Installing a 1TB Samsung 860 EVO mSATA SSD in a Toshiba Kira-102

A simple job, right? My friend was complaining that their Toshiba Kira-102 kept crashing. The diagnosis was a speedy affair. The ‘as shipped’ 250GB Toshiba SSD had only 200MB remaining on the OS partition and Windows just was not coping with this reality. Windows Update was trying to churn through this free space in an endless cycle of “try and fail”.

The Kira-102 has an older-style mSATA connector. Fortunately, as of February, Samsung had the foresight to continue to support mSATA with the release of the new 860 EVO range. This offers 250 GB , 500 GB and 1000 Gb (1 TB) options in the legacy mSATA format. My friend wanted to go all out on it, so it should have been simple.

If you have arrived here seeking a quick answer to whether or not the 500GB or 1TB mSATA 860 EVO is compatible with the Toshiba KIRA. The answer is yes! Please consider using my Amazon links above if you are looking to buy!

 

The Process

The method to do this should be tried and tested to any “IT guy” (or Gal).

  1. CloneZilla the original SSD to a SMB share
  2. Swap the 250GB mSATA drive with the 1TB one
  3. CloneZilla the image back from the SMB share onto the new SSD
  4. Boot Windows, resize the partition and hand the device back

It wasn’t.

 

Problems

If you are struggling with any of the same issues. Find a list of issues and (non)resolutions for this machine below.

1. I couldn’t get into the UEFI and the system wouldn’t respond to any of the override key combinations (F2 for setup, F12 for Boot Device Override)

Fix: In Windows Setting, Updates and Recovery, Recovery. Boot into Windows Recovery and follow through on the advanced options until you come across the boot into the UEFI setup option. Once in the UEFI. Disable Intel Fast Boot. The system will now respond to the F2/F12 keyboard shortcuts again.

2. None of my USB Ethernet Dongles allows the presentation of PXE Boot ROM (Network Boot)

Fix: I know that these dongle have OpROM on them. I therefore believe that the Kira-102 doesn’t have UEFI drivers for PXE boot.

3. External USB keyboard wouldn’t work

Fix: In the UEFI enable Legacy USB device support to fix this in everything apart from Windows Setup (where it still would not work).

4. After re-imaging from CloneZilla the 1000GB 860 EVO reported to Windows that it was a 238 GB drive.

Note: This isn’t the partition/volume size, the device itself would only show 238GB. Essentially CloneZilla had mirrored a 250GB SSD onto a 250GB SSD

Samsung Magician showed the SSD drive as functioning correctly, compatible with the system and running as a 1000GB drive with no problems. The firmware was also current. The UEFI did not seem to have any issues seeing the drive – although it has no capacity readout of its size or UEFI shell to root around in. Equally, there was no additional instability.

As a 2015 machine, it certainly shouldn’t be experiencing a software limitation – such as in the aviailable LBA (Logical Block Address) space. Something that historically has limited BIOS system from addressing hard drive space such as with the historic 2GB, 32GB, 146GB and 2TB limits.

Toshiba Service Station reported that there were no updates available for the machine. The BIOS version was 1.40, which reported as current. However, on accidental inspection of the Toshiba support site, I discovered that there was a 2018 revision 1.60 available. The changelog for the release indicates that the 1.50 version contained “improved SSD related system stability” with the 1.60 adding “Enhanced security & Microcode update” i.e. they patched the high profile IMEI exploit from last year and did something to mitigate Spectre/Meltdown.

View: Windows BIOS version 1.60 for KIRA KIRAbook

I patched the BIOS, ever hopeful… to find that nothing had changed in Windows.

Exiting CloneZilla into the shell, allowed me to elevate into the user account and run parted -l. Parted reported partition errors, however after fixing them, running ‘print free‘ didn’t show any free space either.

At this point assuming that there was an artificial hardware limit placed on the storage sub-system, I booted into a Windows 10 install UFD and using diskpart via the command prompt de-initialised the entire disk.

diskpart
sel disk 0
clean
create part pri
format fs=ntfs quick

Low and behold, the entire 930GB volume appeared in diskpart ‘list part‘.

I clean installed Windows 10 onto the empty drive to confirm this.

There was clearly a software corruption at work. This could be from the amount of crashing that the machine had endured over months of constant crashing. Alternatively, it could very likely be down to Toshiba’s partition schema and OEM imaging process.

5. Recovering the Data from CloneZilla without recovering the entire disk layout

Leaving the test install alone I booted back into CloneZilla. Due the way CloneZilla works, you cannot restore a partition into free space, only overwrite an existing partition. Instead of recovering the disk from image, I used recover partition from image. The intention is to leave the new Windows installation’s boot code, but overwrite its OS data volume with the one from the CloneZilla image.

There were 6 partitions in the repository, none of which had any size data against them. Windows had the main OS partition as the third partition on the drive, however this turned out to be a 138 MB partition of unknown origin (I suspect something hidden in the Toshiba OEM imaging process). Retrying, the large data partition was found in the image at partition 4.

50 minutes later, the partition had restored back onto the 860 EVO. It still showed as being 930 GB in diskpart, but would not boot. Windows blue screened with error code 0xc0000034.

6. Fixing the Boot Code

There was of course no expectation that the system would boot after this process. The system no longer had the correct boot code in place as the OEM install had additional partitions in-situ.

