Mysterious AMD USB drive

Ken went to EclipseCon and all he brought me back was this lousy USB drive..

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Actually, I had seen Ian’s post EclipseCon Guide to Free Stuff and asked Ken to grab me one.

As expected, there were a bunch of AMD promotional .pdf files on the device.  I’m interested in reading through it at one point, but I also think a ‘free’ 1Gig USB drive is pretty handy.  The drive shows up with 2 partitions, one is 20MB with the promotional material on it – read-only, and the other is a read/write partition with the remainder of the Gig.

Now maybe there is something I just don’t know about flash drives, but I’m not able to convince Windows or Linux to reformat this thing to remove the 20MB read only partition.  If anyone out there knows the magic, please add a comment with the solution.

I got to thinking maybe it was a hardware hack.  So of course, I busted it open.

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The flip side is a very generic looking 1Gig flash chip.  The controller chip is by ChipBank, a CBM2090.  There are some data sheets available for it, but nothing that really tells me much.

I’m actually starting to get the feeling that this is a clever firmware hack.  If I had access to the right software, I could reach in and tweak the system to ‘fix’ the read only flag and reformat to my liking.  So far, no luck.

7 thoughts on “Mysterious AMD USB drive”

  1. Hi there.
    I am assuming you are trying to format by right clicking the drive letter in windows and selecting format, correct? This method is for formatting only, not re-partitioning.

    I think windows will let you do this. Treat it like a harddrive. Right click on the “My Computer” icon either on your desktop or in the Start Menu and select “Manage.” Once there, you can remove the 2 partitions and create one overall partition.

    However, my preference, PartitionMagic. It makes things a lot easier than the windows way.

    Good luck.

  2. Your assumption is incorrect, but I wasn’t clear as to what I had tried thus far.

    I’ve tried to repartition using windows and linux (fdisk). I’ve tried various usb tools (such as the HP USB disk format tool http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file/fid,64963-order,3-page,1-c,peripherals/description.html) which has been useful to me in the past to make a USB drive bootable. I played around with some tools from hddguru.com that claim to allow low-level formatting, but still no dice.

    There is a fairly popular issue similar to this with the U3 enabled drives. http://www.u3.com – and these folk supply a removal tool. This may be a similar type of technology, but of course the U3 removal is not likely to work.

  3. I haven’t had the opportunity to try the tools you mentioned. However, a correction on my part. It was Partition Manager that I used. It worked for me, as it had features that xp didn’t have.

  4. (Ken who was strip searched going through customs because of this USB stick) says: Not sure if there’s anything on the mac that might help? Could always plug it into McQ’s or mine. Likely not if you’ve tried those other tools.

  5. That’s brilliant on AMD’s part if it takes so much effort to delete a partition and reformat. I hope you find a fix, but nowadays 1GB USB flash is nothing.

  6. This was ages ago (original post from 2008). I still have the key, and never figured out how to fix it. In the course of looking into the problem I came across the fascinating world of ‘fake flash drives’.

    http://reviews.ebay.com/HOW-TO-TEST-FOR-FAKE-USB-DRIVE_W0QQugidZ10000000003664934

    http://caprolibra.com/B10g/images/20080410-usb-flash-fake-capacity/USB-Flash-Drive-Scam-Hotfix.html

    This is using basically a similar trick, but instead of partitioning the drive into 2 areas – they are pretending the drive volume is bigger than it should be.

    Of course, the programs to do this will vary from flash controller to flash controller.

    [Edit]
    Ooh, look this link may be a solution http://forums.hak5.org/index.php?showtopic=8614 something I’ll have to poke at when I’m running Windows.

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