perform thousands of hours of testing before going into production. And as you’ve shared in one of your articles, testing every single combination of hardware, software and usage is highly improbable. We really appreciate all the feedback you have provided, as it allows us to make sure that our ongoing product improvements and updates are as comprehensive as possible."

Despite Crucial's promises of doing a ton of validation, things like this do get through. It's not a problem specific to Crucial, remember that Intel had a similar situation crop up in its early X25-M days. This isn't the first SSD to fail on me either. It's because of problems like these that I recommend waiting before jumping on any new, unproven SSD. Just a heads up in case you're thinking about making the jump anytime soon. If you are interested in how the C300 performs, take a look at its results in our new SSD Bench database.

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  • tachi1247 - Sunday, March 28, 2010 - link

    The article mentions that the reviewer has found several SSD drives where TRIM is either not functioning well/properly or at all. I'd be very interested to see what drives are on this list besides the C300. Is it available anywhere? Reply
  • coachingjoy - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    So far so good.
    MS performance index score went from 5.9 to 7.8.
    Initially I had twin Intel 80G G1's in raid0.
    Reply
  • Calin - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    It appears that the performance drop off size increased with a couple (or more) GB. Might it be possible to run 100 TRIMs to increase the drop off point from 55-58GB to a place close enough to max capacity point? Reply
  • Calin - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    By the way, how long a TRIM command takes, and how long for a secure erase? Reply
  • davepermen - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    trim doesn't take time. not on the user side that is. it looks like some ssds collect the trim info and clean up later. the intel doesn't, trim always reacts instantly.

    but all trim is is the trim info, and the address range, so it's sort of "TRIM 0x0015b481 0x0153af34"

    and done.
    Reply
  • Calin - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    By the way, how long a TRIM command takes, and how long for a secure erase? Reply
  • Hastarin - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    I've had the worst luck buying things lately, and I just installed one of these a couple of days ago. So far I couldn't be happier with it, but I certainly hope this issue is something Crucial get sorted ASAP.

    I don't like the idea of having to do a secure erase of the entire drive on a semi-regular basis.
    Reply
  • eldiablopotato - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    What advise would you give to those who already bought this device. Any comforting thoughts, are we all up the creek without a paddle? Reply
  • ClagMaster - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    What Mr Shimpi has related in his C300 issues is Crucial does not know whats going on with its firmware. Did they write this firmware and possess a firm (no pun intended) understanding of how it works or did they contract this out to some third party who is no longer available ? Reply
  • Lerianis - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    I'm betting that they did contract this out to a third-party, and now the person has fled after doing a half-assed job on it.
    I hate to be so suspicious, but that's been the mean for problems like this recently, it's ferried out to the 'lowest bidder'' and that hurts every single tiem.
    Reply

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