Boot into the Windows Install DVD or Recovery partition. Load the command prompt

Now mount the FAT32 EFI boot partition and repair the boot code.

diskpart
sel disk 0
list vol

Note the volume number of the 100MB System partition. In my case this was “Volume 2”. If your EFI partition is something other than 2, replace the 2 on the next line with that number.

sel vol 2
assign letter=v
exit

bcdboot C:\Windows /s V: /f UEFI

Reboot the computer

 

Validation Activities

After going through an ordeal such as this, the question of whether or not it is stable springs to mind. The Windows 10 version was 1803, so after running a chkdsk c: /f and ensuring that the OS volume was now using the entire 930 GB. I upgraded Windows 10 to version 1809. Something that gives the SSD some exercise and would highlight any serious problems.

The Windows 1809 upgrade went through without incident and I was able to write more than 250 GB of data onto the volume, proving that the SSD could correctly function over the 250 GB marker.

Do not buy Corsair products (especially if you are European)

Corsair, the natural sponsorship fodder of the Web 2.5 YouTube generation. You can’t travel far in North American centric technology media without encountering their name and logo plastered across the screen.

2 weeks ago, my Antec Neo 650 power supply died after I borrowed the 240v AC adapter to power a screen. I’ve used Antec since the 90’s with generally good reliability (apart from the Phantom 500 range which quickly disappeared). Without my workstation I did sought to quickly do the obvious thing – find out what is moving and shaking in the PSU world and find the efficiency vs/ cost price point.

Jumping on the “independent” reviews, I was quickly able to observe that Antec just weren’t featured…. Anywhere! I couldn’t find them listed in a single PSU round-up, recommended list or top 10. It has been some 6/7 years since I last changed the PSU in one of my non-server systems. So I concluded that I found Antec’s lack of presence to be a warning sign and decided to look elsewhere.

I knew I wanted a fully modular PSU. Partially modular were becoming common when I last changed PSU, but I was still left with this air-flow sapping thermal mass ball of unnecessary cables, even on a partially modular system.

A quick read around, some investigation into whether I need an X or an I series (and what on earth the difference was) and then off to price comparison for the RM650x (CP-9020091 / 75-010885). Of course, it was Friday when all this happened, and I wasn’t going to be around over the weekend, so I online ordered. PC World UK didn’t have stock on their main site, but their eBay site had plenty of units for the same stock code – sold.

RM650x

On the Monday my initial impressions were reasonable. The build quality on the main PSU unit looked OK. Cable quality was… acceptable but not great and the unit passed a basic PSU tester and powered up a test board OK.

The packaging was excessive. Why the PSU needed to have its own faux-velvet draw-string bag and the cables come in a Velcro branded carry case is beyond me. I’d rather it have been £5 cheaper.

Having passed a basic test, I committed the original sin of not performing an out of case test on the actual motherboard and proceeded to strip out all the carefully managed Antec cables from the case, substituting them with the new Corsair ones. Before making the cable routing permanent I performed a headless power-on/power-off test (time mistake #2) before bedding everything in, closing-up, connecting all peripherals and moving to get back on with what I needed to be doing.

Nothing happened.

Well, the fans span up, the system even booted, but my three Dell u2415’s stayed blank, in standby without even a DPMS acknowledgement.

Open it up, reseat everything, check wiring. Did I somehow blow out the graphics card? It’s intended for 2D only, a Asus GTX750, low power draw and won’t blow up any benchmarks (but it isn’t supposed to, it’s there to drive three 1920×1200 screens in 2D rendering). I swapped in a GTX645 and… it worked… until I connected the second monitor. Putting the GTX750 back in and repeating the test did not work, until I connected to DVI. Connecting to DP or HDMI would result in non-booting on both the GTX645 and GTX750, but DVI would work.

Next I unloaded the motherboard, RAM down to 1x4GB stick, removed all PCI card, USB peripherals etc… still nothing. So I did the thing that I had been trying to avoid all along and went and lazily mule’d the PSU from a different system into my main workstation by placing the case side by side – another (but 3 years newer) Antec Neo 650 as it happened. With all peripherals and RAM restored, everything was fine. All three monitors powered on with both cards.

Putting the Corsair back, nothing. We clearly aren’t getting enough power through the PCI bus. The PSU is a dud. Infuriating for me having now wasted the best part of Friday and Monday on it, but ‘it happens’ I thought to myself and went off to see if Corsair could shed any light on it.

Do not buy Corsair if you want warranty support

FAQ and Knowledge Base

My original intent was to look at their knowledge base/FAQs. Thinking perhaps they’d recommend a different product in something that I’d missed in my hasty dash to buy something, my genuine initial assumption was that I’d goofed up – I did this once before when the -5v rail disappeared from the ATX specification back around the introduction of the LGA775.

Well, they didn’t have anything. FAQ’s were all about selling you things and in order to get to anything in their support section you had to register.

Data-raping

So in order to see if there was anything aimed at addressing my issue, or any expert tips of things I could try, I had to register. In order obtain any contact info, you guessed it, I had to register.

To register they demand that you provide them with email, name, full postal address and telephone number, accept their privacy policy and terms and conditions. But I just wanted to read your KB/FAQs?!?! Why is any of that relevant – hint, it isn’t. They’re just building a marketing list plain and simple. I created a unique email address just for them so that I can tell when they sell it to a marketing company and fake filled in the address and phone number fields. At this point in our relationship, none of the above is any of your concern Corsair.

Nothingness

I quickly gave up on the idea of FAQ/KB searching because I was annoyed enough at this point to want to just make it customer services job to tell me what I’d done wrong, so I filled in a ticket. Which demanded my name, address, phone number… explained the situation, tests, evidence and hit send.

