ZyXEL NSA310 NAS and issues with the latest firmware

Back in April I upgraded my ZyXEL NSA210 NAS to the ZyXEL NSA310 model. Quicker hardware and improved features made the £50 outlay worthwhile.

After getting my Mac the other week I switched on the Time Machine option within the NSA310. Although the documentation for it stated a complex process for connecting the two up (although that documentation is now out of date – both the NAS firmware and version of OS X have moved on) I found that the NAS simply appeared in Time Machine. I set it up and the initial backup started. Unfortunately, it stopped after the first few gigabytes and, although listed under Finder, I found that I was unable to re-connect.

I thought this was a Mac problem but after signing onto my NAS via the web interface on my desktop PC (I’m not sure if you can that on a Mac) I realised there was something horribly wrong. The list of problems included…

  • The NAS was showing CPU usage at a constant 0%
  • There were no packages listed and selecting the option to download them caused nothing to appear
  • It showed that the firmware had never been checked and clicking the option to check, again, caused nothing to happen
  • My “shares” were no longer available in Windows only – this wasn’t just a Mac problem
  • When listing the shared in the admin screen none of them were editable and their icon was a folder with a question mark – nothing in the help states what this means
  • The disk volume name was blank and changing it did nothing – it remained blank
  • If you performed a repair on the volume it aborted part way through
  • The SMART package that I used to monitor the drive had disappeared

In a nutshell – it was FUBAR‘d.

I wrote about the above on the official ZyXEL forums but, after a few days, had heard nothing so I emailed ZyXEL customer services for assistance. After nearly an entire working week having heard nothing I queries this via their Twitter account and was promptly replied to (good that this worked, but I really shouldn’t have to chase them in this way to get a response). After checking which firmware version I had they recommended 2 things…

  1. Perform a database rebuild. After querying how this was done, they send me the PDF manual. Unfortunately, the reason why I was confused was because the firmware version I have (the latest) doesn’t have this option anymore. Sadly, the document they sent me was also for an older version.
  2. Install TeamViewer so they could remotely access my desktop PC and access the NAS. No, no, no – not allowing that.

At this point I did a thorough search on Google for the issues I was experiencing – and found other users on an independent NAS forum talking about the same. They’d recently updated their 310 firmware – suddenly I remembered I’d done this. From the experiences of other users this was a problem with the firmware, 4.50, and were suggesting installing the previous version again – 4.40.

This I did but although the NAS was showing the older firmware version the menu options were reflecting the newer version. Although, at first the shares became available after only a short time (minutes) they became inaccessable again.

So, I used the factory reset option to clear out all configuration. Again, the shares came back and although I noticed the 4.50 options were still present all the above issues appeared to have gone. I then, hoping this might have cleared out whatever caused the original issue, upgraded to 4.50. Still, all seemed well. I even managed to connect up Time Machine again and kick off the backup again. But then, again, the shared disappeared and, after checking, all my issues are back to square one.

I’ve tried to recreate what I did before to try and get access to my shared again but this time, pushing back the firmware and clearing the configuration, it’s no better.

All of this I did over the weekend whilst ZyXEL customer services were not around. However, I kept them up-to-date and, after a very frustrating Sunday, told them pretty much what I thought of their products and the quality of their software updates.

Right now it’s turned off, useless. The backups are inaccessible and I have no way at the moment of backing up my computers.

ZyXEL emailed me back this morning asking me for a contact number and I sent them my mobile number. That was this morning and I haven’t heard anything since.

To get some screenshots for this article (and, hopefully, for ZyXEL) I thought I’d boot everything back up – sadly, the NAS just hung. The hard drive light was on constantly and any attempt to access it via the web interface just gave me a blank screen. So I, once again, performed a hard reset and this gained me access

My plan now is to get a swift fix from ZyXEL – if this isn’t forthcoming I’ll pursue getting a refund and looking for an alternative solution. Meantime, I’ll update this article with any word from ZyXEL.

