Intel Bad CTX problem – MJM Data Recovery Ltd

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Intel® SSD with BAD_CTX

The SSD appears as either BAD_CTX or NO_CONTEXT and shows 8 MB as capacity

Intel SSD Problems

The BAD_CTX issue has been around since 2012, not long after the release of the range of ‘Intel® SSD 320 Series’ and initially caused uproar in the Intel SSD forums.

Intel resolved the issue, released new firmware, and made it available for download.
There was one major problem, during the update of the firmware, the entire drive had to be overwritten, using the SECURE_ERASE function. This erases all the data, irrecoverably, and is done to reset the drive. Users were pre-warned that this would occur as part of the update procedure. However, that does not help users who need their data.


This is where we can help!

The failure of Intel 320 SSDs happens due to an error in the wear levelling algorithm. This section of the firmware is called the Flash Translation Layer (FTL). When the FTL tables become corrupt up, a “BAD CTX” error is shown. A “NO CONTEXT” error usually appears when the FTL table does not exist.

Our analysis of the firmware structure of the drive, revealed that there are several copies of the translator (aka FTL) so we need to use the latest and best FTL to recover as much data as possible. Typically, there are 4 major versions with 4 sub versions, giving a total of 16 combinations. However, we are now at a stage where we can recover the vast majority of data in drives that show the BAD_CTX problems.

Depending on the extent of the issue, some folders, or  files may be missing. However, if it’s not possible to recover your critical data, then there is no charge for the recovery.

There is now a commercial tool that can resolve the problem, made by Ace Laboratory, who make very advanced data recovery tools, such as the PC3000 that works with Hard drives and SSDs. It is a ‘must have’ for any data recovery company.

Other Intel SSD Problems

Another issue we have seen with later models of Intel SSDs is where the drive hangs, or stays in busy (BSY) mode. We found this problem happens during initial power on, where the drives remains stuck in BSY mode during the start-up process.

We developed a fix for this issue fairly quickly using our host of SSD analysing software and hardware. So, we can resolve this issue and recover the data.

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