At this point I had noted that their entire site only mentioned the USA and Canada and made no mention of anywhere else in the world. With hours posted on the US west-coast time-zone, putting me 7/8 hours ahead. So I won’t get anything until tomorrow.

Just before I closed the browser I happened to noticed at the bottom of the ticket a form stating requirement for proof of purchase. Thinking myself clever I attached a PDF of the PC World VAT invoice and then closed down the browser; I may as well short-circuit that inevitable problem, right?

Pointless and Infuriating

[Keeping in mind that I’m desperate to get back to work here] 25 hours later the first reply comes back.

“Please attach the following for validation of the warranty:
– A photo/screenshot/PDF of the receipt/invoice to the ticket so that we can validate the warranty, if you purchased this directly from us please provide us the Order number instead.
– Photo showing the Part Number or Serial number of the product

The attachment area is at the bottom of this screen. Afterwards, please respond back with a ticket comment so that we know the requested files have been attached, thank you kindly.”

– Staff Account (Richard TS) via channel ‘Email’ 06/01/2018 08:37 AM

But I did that?!?!! I gave you the serial numbers too. It turns out that – as mentioned above 25 hours later – if you upload an attachment into a Corsair support ticket, it doesn’t save the attachment to the ticket unless you write a new text message to update the support case. It doesn’t SAY THAT. It doesn’t make sense to do that either, but that’s a discussion for another day.

I take the photo, re-upload the invoice, upload the photo and send a message through their painfully slow support portal which has page reload times in excess of 25 seconds… and so begins the saga of 1 message per 24 hours. After a WEEK we are still doing this…

After a WEEK! They haven’t even acknowledged the problem or suggested any ideas or troubleshooting steps. Corsair from the start were squarely trying to find a way out of having to involve themselves in it because all they want to do is focus on administrative bureaucracy.

… and here, finally for them, is their ‘way out’

“Corsair products purchased from online private sellers or internet auction sites such as eBay are not able to be guaranteed, and so are not covered by our warranty.”

– Staff Account (Richard TS) via channel ‘Email’ 06/05/2018 01:32 PM

I uploaded them a VAT invoice from PC World remember!

To make a start on dissecting this, the above statement is a flagrant breach of UK consumer rights and the Sale of Good Act. Companies do not even have to offer a warranty to be compelled to warrant that their product works in the first place. On top of this, EU law stipulates that they must provide a warranty – and the UK is still in the EU until March 2019 at least.

Corsair provide no indication on the box that their warranty is non-transferable. If this was a second-hand purchase and the warranty was non-transferable, then if the product is outside of the statutory mandated initial function period, this would stand-up. However, this is a new purchase from a VAT registered retailer who I assume are a Corsair partner in Europe? What merchant that is sold through is utterly irrelevant in the eyes of the law and makes no difference on statutory requirements.

So what did the helpful people at Corsair have to say to that?

“For further validation of the warranty, please send us a photo showing the part number or the stick at the of the PSU.”

– Staff Account (Richard TS) via channel ‘Email’ 06/07/2018 03:04 PM

Corsair Tech Support Chat Log Screenshot

As you can see, the proof of purchase and requested photograph (note the photo date, this was the second one) are quite literally above the request in the screenshot. They are quite literally wasting my time at this point.

In summary

  1. Corsair have no European operations or presence. ‘Technical support’ only operate on the US West-coast time zone – geographically this is no use for anyone in Europe (especially for businesses).
  2. Corsair data-rape you.
  3. Corsair are not interested in troubleshooting or offering technical ‘support’.
  4. Corsair have no interest in honouring their own warranty.
  5. Corsair at best can manage one short message in a 24-hour period – and that will be it for the day. Even if you stay up late and reply immediately after they respond – as I have done on 4 consecutive nights. That is all you will get.
  6. Corsair have no interest in customer service and show no interest in speedy resolution. They offer no advanced replacement service (the likes of Seagate or Western Digital) and in my case, have not even acknowledged that there is a problem.
  7. Corsair’s support portal is badly designed and slow. Refreshing the support ticket page takes upwards of 25 seconds and I wasted an entire 24 hours’ worth of exchange because its file uploading module didn’t actually retain the uploaded file on their server despite showing no errors.
  8. They keep asking you for the same thing over and over again, so if they clearly have no engagement with you and are not interested in a dialogue with their customers

Therefore, I conclude:

If you are in Europe and might need technical support

If you are in Europe and might need to use their RMA service

If you are in Europe and purchased from an online retailer

If you are in the second-hand market (anywhere)

If you are running a business and need to keep your business running

DO NOT BUY CORSAIR

Over a week in, I’ve given up. I have a “premium” PSU that doesn’t work, a workstation which at this point I’ve cannibalised into new working arrangements and I am still no further forward on starting a discussion over what the problem might be.

I’ve posted it back to Curry’s PC World with the corsair ticket number attached and notified them that it is defective. Full credit to Curry’s PC World, they’ve refunded it without any problems and have been extremely good about the saga. I just feel bad that I’ve basically passed the problem to them instead of resolving it myself.

This is the first Corsair PSU product that I have purchased and it will be in no uncertain terms be the last product that I buy in any category from them. I would urge you to ignore their pervasive and at this point almost saturation marketing in the sector and do the same. Perhaps they do make good products and this unit was just a lemon, it happens. Yet with a belligerent attitude, slow, unhelpful customer service, a US of A ‘screw-you’ starting position coupled with no European support presence. You really do not want to be on the wrong side of a defect; not at these prices.

