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Question Samsung's Magician...its magic has escaped me...ideas?

Submariner637

Junior Member
Sep 27, 2021
5
2
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G’day, I’m preparing a Dell Inspiron workstation for transfer and the SSD containing the O.S. needs to be properly wiped. The SSD is a Samsung 970 EVO Plus, 1T, so I am using Samsung’s Magician utility to perform the wipe. After reviewing blogs like this one, and youtube advice, I believe that I’ve become familiar with the process.

In a nutshell after doing the proper backup and other prep work, Magician is launched, and the option Secure Erase is selected. In this GUI the desired SSD is identified and magician helps you create a bootable flash drive….easy. The system is then restarted. If the BIOS is not already prepared to perform a Legacy Boot from the flash drive then at restart hit F2 on Dell machines and make the necessary BIOS changes. With this in place, when the system reboots from the flash drive you will see a script run, which I gather has been placed on the flash drive by Magician. This basic DOS looking dialog begins with warnings and disclaimers and then asks the question. “Do you accept the disclaimer and warning? [Y/N]:

SO HERE IS MY PROBLEM: The keyboard is not functional at this point and I cannot enter y, Y, n, N….or any other keystroke….subsequently, I cannot proceed with the process….nuts.
I’ve tried other configurations of the BIOS setup, keyboards (wired and wireless)….all without success.
Ideas? Has Samsung disabled the keyboard to protect me from my foolish actions?

Thanks for your insight.
 

Shmee

Memory and Storage, Graphics Cards
Super Moderator
Sep 13, 2008
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I am not certain why samsung's bootable utility is not recognizing the keyboard, buy my guess is that it does not contain the USB drivers required for the Dell USB controller. You could try using another USB port, preferably a USB 2 port, or even a PS2 port if available.

Also, you could do an NVMe secure erase with another utility, such as parted magic or another Linux distro, or possibly by another bootable utility.
 

Submariner637

Junior Member
Sep 27, 2021
5
2
36
I am not certain why samsung's bootable utility is not recognizing the keyboard, buy my guess is that it does not contain the USB drivers required for the Dell USB controller. You could try using another USB port, preferably a USB 2 port, or even a PS2 port if available.

Also, you could do an NVMe secure erase with another utility, such as parted magic or another Linux distro, or possibly by another bootable utility.
Hey Shmee....thanks for the thoughts. I'd not considered the driver issue so I'll look into that possibility. I have tried several of the wealth of USB ports on the machine but NO JOY.

Yes, I'd seen others use different utilities with good success. Forgive me but I'm so paranoid about third party software its always a last ditch approach. I'm going to check the DELL forums to see if they have a utility that will do the trick.
Again...thanks for the advice.
 

Dave3000

Golden Member
Jan 10, 2011
1,113
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I'm also having this issue with my keyboard not responding in Samsung Secure Erase. I tried another USB port and it still get the same issue. I also tried a wireless keyboard with a USB unifying receiver and it responds in this program except one time when it didn't with the wireless keyboard and I had to hard reboot my system to get it to respond in the program the next time I ran it, but I can never get my USB keyboard to respond in that program in my current main system. Not only that, the program won't detect my Samsung SSD's on my Ryzen 5800x system when I do get it to respond with my wireless keyboard. These two issues only happen when using my Ryzen 5800x system. On my i7-4930k system, I don't have these issues in this program.
 
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Billy Tallis

Senior member
Aug 4, 2015
275
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Forgive me but I'm so paranoid about third party software its always a last ditch approach.
This is pretty much the opposite of the mindset you should have. Most of the "magic" in a tool like Samsung Magician is snake oil and window dressings, and what little useful functionality it has is stuff that should be a standard part of the operating system rather than tied up in vendor-specific tooling. Third-party open-source software is fully capable of showing you SMART data or performing a Secure Erase/NVMe Format or applying a firmware update (if you can get the firmware file itself from the manufacturer, or extract it from their convoluted, fragile update tool).
 

Submariner637

Junior Member
Sep 27, 2021
5
2
36
This is pretty much the opposite of the mindset you should have. Most of the "magic" in a tool like Samsung Magician is snake oil and window dressings, and what little useful functionality it has is stuff that should be a standard part of the operating system rather than tied up in vendor-specific tooling. Third-party open-source software is fully capable of showing you SMART data or performing a Secure Erase/NVMe Format or applying a firmware update (if you can get the firmware file itself from the manufacturer, or extract it from their convoluted, fragile update tool).
Hey Billy thanks for your thoughts.
Regrettably an unprovoked and vehement attack on a vendor simply destroys the credibility of your argument however well meaning. Is there a hidden ax to be ground here, Billy?

