written by Wyatt Zacharias

m.2 PCIe SSD Failure Symptoms

I ran accross an interesting hardward failure the other day in a fairly new HP Elitebook, however, initially I didn’t even realize a hardware failure was the cause of the issues encountered. When booting the laptop it would sit on the “HP Sure Start” screen indefinitely, without even reaching the bios. My first thought was that something was buggered with the TPM module (which is responsible for the HP Sure Start screen ahead of the bios), but with no error message from the TPM and being unable to reach the bios, I started trying to hard reset things as best I could. After removing about 20 tiny screws from the back cover and prying it off I was able to reach the laptop’s main battery, as well as the cmos battery. After leaving the laptop completly unpowered for several minutes I tried booting again, but still hit the same dead end as before. At this point the only option left was to remove every module possible, including the system RAM, and see if I can even get some angry beeps from the bios about missing hardward. Success! With no RAM and no HDD the bios will at least beep at me that something is wrong. Now working backwards, I started with just the system RAM but no HDD, and voila, I get a bios complaining about no bootable disks, and the option to enter setup. Now even up to this point I still wasn’t convinced that the SSD was actually the problem, since the laptop was only a couple months old at this point. However, even after defaulting and resetting the bios and TPM several times, I still could not get past the HP Sure Start screen with the SSD in the laptop. After sending the machine to the HP repair depot my diagnosis was confirmed when they returned the machine with a new SSD replacement.

An interesting complication of these new PCIe based hard drives, if the controller on the drive fails you end up with a dead PCIe device, which the bios will hang on trying to initialise. This could make data recovery off these drives much more complicated since there’s no way to even attempt to read data off the drive if your bios can’t initialise the PCIe device, even if you have another drive to boot off of.