Powerline Comparison of Features & Functionality: Expanding your Powerline Adapter Home Network

If your home or small business has a Powerline network, there may come a time when you wish to expand your network. This could be to add wired connectivity in a different room or to a new WiFi access point. Offering better coverage for mobile and fixed wireless devices than your main router can provide.

It is not always clear from the manufacturers site which part number(s) you should buy in order to expand your existing network. Most Powerline units are sold as initial getting started kits only with little information on how to grow your network.

This Powerline Adapter Comparison attempts to simplify the options in making Powerline product choices.

 

Contents

The following seeks to clarify some easily misunderstood and often muddied points about Powerline.

Feature Comparison

The Powerline Comparison is divided into comparing the Powerline Adapter ranges of the six main Powerline manufacturers.

Common Questions

  1. How many adapters do I need?
  2. Can I mix and match different manufacturers adapters?
  3. I can get a 2000 Mbit/s Powerline adapter, seems like a no brainier to make my computer/Internet faster?
  4. When shouldn’t I use Powerline adapters?
  5. What should I tell my electrician if I’m having work done?

Feature Comparison: Expanding Your Network

The following table can be used to help you expand your Powerline network. For each manufacturer they show the combination of WiFi, Ethernet Port Numbers and Passthrough Port availability. Manufacturers are displayed in alphabetical order.

Passthrough: Passthrough means that there is a standard electrical socket on the front of the Powerline adapter, allowing you to plug the Powerline adapter into the wall without sacrificing access to the electrical socket for other devices.

e(#) = 1Gbps Ethernet

e(#) = 100Mbps Ethernet

(#) represents the number of Ethernet ports present on WiFi adapter modules

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Asus

WiFi
1 Port Ethernet
2 Port Ethernet
3 Port Ethernet
4 Port Ethernet
Range Max Speed Mbit/s No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through
AV1200 1200 PL-AC56 (802.11ac 867) e(3)
PL-E56P e(1)
AV600 600 PL-E52P e(1)
AV500 500 PL-N12 (802.11n 300) e(2)
PL-E41 e(1)
PL-X51P e(4)
AV200 200 PL-X31M e(1)

BT

BT Powerline adapters are not internationalised and only come with UK 240v plugs.

WiFi
1 Port Ethernet
2 Port Ethernet
3 Port Ethernet
Range Max Speed Mbit/s No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through
1200 1200 11ac Dual-Band Wi-fi Extender 1200 080462 (802.11ac 867) e(1)
1000 1000 Wi-Fi Home Hotspot 1000 088156 (802.11ac 583) e(1) Broadband Extender 1000 088158 e(1) Broadband Extender Flex 1000 080219 e(2)
1000 600 11ac Wi-Fi Home Hotspot Plus 1000 080461 (802.11ac 867) e(1) Mini Connector 087372 e(2)
750 750 11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi Extender 750 85854 (802.11ac 733) e(1)
600 600 Dual-Band Wi-fi Extender 610 083530 (802.11n) e(1) Broadband Extender 600 084284 e(1) Broadband Extender Flex 600 084285 e(1)
Wi-Fi Home Hotspot Plus 600 084286 (802.11n) e(2)
Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot 600 084288 (802.11n) e(2)
300 300 Essentials Wi-Fi Extender 300 088159 (802.11n)

D-Link

WiFi
1 Port Ethernet
2 Port Ethernet
3 Port Ethernet
Range Max Speed Mbit/s No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through
AV2000 1900 DHP-701AV e(1)
AV1000 1000 DHP-W610AV (802.11ac 867) e(1) DHP-601AV e(1) DHP-P610AV e(1)
DHP-W611AV (802.11ac 867)
e(1)
DHP-P601AV e(1)
AV500 500 DHP-W310AV (802.11n) e(1) DHP-P509AV e(1)
AV200 200 DHP-309AV e(1)

Devolo

WiFi
1 Port Ethernet
2 Port Ethernet
3 Port Ethernet
Range Max Speed Mbit/s No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through
dLAN 1200 1200 dLAN 1200+ e(1) dLAN 1200 triple+ e(3)
dLAN 1000 1000 dLAN 1000 duo+ e(2)
dLAN 650 650 dLAN 650+ e(1) dLAN 650 triple+ e(3)
dLAN 550 550 dLAN 550 duo+ e(2)
dLAN 500 500 dLAN 500 duo e(2)

NetGear

WiFi
1 Port Ethernet
2 Port Ethernet
3 Port Ethernet
Range Max Speed Mbit/s No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through
PL2000 2000 PLP2000 e(2)
PL1200 1200 PL1200 e(1) PLP1200 e(1)
PL1000 1000 PLW1000 e(1) (802.11n 300) PL1000 e(1) PLP1000 e(1)
PLW1000v2 e(1) (802.11n 300)
PLW1010 e(1) (802.11ac)
PLW1010v2 e(1) (802.1ac)
PL500 500 XWN5001 (802.11n 300) e(1) XAVB5101 e(1) XAVB5401 e(1) XAVB5602 e(2)
XAVB5201 e(1)
XWN5021 (802.11n 300) e(1) XAVB5221 e(1) XAVB5421 e(1)
PL200 200 XAVB1301 e(1)

