Sandforce SF-2281 SSD Controller BSOD Bug and Performance Issues

Sandforce SF-2281I lied in my last update when I said I wouldn’t update this page again as the BSOD issue was fixed with SF-2281 firmware 3.3.2. I’ve been told that in the next week (most likely Friday) there will be a Golden SF-2281 Firmware that will optimize the IOPS (I/O operations per second). I found SF-2281 firmware 3.3.2 had about a 1% performance hit, from what I hear this firmware supports up to 80,000 IOPS.

This will be my final update after over a month of testing the new Sandforce SF-2281 3.3.2 firmware I haven’t had a single BSOD, after having well over 100 previous BSOD with multiple SSD manufacturers (3 different drives) and previous SF-2281 firmware versions. In fact, I have no issues at all with using an SF-2281 as my OS drive, however, I wouldn’t trust them in a RAID 0 array (do so at your own risk I’d do RAID 1 to be on the safe side).

120+ hours of uptime, this is the longest uptime I’ve had with any Sandforce SF-2281 controller based SSD without a BSOD. Time to shut down and install my RAID arrays.

Sandforce SF-2281 SSD Controllerword

My machine has now been stable for the last 24 hours since updating to Sandforce SF-2281 Firmware 3.3.2 which is longer than my Windows 7 Profession x64 has been stable in a long time (previously average uptime of 6-9 hours between each BSOD). I also received a description of what caused the SF-2281 BSOD issue, and there were 2 different issues:

  • Fixed a rare condition when waking from slumber mode that caused the SF-2281 drive to hang. This can cause a BSOD if the drive is the primary storage boot device. (Side note my machine does not slumber, and HD sleep is disabled).
  • Fixed a rarely occurring issue during S3/S4 cycling to handle marginal flash timing. This can cause an SF-2281 BSOD if the drive is the primary storage boot device.

The good folks at Runcore have been good enough to get me the firmware SF-2281 3.3.2 update for my Runcore 120 GB SF-2281 mSATA drive. From what I can see the SF-2281 3.3.2 does not have a negative impact on drive performance (565MB/s read in ATTO).

Apparently Sandforce has finally been able to duplicate the SF-2281 BSOD issue and has released SF-2281 Firmware 3.3.2. That being said several companies that manufacture Sandforce SF-2281 SSDs have said previous firmware revisions should have fixed it. I will confirm this once I get firmware update for one of my SF-2281 drives.

SF-2281 BSOD

If you search on Google for phrases like SF-2281 BSOD, SF-2281 Issues, and related Sandforce SF-2281 phrases you will see that a lot of people are experiencing all kinds of system stability issues regardless of SSD drive manufacturer of their SF-2281 based SSD drive. I’ve read online about issues with the OCZ Vertex 3 / Vertex 3 Max IOPs, OCZ Agility, Corsair Force GT, Patriot Wildfire / Pyro, OWC Mercury, ADATA, Mushkin Chronos and even I experienced issues with my Edge Tech Boost Pro 120GB drive (I would highly recommend Edge Tech based on my experiences with their company).

Like most people that end up reading this page I have done a lot of research regarding other people’s BSODs, and performance issues they are having achieving maximum performance on the Sandforce SF-2281 controller based drives. In this article, I will break the issues into 2 categories Hardware Issues (BSOD, Reboots, Bios) and Performance Issues.

Hardware Issues

The heart of the Sandforce SF-2281 controller issues / BSOD bug seems to be the fact that there is a bug in the SF-2281 SATA3 SSD controller which causes the motherboard’s SATA 3 controller to drop connection with the drive’s SF-2281 controller, and then the drive goes into some strange idle type state. Because the connection drops Windows 7 or whatever operating system you are using can no longer access the files required to run the operating system or running processes. For anyone that has had their old rotation hard drives crash while running Windows (pick any version from Windows 95 to 7), this is much the same behavior (I have seen this cause a BSOD multiple times) and hard crash.

One of the times when I experienced a BSOD bug crash I was logged on through Remote Desktop Connection when it happened, and it was like watching a slow-motion train wreck. First, my Explorer Process hung than my Taskbar crashed and disappeared, meanwhile, I could still move my mouse after 3 more seconds or so the connection dropped (most likely at the point of the BSOD reboot).

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As I mentioned the drive seems to go into some idle state, while the drive is in the idle type state your BIOS may not longer recognize/fail to detect the drive.

  • My desktop is built with an Asus M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 and Phenom X6 1090T it fails to detect my SF-2281 SSD drive after the BSOD / rebooting.
  • In fact, no matter how many times I reboot I will fail to detect my SF-2281 based drive until I completely power down the machine.
  • After I power the machine back on the drive will be detected and my previous boot order maintained.
  • While testing my G.Skill Falcon based on an Indilinx controller I received from a warranty replacement my desktop rebooted, and the Indilinx based drive was still detected while the SF-2281 drive was not.

Note: if you go into your BIOS while the drive isn’t detected and then save the BIOS settings you will need to fix your boot order later.

Unfortunately, there is currently no fix for SF-2281 controller bug at this time, and apparently Sandforce’s engineers are digging into the SF-2281 controller issues. Rumor has it that OCZ has modified their recent firmware to throttle the drive’s performance back to reduce stability issues, but this is more of a Band-Aid over the real issue and there will still be reboots.

What remains to be seen is whether Sandforce can pull off a miracle and fix this issue via a firmware update, or whether the issue is a physical problem with the controller silicon that requires them to bake a new fixed chip. Note: Some SSD manufacturers recommend running your SF-2281 drive in SATA2 mode if you are experiencing the SF-2281 BSOD issue to increase system stability.

Performance Issues

There have been reports on the forums, and support websites that some users with Sandforce SF-2281 SSD controller based drives in combination with the Marvell 9128 SATA 3 controllers were unable to achieve advertised speeds. This is certainly true when we are talking about a first-generation SATA3 chipset (this may be true of other SATA3 chipsets as well), keep in mind SATA3 is still a rather new specification and there were not SSD drives this fast for Marvell’s engineers to do the testing. Marvell has since replaced the Marvell 9128 SATA 3 controller with a Marvell 9182 SATA 3 controller.

Conclusion

In short, I can’t in good conscience recommend any drive based on the Sandforce SF-2281 SATA 3 SSD Controller. Personally I can’t wait to replace this Sandforce SF-2281 based drive with a drive most likely based on the Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2SSD Controller. However, until a manufacturer sends me a Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 based SSD to do an unbiased review on it. I will not make any recommendations but you might want to look at the Crucial M4 series of SSD, or Intel 510 which are both based on revisions of the Marvell 88SS9174 controller.

Feel free to share your Sandforce SF-2281 issues with me on the contact page.

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