I agree that there are in fact viable third party solutions, although you have not identified one, and my personal choice to use the hardware vendor's dedicated tool is completely rational. As I stated, third party software is an option just not my preferred option.

P.S. Samsung did not write the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system...but you knew that....so just as you suggest, Samsung has offered a tool just as the other third parties have. Can you articulate why the Samsung Magician tool is substandard? Any personal experience with it?

Maybe its only me but responses offering less opinion and presenting accurate and actionable advice are more useful to the forum membership and more likely to draw additional community members and vendor contribution.
 

Billy Tallis

Senior member
Aug 4, 2015
275
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Regrettably an unprovoked and vehement attack on a vendor simply destroys the credibility of your argument however well meaning. Is there a hidden ax to be ground here, Billy?
My intention was to point out that your skepticism about third-party software was unjustified, not to call out Samsung in particular. But, since you think poor little Samsung has been unfairly insulted and needs you to defend their honor, I'll elaborate a bit in this direction:

Take a step back and consider how objectively absurd it is to use a separate application for each brand of drive in your system, for basic functionality like checking industry-standard health indicators and error logs. Especially when those applications tend to be hundreds of megabytes, each installs its own background processes, and the UIs are about as wildly different from each other as possible given the fairly narrow range of common functionality they expose. This whole class of applications sucks, individually and collectively.

The primary purpose of software like Samsung Magician is to promote Samsung's brand; this is a higher priority than being a useful tool. Observe how substantial portions of the application's functionality is disabled when interacting with drives that aren't Samsung-branded—even if they're Samsung-made OEM drives.

Every time Samsung has sent me a press release mentioning the availability of a new major version of Samsung Magician, the application's "check for updates" button has falsely reassured me that I'm running the latest version.

Samsung Magician's firmware update process insists on rebooting the system after each firmware update, even when that is not actually necessary. If you have multiple Samsung drives to update, it wants you to reboot after each one.

Samsung's Rapid Mode feature is firmly in the snake oil category: it's a dangerously misleading feature that exists solely to cheat on benchmarks.

And then of course there's the broken functionality that prompted you to create this thread in the first place.
 
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Ranulf

Golden Member
Jul 18, 2001
1,687
207
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Amusingly enough, Samsung's Magician software is one of the better ones I've used in that it usually works and I do have a grudge against Samsung. See the 840 EVO drives. The system with those has Magician installed because its necessary. My other Samsung drive in a different system doesn't.

I've had Crucial's utility not detect its own drives in a system, same with Sandisk.

Anyway, OP if willing you might take a look at Killdisk for a fairly easy eraser program with certificates of erasure. Parted Magic is a good overall tech tool but its paid these days.
 

Submariner637

Junior Member
Sep 27, 2021
5
2
36
G' day Ranulf,
OK, credible ... actionable advice. Thanks.....Killdisk and Parted Magic. I'll take a look at the credentials.
Perhaps you have a moment for a technical question.
Of course magnetic drives are wiped by multiple writes to every magnetic domain in order to eliminate any magnetic latency which can apparently be extracted by a skilled individual with the appropriate tools.
We are also informed that a similar attempt to wipe an SSD....which is a semiconductor...can be damaging because non-volatile memories have a cycle life. Hence the specialized utilities which we have been discussing.
Clearly flash drives, while not indestructible, will tolerate many tens of read/write cycles. Similarly, an SSD serving as the C: OS drive will have some regions that are also repeatedly overwritten.
What is not clear is why a very limited number of overwrite activities of the entire SSD would not mask any previous data and yet not jeopardize the life. In a simple form I can imagine a set of three or four files of random numerical data of say 1GB each. The SSD would be quick formatted to clear the FAT and then the random files would then be written to the SSD to fill the capacity. Write file 1, rename it, write it again, rename it....etc until C is full. Repeat with the second and then third file. This would seem to overwrite every bit only a few times.

But I am only conjecturing. Any idea just how these SSD secure erase utilities work?

Thanks for your thoughts.
 