TP-Link

WiFi
1 Port Ethernet
2 Port Ethernet
3 Port Ethernet
Range Max Speed Mbit/s No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through
AV2000 2000 TL-WPA9610 (802.11ac 1200) e(1) TL-PA9020 e(2) TL-PA9020P e(2)
AV1300 1300 TL-WPA8630P (802.11ac 1350) e(1) TL-PA8010P e(1)
AV1200 1200 TL-WPA8730 (802.11ac 1750) e(3) TL-PA8010 e(1) TL-PA8030P e(3)
TL-WPA8630 (802.11ac 1200) e(3)
AV1000 1000 TL-WPA7510 (802.11ac 433) e(1) TL-PA7010 e(1) TL-PA7010P e(1) TL-PA7020 e(2) TL-PA7020P e(2)
AV600 600 TL-WPA4220 (802.11n 300) e(2) TL-PA4010 e(1) TL-PA4010P e(1) TL-PA4020P e(2)
AV500 500 TL-WPA4530 (802.11ac 433) e(3) TL-PA4010 e(1) TL-PA4020P e(2)

TRENDnet

WiFi
1 Port Ethernet
2 Port Ethernet
3 Port Ethernet
4 Port Ethernet
Range Max Speed Mbit/s No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through No
Pass-through
Pass-through
1300 AV2 1300 TPL-430AP e(3) (802.11ac 866) TPL-422E e(1) TPL-423E e(1)
1200 AV2 1200 TPL-420E e(1) TPL-421E e(1)
500 AV 500 TPL-410AP e(2) (802.11n 300) TPL-408E e(1) TPL-407E e(1) TPL-405E e(4)
TPL-406E e(1)
TPL-401E e(1) TPL-4052E e(4)
200 AV 200 TPL-331EP e(1)

e(#) = 1Gbps Ethernet

e(#) = 100Mbps Ethernet

(#) represents the number of ethernet ports present on WiFi adapter modules

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Buying Tips & Recommendations

If you are using the Powerline Comparison to create a new or expand an existing network. The following tips may offer some guidance.

  1. If you live in a flat, apartment, communal living (e.g. Student accomodation) ony consider devices with AES encryption.
  2. When expanding your existing network consider now whather you want to start swapping out any older devices. If you do, stick to the same manufacturer, but go to their newer models. If you do not, stick to the same manufacturer and range for the best  interoperability.
  3. Wired Powerline network users should only consider new adapters with 1Gbps ethernet. The adapter should have a minimum Powerline bandwidth of 1000 Mbit/s.
  4. If you intend to create a wired network with more than two wired ethernet device connected, and will be making non-Internet file transfers (e.g. backing up to a NAS or PC to PC file copy). Only look at the 2000 Mbit/s Powerline ranges.
  5. When creating a new wireless Powerline network. Only look at the 802.11ac ranges.
  6. If your broadband Internet connection is fast (e.g. true fibre optic) ideally do not let any single part of the Powerline network be slower than your broadband connection.

 

Common Questions

How many adapters do I need?

It is not always clear to new users starting out with Powerline adapters that you can expand the network beyond the first two appliances that you will probably have (or will) purchased in a starter kit bundle.

Powerline is in essence a broadcast technology, meaning that it is not limited just to the first two devices that you place in your home. Neither is is necessary to operate any subsequent device that you add in a pair of devices – so you do not have to have 4,6,8 adapters live at any one time and can just as easily have 3, 5 or 7 adapters live on your network.

You do have to have more than 1 adapter however!

 

Can I mix and match different manufacturers adapters?

‘Powerline’ is a technical standard, not a proprietary solution to each manufacturer – although they may add proprietary innovations on top of the standard. This means that in practice you should be able to mix and match Powerline devices from different manufacturers on your network provided that the product is advertising standards compliance to the following certification combinations.

Standard Max Line
Speed (standard)
Max Client
Speed (standard)
Backwards Compatibility Notes
IEEE 1901 500 Mbit/s
IEEE 1905.1 / nVoy HomePlug n/a The standard for Powerline + Wifi devices
HomePlug 1.0 14 Mbit/s IEEE 1901
HomePlug 1.0 turbo 85 Mbit/s IEEE 1901
HomePlug AV 200 Mbit/s 80 Mbit/s IEEE 1901, HomePlug 1.0 (in theory) ‘AV’ standard for Audio/Video
HomePlug AV2 1000 Mbit/s IEEE 1901, HomePlug AV, HomePlug 1.0 (in theory)

Being standards compliant does not mean that an individual manufacturer or model of Powerline adapter will actually meet the performance levels prescribed by the standard. It also does not prevent the adapter from exceeding the standard either under conditions defined by the manufacturer.

The standard exists to ensure that if you mix your ecosystem, you can expect that under optimal conditions, the devices will operate at the speed advocated for by the standard – but not (necessarily) at the maximum capable speed of both/either device. Conversely, if you do not mix your ecosystem, and only use devices made by manufacturer x, your realised real-world performance may instead be higher than that advocated for by the standard. Consequently, it is generally recommended that where possible you stick to the same manufacturer for your Powerline network and ideally the same series/range of device.

 

I can get a 2000 Mbit/s Powerline adapter, seems like a no brainier to make my computer/Internet faster?

Having looked at many reviews and videos on the subject, this topic is horribly misunderstood by people ‘in the know’ to the extent that they are further confusing the issue with false information. There are 5 aspects that influence why a typical single computer/single WiFi Extender scenario isn’t in most cases going to mean a 2000 Mbit/s solution will deliver.

Electrical wiring, distribution, electrical noise and distance: The age and quality of your home electrical system will have an impact on the performance. If your electrical system isn’t up to 2000 Mbit/s, you will never see anything like that speed, possibly pulling the performance down under 100 Mbit/s. Equally, the longer the distance between the adapter termination points, the more this figure will trail off.