Update 1

No sooner had I published this article but I received a phone call from ZyXEL. As I was at my desktop at the time I allowed them supervised remote access and they confirmed all the issues that I was reporting. Their conclusion – hard drive.

Thankfully I have spares so I’ve since put in a blank one and (fingers crossed) it all seems to be working – even the Time Machine backup on my Mac.

I’ll continue testing in the meantime but I’m suspicious about their actually being something wrong with the drive. For a start, when I did get it working for a short time at the weekend I ran the SMART utility to check the drive status and all was fine. Also, I notice that the new drive is reporting to be in EXT4 format. The previous one was XFS. Do you think during the firmware update that it’s got confused? Certainly all of the issues point to the NAS not being able to access the drive, but that doesn’t mean the drive itself is faulty.

First of all I need to try and get off any data from the old drive. Once I’ve done that I’m going to re-format it – hopefully when re-installed the NAS will format it to EXT4. I’ll email ZyXEL back and see if they can suggest anything.

Update 2

All seems to be working fine this morning. However, I remain suspicious of the cause. Is it possible that by using a drive from an older NAS, using XFS, it’s caused a problem with the new firmware? I wonder if ZyXEL tested this firmware on XFS and just assumed that NSA310 owners would have drives in EXT4 format instead?

My next plan is to try and get the information off my NAS drive. Sadly neither Windows or Mac will read the XFS format. I’m going to stick it in my NSA210, which I still have, and see if it’s still accessible – something tells me it will. In this case I’ll stream off the data onto another of my spare drives. Once done, I’ll format the drive and put it back in my NSA310. I’m assuming it will get re-formatted to EXT4 – in which case I’ll put money on the fact that it will then work okay.

Update 3

No call from ZyXEL, even though they promised to do so tonight. Meantime I’ve dug out my NSA210 to try and access my old drive. Sadly I can’t get it to work, even with a working new drive in it – it appears to boot up okay but it doesn’t appear on the network at all. I guess that’s what happens when you leave it in a box for months.

So, I have no way of accessing the contents of the “failed” drive, which is a shame.

Tonight I’ve ordered a new hard drive from eBuyer – the PC Pro “A listed” Hitachi Deskstar (1GB).

Update 4

I got my callback from ZyXEL – the next day, whilst I was at work and therefore away from my NAS. Not ideal. But, anyway, they suggested I check my router to see if that’s detecting my NSA210. When I got home I did this and could see it. In the end I installed the desktop utility and that found it. It also reported that no drive was present – the original (apparantly faulty) NSA310 drive was in it, so I guess that confirms that. UNLESS it’s to do with the formatting. To be honest I’ve given up now – I’ve accepted the data loss and will look forward to getting my new drive. I’m just going to make sure in future that none of the data on the NAS isn’t backed up elsewhere!



12 responses

  1. Andy_Spoo avatar

    I have 2 of these. I use them to backup to each other (as you know things go wrong, so I’ve got a backup of a backup)! So I can tell you that what Zyxel is saying is BULL. I upgraded both of them to 4.50 at the same time. Big mistake. They both locked up after a few seconds or minutes. So no way did both drives fail at the same time.

    There is a way to access the data on them though. You need to be able to read the JBOD format. I don’t think Windows is capable of doing this. Ubuntu can though, but you need to install a package called ‘mdadm ‘, so do sudo apt-get install mdadm and then reboot. The drive will then be perfectly readable as a normal drive.

    I have a fix for this though (seems to be working for me anyway). You need to remove your drive from the NAS, boot it up and install the old 4.40 firmware (Google it). Access the drive as above, and delete the TWONKY directory. Go in to the .system directory (. files are hidden, so make sure you have hidden files viewable), and delete the .db files (database files). There’s also another ‘.’ directory that contains .db files, delete those files as well. Reinsert the drive in to your NAS and boot it up. Remove the ‘packages’ and reinstall them. When the NAS has finished rebuilding the database (It’ll take some time) all seems to be fine. Well, I’ve not had a lockup for 3 hours yet.

