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the documentation for it stated a complex process for connecting the two up (although that documentation is now out of date – both the NAS firmware and version of OS X have moved on) I found that the NAS simply appeared in Time Machine.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…
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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).
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!