IEEE 802.3 (ethernet): If you are going to connect your desktop PC at one end to your router at the other (and you have modern equipment) then the Ethernet cable and the network adapters at your computer/router are only capable of a theoretical maximum of 1000 Mbit/s. Having a 2000 Mbit/s Powerline adapter will not make this point-to-point, two device network any faster even if the Powerline adapter does operate at a speed higher than 1000 Mbit/s.

IEEE 802.11 (wireless): Similarly to that of the Ethernet, wireless technology is also rated at a maximum theoretical speed 54 Mbit/s for 802.11a/g, 11 Mbit/s for 802.11b, 600Mbit/s for 802.11n and up to 3466 Mbit/s for 802.11ac – in practice it usually isn’t more than ~ 1300 Mbit/s on current generation general consumer hardware. If the WiFi Access Point module on the Powerline adapter is only capable or 600 Mbit/s or your laptop/tablet/smartphone are only capable of 600 Mbit/s, having a faster Powerline adapter will not make your wireless any faster.

Internet Connection Speed: Most home installs are probably just being used to push the Internet connection arriving at your router a little further into your property, usually because you need it to reach into another room that is out of range of the existing wireless access point. Most home internet connections (in the UK) at the current time run at sub-100 Mbit/s. Assuming that your Powerline adapter is 2000 Mbit/s, your wired desktop is 1000 Mbit/s and your tablet is 600 Mbit/s, you will not get anything faster from the Internet than the 100 Mbit/s maximum speed of your home broadband. A faster Powerline adapter can not improve the spped of your actual Internet connection to the street.

Contention: This is the most important one that people misunderstand. Powerline is what is known as a contended broadcast medium. This means that every piece of information sent to one Powerline adapter is received and processed by all of the other Powerline adapters on the network. If you have 4 Powerline adapters that try and access the network simultaneously, then the available maximum bandwidth (e.g. 2000 Mbit/s) must be shared between them. There are more sophisticated underlying technologies in newer Powerline adapters, such as OFDM and latterly MIMO that significantly help to improve this, however the key thing to understand is that the 2000 Mbit/s figure on the box is the speed available to the holistic group of all Powerline adapters on the network and must be shared amongst all termination points.

In the case of OFDM bandwidth is shared as a proportion of the total frequency spectrum available to each adapter while in the case of MIMO it is shared up to the number of available MIMO channels. For very old adapters, the full bandwidth was available, but only one Powerline adapter could communicate on the network at any one time; during which time the other adapters had to wait.

At the beginning of this section I stated that getting faster network performance it isn’t a reality in most cases. So where is it a benefit?

The benefit of having the faster line speed (the maximum theoretical bandwidth available to the group of Powerline adapters) is when there are multiple end-point devices and/or multiple Powerline adapters.

Take a scenario where Internet access is removed from the equation and pretend that there are 4 Powerline adapters, A, B, C and D. Each Powerline adapter has a single wired ethernet connection running at 1Gb/s (1000 Mbit/s). If computer A copies a file to computer B while computer C copies a file to computer D and you have 2000 Mbit/s available to the Powerline network, simplified, a 1000 Mbit/s file copy + another 1000 Mbit/s file copy (with access to MIMO) = 2000 Mbit/s. So the 2000 Mbit/s adapter will in theory allow both copies to occur at the 1Gb/s line speed (full speed).

Again, this is a theoretical figure and there are a lot of variables that will define the actual speed. In reality you may only get 800 Mbit/s during the parallel transfer (1600 Mbit/s total), but this is only achievable because the Powerline back-end is capable of supporting the higher line speed. If the Powerline network was only itself capable of 1000 Mbit/s, then the best you could have hoped for during this parallel file transfer would have been 500 Mbit/s. This is the impact of contention.

In practice, there are a lot of tweaks and optimisation’s to how OFDM, MIMO and proprietary manufacturer innovations are applied on different products. These tweaks make the examples that I have outlines significant simplifications over what may actually be going on in any given Powerline adapter. It is also true that the Powerline network will likely not run anywhere near its theoretical maximum speed, bringing down the contended bandwidth figure that you are starting out with.

In these cases a faster device with MIMO and more frequency groups available may help you to realise slightly faster speeds. It is however important to understand what the figure on the box is actually telling you -and- to set expectations (and even save money) with end users.

Simply put: If you are only looking to have a point to point link and are only ever going to be using it to access the Internet there is usually little point spending money on faster Powerline modules for your use case.

 

When shouldn’t I use Powerline adapters?

Powerline should not be used if:

  1. You are involved in any form of secure network or secure data workflow. Powerline can easily leak data to your neighbours or into the street. Modern adapters usually come with AES 128 encryption support as an option, however AES 128 is not the strongest form of encryption by any means here in 2018. Equally, firmware updates and patches for Powerline adapters to fix security holes are not applied automatically. Unfortunately, neither are they made available by some manufacturers as frequently as they should be.
  2. If AES Encryption technology is illegal in your country: do not use an AES enabled device.
  3. You do not have direct access to a wall socket: Powerline adapters should not be used on power gangs, PDU’s or through surge protectors. If you do, at best they will either have significant signal degradation or will not work.
  4. If the length of your internal wiring is over 300m (try and keep it far shorter than this in practice i.e. under 200m).
  5. Your house has extremely old wiring or archaic distribution / fuse boards.
  6. You want to get a good signal across multiple distribution boards / fuse boards.
  7. The electrical system has a high number of noisy appliances and you are expecting to get performance out of the system.

