Via VL-700 Firmware
Problem statement: you have USB3 to SATA enclosure based on Via VL-700 chipset that recognizes your brand new 3TB hard drive as just 746.52 GB.
Solution: if you’re only interested to the solution not the background info, click here.
About 1.5 years ago, I’ve bought myself a decent laptop powerful enough to be a desktop replacement (namely Asus N53SV), and gave away my desktop PC to my mother. One problem that I had to address was the lack of storage space: in my desktop PC I had three hard drives; the largest was 1.5TB in size. Back in 2011, the largest 2.5” HDD was only 750 gigs, which was not enough.
Luckily, the laptop has a USB 3.0 port. So I’ve bought an external USB 3.0 to SATA enclosure, installed my 1.5TB Seagate inside, and lived happily with it.
Since that time, I’ve been upgrading my laptop’s hardware to better feet my growing requirements. Recently, I’ve decided my good old 1.5TB Seagate is too small for me, and ordered a 3 TB to replace.
The problem was the enclosure was not compatible with the drives that large: the drives that are more than 2TB use slightly different block addressing mechanism. Namely the “Advanced Format”. After I’ve spent a few hours googling I realized the problem was not OS, but the enclosure. Apparently, the device correctly reported the number of blocks, BTW I even burned a linux-based live DVD called “gparted” and booted from it, and tried to give the USB device to my virtual MacOS X inside the VmWare — they both reported the same 746.52 GB.
I was ready to replace the enclosure as well, but I didn’t want to wait, or to pay 2x the price for fast delivery like UPS. So I started to look for the way to fix what I have.
After some questioning, the google said “Your enclosure’s chipset, namely the Via VL-700, is OK. But sometimes its firmware is wrong”. I was able to find the re-flash tool for another USB3 enclosure based on the same chipset, produced by Mediasonic.
Using the tool, I’ve backed up my old firmware (which happened to be version 0.0.12.9), and started experimenting.
After I’ve followed the guide, the enclosure stopper working at all. The Windows said “drive not initialized”. The initialization said “the drive not ready”. Based on the drive sound, it didn’t even start spinning. I’ve restored my old firmware, but the problem persisted.
The lack of spin up sound was my key to finding solution. I’ve tried checking “Enable HDD Power Control” and flashing with the new firmware, and this time it finally worked as supposed to.
I’m not affiliated with ViPower, VIA, or any other hardware manufacturer. I can’t guarantee anything. In no cases I’m responsible if you’ll break your enclosure, or hard drive, or both, or anything else. Use this method on your own risk.
I’m only saying that it worked OK with my device, which is ViPower VPA-35038P (the model without fan).
Before proceeding, ensure your device is based on the VIA VL-700 chipset.
Flashing the New Firmware
Download both files.
Download HD6-SU3_A2_update_tool.zip, unpack it somewhere. Install and run the tool.
Ensure it detected your enclosure.
Press “View -> Device Number -> 1” (apparently, the tool was designed for batch reflashing, so it can process many devices at once). Press Settings, press “Load” at the bottom of that huge dialog window, choose “Correct Settings.ini”.
Under “FW File Indicate” near the top of the screen, press “Open file”, locate “VL700A2-R01_00_04_00-20110627.bin” that was inside the update_tool.zip. Ensure the “Bin file firmware version” says “22.214.171.124”.
Now in the main window, press the big button with schematic image of a USB hard drive.
Flashing the new firmware only takes a few seconds. Hopefully, you’ll see a success message shortly after that. Close the tool, click “safe remove hardware”, power cycle the hard drive.
I hope you’ve succeeded.
Then you probably need to move your data between the drives. To copy that amount of data, I’d recommend Microsoft’s freeware “RichCopy” utility. Normal file managers (Windows Explorer, Far, etc.) assume file copy is interactive procedure that completes in a moment or two, so it’s OK to stop copying and warn user about paths being too long or read only files being deleted or something else. Unlike them, RichCopy has been designed for long non-interactive operations. And copying 1.5TB takes several hours even when both drives are connected through SATA.
Read the manual carefully, and don’t forget to set the number of threads to “1”. The utility has been initially designed to move data across slow and unreliable VPNs, so multithreading makes the process go faster (since the bottleneck is some hardware or software network shaper that tries to evenly distribute available bandwidth across multiple TCP connections). For local copies however, parallel copy helps only marginally (since the bottleneck is disk bandwidth), just unnecessarily fragments the destination drive.