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Failed Core Storage Conversion

We have a Mac mini connected to an external storage box via FireWire. In a reasonably sensible manner, someone pointed Time Machine at one of the volumes on the DAS, thinking they should back the machine up to this location. They also thought also it would be best to encrypt the backup; very laudable.

However, this triggered a conversion process into an Apple Core Storage volume, which did not complete successfully. Luckily, OS X stopped trying and remounted the volume as HFS+. All appeared to be well, but after a reboot things were much less cheerful.

On restarting the machine, the volume was missing. Checking with diskutil list returned this layout:

/dev/disk1
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *17.6 TB    disk1
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk1s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS Backup                  2.0 TB     disk1s2
   3:          Apple_CoreStorage                         15.6 TB    disk1s3
   4:                 Apple_Boot Boot OS X               134.2 MB   disk1s4

But diskutil cs list returned this:

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Recovery of ASMedia ASM1051

An ASMedia ASM1051 chip on a small circuit board, attached to a SATA hard drive.

Quite some time ago, I bought a super-cheap 2.5” USB 3.0 enclosure on eBay. It was no more than a few pounds, so when it suddenly stopped working one day, I didn’t cry about it. But it was a tad annoying, because I’d keep reaching for it in the drawer, knowing it had a sizeable drive in there.

One day I picked it up and, imagining its time in the drawer might have healed it, plugged it into a laptop. Magically, it worked! But when it came to transferring the files to another machine – dead again. It sat there with its light on, drive spinning, but never appearing as a USB device.

Then I twigged. The laptop had USB 3.0. My desktop machine did not. How bizarre! I tested my theory between a few more machines until the proof was in; connecting the drive to any USB 2.0 machine would not work, while USB 3.0 was just dandy.

It went back in the drawer.

The Fix

Today I reached for it again and this time decided to see if a repair was possible. Firmware would seem to be the culprit, but nobody is sensible enough to produce a firmware flash utility for such things, surely?

Taking a closer look shows an ASMedia ASM1051 bridge chip. Luckily, the nice folks at Plugable based their USB3-SATA-U3 around the same chip and they do indeed provide an ASM1051 firmware update utility known as MP Tool! Sensible people! The best news is that it targets the chip and doesn’t do any weird manufacturer-specific fiddling to prevent you from running it on other devices. I had very little to lose, so I simply followed their instructions; plug in, run software, press ‘Start’.

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Mac Pro Storage Upgrade

An SD-PEX40079 with three 256GB Crucial m550 mSATA drives attached.

I’ve been slowly changing my storage habits lately, because I’ve been seduced by the speed of Solid State Drives. When I bought my Mac Pro, I got it with the extortionately expensive Apple SSD. It’s as solid as a rock, and the only thing out there with official TRIM support, but it’s not the speediest option and that’s largely down to the measly 3Gb/s SATA II bus that Apple forgot to upgrade with the 2012 edition. Seriously, guys, you couldn’t have swapped out that controller?

However, because these Mac Pro machines are proper tower systems with PCI-E 2.0, there are options out there. For a long time I was going to go with the Sonnet Tempo SSD Pro (or the Pro Plus as it’s now become) but blimey, at over £200 it’s an expensive way of putting SATA III in your machine. And eSATA is a lovely feature, but not already owning any eSATA caddies, I just didn’t think I’d use it that much.

A little Googling turned up this thread on the TonyMac forum, where ‘gsloan’ had found success with the Syba SD-PEX40068. But would you believe it; discontinued. Nuts.

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