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One way to get to the root of SCSI trouble

Before you start running the troubleshooting tree on a SCSI device, there's a step you should take that usually isn't on a checklist.

Editor's note: This is one in a series of tips on troubleshooting SCSI. Other tips will cover troubleshooting SCSI terminators, IDs and cabling -- the three major trouble spots for SCSI.

Before you start running the troubleshooting tree on a SCSI device, there's a step you should take that usually isn't on the checklist: Pay a visit to the vendor's Web site.

Check the firmware
Are you running the latest version of the firmware? A lot of hard-to-locate problems have been fixed by firmware updates since you installed the device. Even if the device is newly installed, there may have been firmware updates since it left the factory.

Check issues like the tech notes, bugfixes and FAQs
This is otherwise known as not reinventing the wheel. A lot of problems will be spelled out in support information on the site.

Don't neglect the FAQs. Often they include not only common problems, but troubleshooting tips, too, both general and device specific. If you don't already have a SCSI troubleshooting checklist, the vendor's FAQ often includes one.

You may be wondering why the vendor's Web site should be the first place to turn when you run into a problem. The reason is because it's quick insurance before you start tearing into the system. You can hit the site and check basic information about as fast as you can pull the cover off a drive enclosure. If you don't find anything on the vendor's site, you can proceed to the conventional troubleshooting checklist with more confidence since you're not up against something really obscure.

Of course, the probability is that your SCSI problem doesn't involve the firmware and the fix won't be spelled out on the site. In fact, chances are the cause of the SCSI problem involves terminations, connections or cabling.

I will discuss how to troubleshoot these problems in a series of tips coming up soon.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.
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