Solved: Apple SATA II 1.7 Firmware Problems

mbp13When something ‘just works’ 99.9% of the time, that .1% of downtime is particularly frustrating. This is what I recently experienced with my Time Capsule networking fiasco, and was paralleled by another problem stemming from an Apple firmware update.

The new MacBook Pros were shipped with their SATA II data speeds crippled; they were limited to 1.5Gps rather than the SATA II 3.0Gbps standardized speed. While this had no real effect for HDD users, it did affect SSD users – SSD is capable of taking advantage of the SATA II spec, and so SSD users rightly complained.

Apple heard these complaints, and released a firmware update for the MacBook Pro line; they warned that the update might not work with non-stock drives (!) but that it would restore SATA II speeds. I decided to update the firmware, just because having an up-to-date system is a good idea. This is right-minded thinking, right?


Shortly after installing the firmware update I began experiencing regular slowdowns; every few minutes I’d get a spinning beach ball for 3-40 seconds, during which the computer was effectively frozen. I discovered that there isn’t a way of rolling back to earlier version of firmware on a mac (!), and that there was a good chance I’d just need to wait for Apple to issue a new firmware update.

After reading through a variety of forums, it appeared that resetting the PRAM should resolve the spinning beach balls on stock HDDs. To reset the PRAM, reboot the computer and hold command+option+P+R. You should hear two chimes, and then the computer will boot into OS X. Since resetting the PRAM on my stock 13″ MacBook Pro the slowdowns have vanished!

Hopefully this will be the end of my Apple-related IT woes for a while!