    When you replace the drive, you’re just getting rid of all the bad stuff that Zyxel has installed on it, which is causing the lock-ups. If you want to check if it’s the drive or the NAS, just remove the drive and access the NAS and if the NAS it never locks up, you need to do what I’ve suggested.

    Hope this helps someone.

  2. Cristian Bacuiane avatar
    Cristian Bacuiane

    Hi David.

    Sorry to dig-up a 6-months old article… BUT…

    There’s one thing that puzzles me over here: if Zyxel Support said that “the harddrive is faulty”… why didn’t you connect it to a PC and test the drive with any HDD testing software regardless of what the SMART reported? Call me paranoid if you’d like, but the question remains.

    Or, just for testing purposes, leave it in the PC to monitor its behavior. If the drive stopped working in the NAS, then it should have stopped in the PC as well.

    If the HDD wouldn’t have stopped functioning while connected to the PC and assuming that the HDD was not a low powered “green” drive, then maybe, and just “maybe” as i don’t want to accuse Zyxel or their products of anything, the NAS’ power supply was not providing sufficient power for the drive.

    Anyway… for a guy having HDD spares around and not testing the drive “identified” as faulty… that’s kind of a bad mojo.

    Just my two cents if it made any sense.

    1. The problem was that the NAS used a format for the drive which my Windows PC was unable to read and I was unable to find any (reasonably priced) software that would be able to.

      The HDD itself turned out to be fine – I ended up reformatting it and using it back in the NAS for a while. However, in the end, I gave up with the NAS and I’ve used the drive in my recent desktop build.

      The original post was more about the ZyXEL service and the fact that the update had corrupted my data – something that others have reported but ZyXEL have never accepted. Indeed, they appeared uninterested in the root cause of my problem.

      Now, if anybody would like to buy my NSA-310 (or my NSA-210, which I still have) then they’re both available, reasonably priced 😉

      1. Cristian Bacuiane avatar
        Cristian Bacuiane

        Well David, I was asking about testing the drive… let’s say “physically” (although this isn’t the correct term). Meaning that the testing software, even if it ran on Windows, DOS, Linux…, doesn’t “care” about the filesystem the drive’s been formatted with.

        Usually, a harddrive has about 3 types of tests: Self test (quick and full), surface tests (read, write, write/read, read/write/read, and reinitialize disk surface) and seek test. These tests can be run even on a new harddrive that had no data on it ever.

        Anyway… I’m glad to see your issue had been somewhat resolved. 🙂
        Maybe next time somebody tells you that “your drive is faulty”, you can test it and “slap” them with the results 😀

        1. I’m fully aware of all that – however testing the drive wasn’t going to help. I was awaiting ZyXEL essentially because the data on the drive needed, if at all possible, saving. They concluded it was the hard drive not I – I made it clear I thought the firmware update had corrupted the drive contents. Following their advise and swapping did indeed correct the problem but only because it reformatted to the newer format drive that the NAS now uses (so I believe, anyway). The fact that the drive is still in use does indeed prove that ZyXEL were wrong.

          But, yes, I could have tested earlier but because I was trying to get a fix to the existing drive so I could keep the contents I wasn’t interested in pursuing that path, until ZyXEL basically said I had to. It’s a shame they never recognised that it was a format issue rather than a physical drive failure as there may have been a way after all for me to have retrieved my data.

          1. Robin Thakur avatar
            Robin Thakur

            I updated my Zyxel NSA325 about a week ago, and now I can’t access my NSA via Finder -> Go IP Address on my Macbook pro over Wifi. The shares etc show up fine on a PC, but this is really annoying! I think they need to test their firmware a bit more.

  3. Cristian Bacuiane avatar
    Cristian Bacuiane

    Maybe it’s just me… but… IF you have important data AND the hardware is working as it should in the first place… then WHY in the bloody hell do you want to do an firmware upgrade?