 

What should I tell my electrician if I’m having work done?

If you are having work done or want to get an electrician in to troubleshoot poor Powerline adapter performance. Offer them the following tips and get ready with a laptop, ethernet cable and a test plan (e.g. SpeedTest.net, benchmark tool or a consistent large file copy).

  1. The electrician needs to provide a low-loss RF path across all circuits, and rings. The system requires low levels of electrical noise.
  2. Aluminium wiring, knob and tube wiring, old copper wiring, old fuse boards, distribution boards and sockets will undermine the performance. Unless it is 1990’s or newer, try and eliminate it from the system.
  3. Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI), Arc-Fault Detection Device (AFDD), Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), or Residual Current Device (RCD) circuit breakers can cause depleted or even entirely blocked Powerline signals. You can purchase “Powerline Compliant Outlet” surge protectors, which may mitigate some of the loss.
  4. Devices with switch-mode power supplies can create noise that limits performance. Isolate such devices before testing (especially near the receiver Powerline unit).
  5. Any appliance on your power system/ring with an electrical motor should be placed on its own surge protector e.g. air-conditioners, washing-machines and electric-fans.
  6. Remember the distance rule: Under 300m, ideally under 200m. This is especially important in the UK where rings are used allowing a run to be far longer than it might otherwise seem.
  7. 3-phase electrical systems do not work as well with Powerline. Avoid their use if possible in favour of 2-phase.
  8. If you are in a communal building, or high density residential environment, use a circuit breaker from the street to reduce the risk of data leakage out of your home.
  9. Loose screws, poor joints and thin or frayed cabling at connections can all cause problems. Ensure that everything is nice and tight.
  10. Crossing between ring mains will attenuate performance. Where possible keep adapters on the same ring main.

QNAP TVS-1271U Top Row of Drives (drives 9-12) do not start on boot/reboot of the NAS appliance

System Requirements:

  • QNAP TVS-1271U
  • QTS 4.3

The Problem:

A brand new, out of the box 12 drive 2u NAS appliance, with the “firmware” up to date gets thrown into production. During its first maintenance cycle, the firmware is updated again and it is rebooted.

On completion of the reboot, the array is offline. Visual inspection of the appliance reveals that the top row of drives in the array, drives 9, 10, 11 and 12 are offline. They just are not powered. Drives 1-8 are online and all green.

Rebooting the array shows the diagnostic LED’s on all 12 drives flash red, but the 4 drives in question then go into a powered down state and the boot completes with an inconsistent volume layout.

  1. Hot swapping the drives did not make a difference
  2. Rebooting the array did not make a difference.
  3. Testing all of the top rows worth of drives externally showed no errors in any drives
  4. Performing a couple of hard power downs and cold booting did solve the problem and allowed the array to start normally.

The same thing happened during the next test and diagnostics window.

The Fix

Disgruntled customer note: I want to add at this point that trying to phone QNAP UK is an exercise in futility. I sat in their queue system for more than half an hour listening to the same loop of music without getting anywhere. By the time that I gave up, I’d managed to get the thing to start through cold boot cycles and done quick SMART tests on all of the drives. When it came to this occurring the second time, I used the online chat feature with their people in Taiwan, who were more responsive and most helpful, but would not entertain speaking on the phone come what may.

My bigger issue is that QNAP support seems to have little sympathy for the needs of a production IT department, where as you would have thought that QNAP would be the kings of working to such constraints.

 

Once I had got to second line, the fix in itself was quite simple in the end, but its implementation leaves something to be desired. The system needed a BIOS update.

You might assume that when you are updating your “firmware“, this sort of things is being accommodated for in those updates. Apparently not! It seems as this new device may have been sitting in a warehouse for some time so was out of date, but it was immediately firmware serviced as soon as it was first booted. You would have expected that this sort of well know about, intermittent issue was being dealt with through the update delivery mechanism.

As soon as the BIOS of the TVS-1271U was updated to version QW10IR12 and rebooted, the problem was fixed. Why QNAP have not put information on this on their website knowledge base I do not know. This would seem more than sensible. QNAP does itself more reputational damage by trying to hide the issue and hope that only a few people see it. The reality is that they are likely causing stress and grief to end users and unnecessary RMA’s to their suppliers.

After checking power rails, our initial response was that it was a dead backplane and we were assuming it would have to be an RMA. Fortunately, it wasn’t and fortunately I went to QNAP before I went back to the supplier, but you do not always, especially with companies increasingly insisting that you deal with suppliers for RMA processes. A little public disclosure about this known issue would have just saved a lot of headaches (and disclosure makes you look good QNAP!).

The execution of the BIOS update itself was unfortunately quite cumbersome, requiring the support tech to back-up and then re-programme all of the NIC MAC addresses built into the motherboard. Something that could have easily have been sorted in a shall script and then transparently bundled into the firmware delivery, saving QNAP Taiwan more than an hours’ worth of time on this and some 8 emails.

It did however fix the problem and the Taiwan support team were pretty accomodating about doing it at 7am UK time.

Here for the benefit of the rest of the world, is the process that the tech went through to flash the BIOS. I have substituted real MAC addresses with fake ones below.

Note: I strongly recommend that you do not try this yourself and that you contact QNAP via their web chat support if you have a need to perform this procedure. If you try it, it is entirely at your own risk.

login as: admin
admin@192.168.1.1's password:
[~] # md_checker Welcome to MD superblock checker (v1.4) - have a nice day~ Scanning system... HAL firmware detected!
Scanning Enclosure 0...
RAID metadata found!
UUID: 3e5d7c85:95d82d3e:42647860:c0aaec32
Level: raid6
Devices: 12
Name: md2
Chunk Size: 512K
md Version: 1.0
Creation Time: Apr 19 11:57:42 2017
Status: ONLINE (md2) [UUUUUUUUUUUU]
===============================================================================
Disk | Device | # | Status | Last Update Time | Events | Array State
===============================================================================
1 /dev/sdc3 0 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 156 AAAAAAAAAAAA
2 /dev/sdd3 1 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 156 AAAAAAAAAAAA
3 /dev/sde3 2 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
4 /dev/sdf3 3 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
5 /dev/sdk3 4 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
6 /dev/sdl3 5 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
7 /dev/sdm3 6 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
8 /dev/sdn3 7 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
9 /dev/sdg3 8 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
10 /dev/sdh3 9 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
11 /dev/sdi3 10 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
12 /dev/sdj3 11 Active Jun 16 07:15:08 2017 155 AAAAAAAAAAAA
=============================================================================== [~] # cd /share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public/
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # ls
@Recycle/ messages
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # wget http://download.qnap.com/Storage/tsd/bios/TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip
--2017-06-16 07:16:51-- http://download.qnap.com/Storage/tsd/bios/TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip
Resolving download.qnap.com (download.qnap.com)... 2.17.149.135, 2a02:26f0:ec:38c::1b52, 2a02:26f0:ec:398::1b52
Connecting to download.qnap.com (download.qnap.com)|2.17.149.135|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 5931607 (5.7M) [application/zip]
Saving to: ‘TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip’ TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip 100%[=====================================================================>] 5.66M 5.50MB/s in 1.0s 2017-06-16 07:16:52 (5.50 MB/s) - ‘TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip’ saved [5931607/5931607] [/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # chmod +x TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # unzip TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip
Archive: TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip
creating: BIOS_QW10IR12/
inflating: BIOS_QW10IR12/flashrom
inflating: BIOS_QW10IR12/QW10IR12.bin
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # ls
@Recycle/ BIOS_QW10IR12/ TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip* messages
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # dmidecode -t bios | grep version
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # cd
[~] # cd /
[/] # dmidecode -t bios | grep version
[/] # cd -
/root
[~] # cd /share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public/
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # head /etc/config/uLinux.conf
[System]
Model = TS-X71U
Internal Model = TS-X71
Server comment =
Version = 4.3.3
Build Number = 20170606
Number = 0224
Time Zone = Europe/London
Enable Daylight Saving Time = TRUE
Workgroup = QNAP
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # cat /etc/model.conf | grep INTERNAL_NET_PORT_NUM
INTERNAL_NET_PORT_NUM = 4
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # hal_app --se_sys_get_mac obj_index=0
35:35:35:35:36:31
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # hal_app --se_sys_get_mac obj_index=1
35:35:35:35:36:32
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # hal_app --se_sys_get_mac obj_index=2
35:35:35:35:36:33
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # hal_app --se_sys_get_mac obj_index=3
35:35:35:35:36:34
[/share/CACHEDEV2_DATA/Public] # cd
[~] # cd /share/Public
[/share/Public] # ls
@Recycle/ BIOS_QW10IR12/ TVS-1271U_QW10IR12.zip* messages
[/share/Public] # cd BIOS_QW10IR12/
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # ls
QW10IR12.bin flashrom
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # ls
QW10IR12.bin flashrom
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # chmod +x *
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # ls
QW10IR12.bin* flashrom*
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # ./flashrom -c MX25L128050 --programmer internal -w QW10IR12.bin
flashrom v0.9.8-unknown on Linux 4.2.8 (x86_64)
flashrom is free software, get the source code at http://www.flashrom.org Error: Unknown chip 'MX25L128050' specified.
Run flashrom -L to view the hardware supported in this flashrom version.
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # ./flashrom -c MX25L12805D --programmer internal -w QW10IR12.bin
flashrom v0.9.8-unknown on Linux 4.2.8 (x86_64)
flashrom is free software, get the source code at http://www.flashrom.org Calibrating delay loop... OK.
Found chipset "Intel C226".
This chipset is marked as untested. If you are using an up-to-date version
of flashrom *and* were (not) able to successfully update your firmware with it,
then please email a report to flashrom@flashrom.org including a verbose (-V) log.
Thank you!
Enabling flash write... Warning: SPI Configuration Lockdown activated.
OK.
Found Macronix flash chip "MX25L12805D" (16384 kB, SPI) mapped at physical address 0xff000000.
Reading old flash chip contents... done.
Erasing and writing flash chip... Erase/write done.
Verifying flash... VERIFIED.
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # hal_app --se_sys_set_mac obj_index=0,value=35:35:35:35:36:81
eth port = 0, Set MAC address = 35:35:35:35:36:31,ret = 0
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # hal_app --se_sys_set_mac obj_index=1,value=35:35:35:35:36:82
eth port = 1, Set MAC address = 35:35:35:35:36:32,ret = 0
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # hal_app --se_sys_set_mac obj_index=2,value=35:35:35:35:36:83
eth port = 2, Set MAC address = 35:35:35:35:36:33,ret = 0
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # hal_app --se_sys_set_mac obj_index=3,value=35:35:35:35:36:84
eth port = 3, Set MAC address = 35:35:35:35:36:34,ret = 0
[/share/Public/BIOS_QW10IR12] # reboot