    Just my 2 cents… if it made any sense…

  4. Hi came across this after having the exact same problem. The shares were showing as invalid, couldn’t connect from mac or windows.

    What fixed it for me was to disable any add ons in the applications area. Go through them and then them all off. When everything is off including iTunes server do a reboot.

    For me it came back up and without any data loss. Let me know if it works for you.

  5. I have experienced exactly the same. I lost 10 years worth of family photographs for no reason. Windows could see the files but could not access them. With the “help” of their support desk they succeeded is loosing even the ability of windows to list the files. They send you a ticket via EMAIL but NO ONE EVER gets back to you!!.

    I recently found some of My pictures on an old drive.

    So I put them on the NAS and tried to use the Zyxel GOOGLE Drive Package to backup up to Google drive but that did not work. Nor could two of their “support” analysts provide any in sight or reason as to why it did not work. One month later no one has respond to that ticket either. that ticketing system is a waste of time

    Today I tried the auto upload to Flickr…. guess what? That does not work either ( lots of messages on Google about.this)

    Do Zxyel test anything they provide or are all their “packages” purely there to market pseudo functionality?

    These would be great NAS units if they did half the things they were supposed to do and it the company provide even the smallest modicum of support.

    NOT IMPRESSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    1. Cristian Bacuiane avatar
      Cristian Bacuiane

      Hi ya Joe… Well whadda ya know?

      Sorry to pick on you and as I’m not part of any zyxel, I’m will be pretty harsh on you.

      Now, considering that you had 10 years of photos and data on the drive, what were you thinking while updating/upgrading the firmware? I see that in this case… the update/upgrade was more important than the actual (lost) data.

      Also, “NAS” means “Network Attached Storage”. NAS systems are networked appliances which contain one or more hard drives, often arranged into logical, redundant storage containers or RAID. Network-attached storage removes the responsibility of file serving from other servers on the network. They typically provide access to files using network file sharing protocols such as NFS, SMB/CIFS, or AFP. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network-attached_storage).

      Thus the cloud packages that you are crying about… well they should be considered a “Bonus”. Anyway, if you’re so upset by the overall “unit” functionality, has it occurred to you to verify the features BEFORE acquiring it?

      I mean.. 10 years of photos to go into oblivion it’s not that big-a-deal. Right?

      I’m no lucky guy and I’ve had my share of lost data and faulty equipment. And, NO, I’m not affiliated with zyxel in any way, but forgive me for saying this… “You asked for it”.

      Nowadays, a NAS does have (bonus) additional features that extend their functionality past the LAN file sharing or media server capabilities. BUT, when you want to make a MAJOR change (yes, it’s a major with uppercase letters), such as Firmware update / upgrade, you need to search for more information on the actual process and BACK-UP the possibly affected data beforehand. This applies for ANY kind of device that hosts data, regardless of its age or level of importance.

      In the end, I’ll share with you my motto: “If it works, WHY fix it?”

      PS: Yes, I do own a Zyxel NSA-310, the 2 TB version. No FW updates, and work as it should. Period.

    2. Cristian Bacuiane avatar
      Cristian Bacuiane

      And… now for some possible usefull information.

      If you still have the drive, untouched, as in not formatted, take it out of the NAS and mount it on a Linux PC.

      There is a chance for you to recover the data if you install the “old” firmware version. But try the linux machine first, just to be sure.

  6. Ian Johnston avatar
    Ian Johnston

    I had an NSA325 v1 in which a Seagate Barracuda 1TB drive failed so badly that it’s not even recognized as a device – let alone readable – on my desktop PC. There were various other oddities, and Zyxel replaced the v1 with an NSA325 v2 under warranty. I put in a brand new Western Digital Green 1TB drive and switched it on. It was recognized and the RAID started rebuilding. An hour later the RAID status changed to “Unknown” and the red indicator LED came on for the new drive, which is now also undetected by my desktop PC.

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