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Submariner637

Junior Member
Sep 27, 2021
5
2
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OK, after a little homework I’ve identified two articles of particular interest and the links will be presented below. To understand how an SSD wipe differs from an HDD wipe there are a couple of fundamental points to understand.
  • As you know an HDD magnetic domain is simply overwritten to change the data and it has a nearly limitless cycle life. In contrast a data block in the semiconductor memory cells of an SSD cannot be overwritten, but first must be deliberately erased with a specific voltage application before the block is available for rewrite. Additionally, there is a cycle life of the memory cells. I’ll mention 100,000 cycles but it apparently varies.
  • Because the SSD memory cells have this cycle life limitation the SSD controller uses a technique called ‘wear leveling’ in which different physical portions of the semiconductor array are used in order to balance the cycle load. So the SDD controller must contain an algorithm that maps the logical address of the data to the physical address within the array. We never see this and it is manufacturer specific, and likely product specific. This explains why many Secure Erase utilities are unique to the SSD manufacturer.
  • The SSD controller must also orchestrate other activities. A simple data read is expeditious and results in the very satisfying windows start. However, to write data the semiconductor cells in the target data block must first have been formerly erased as mentioned above. This means that the SSD controller is constantly managing the erase preparation for some regions while simultaneously conducting any other read or write activity. All this is complicated by the constantly need to wear balance and other housekeeping activities which are not mentioned here.
So how does this impact an attempt to wipe the SSD by simply trying to overwrite the SSD with randomized data files? The issue is that the activities of the SSD controller are not visible, much less controllable by the user/OS. For example we have written a data file and its contents have been scattered over the memory array by the SSD controller. Let’s say this is the very personal data file (VPDF) that must be wiped. When the file delete is later commanded the VPDF file it is removed from the file mapping, but the cells themselves will not be formerly erased until a ‘garbage cleanup’ operation occurs in background. Another file write at this point will not necessarily result in a rewrite of the same cells because of the wear leveling algorithm, and so the VPDF bits are left intact until an erase occurs of this specific area of the memory array
.
OK, there are likely weaknesses in my understanding and/or explanation but this paragraph from the HP paper linked below is interesting. It speaks to a Secure Erase and mentions a variety of memory array cell functions.

“Block Erase is a function enabled only in SATA SSDs. Using the ATA command BLOCK ERASE EXT. Block Erase will instruct the SSDs controller to apply an erase voltage to all NAND cells of the device (including any cells which form blocks that have been retired, re-allocated, involved in garbage collection or over-provisioning or are part of a reserved pool of spare blocks). This functionality provides a very fast, complete and robust erasure of the SSD.”

“HP Secure Erase for SSDs and HDDs” HP Secure Erase Whitepaper

“SSD, New Challenges for Digital Forensics” at Academia.edu provides much of the background mentioned above. (PDF) SSD: New Challenges for Digital Forensics | Peter Bednar - Academia.edu
 
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Ranulf

Golden Member
Jul 18, 2001
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You can likely do a random data write to an ssd 1-3 times to write over your "vpdf" and not hurt the ssd. It will just take more write cycles which is limited on ssd's before a memory cell fails. SSD's also have a total writes before drive failure spec. A 256gb samsung drive might have 150 Terabytes Written spec before it will likely die. A 256GB crucial drive I use as an windows OS drive in one system, over 6 years or so has 18 TB of writes.

As your quoted text says, ssd erasers issue a command to wipe a whole drive using voltage to erase data from the memory cells.

Look up Crystal Disk Info for a good program to get drive info, including total TBW

Edit: To clarify, if worried about smaller files versus a whole disk, you can just use a file eraser or shredder, say a program like Bleachbit to wipe that data and then do a secure erase.
 
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Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
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“Block Erase is a function enabled only in SATA SSDs. Using the ATA command BLOCK ERASE EXT. Block Erase will instruct the SSDs controller to apply an erase voltage to all NAND cells of the device (including any cells which form blocks that have been retired, re-allocated, involved in garbage collection or over-provisioning or are part of a reserved pool of spare blocks). This functionality provides a very fast, complete and robust erasure of the SSD.”
For ultimate secure erase you can always use a (large) hammer. If you don't need the drive afterwards of course.

On some occasions, I've had to make absolutely sure data was deleted, unrecoverable and gone before handing over the drives for recycling.

Edit; This isn't a flippand remark. I'm completely serious.
 
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deustroop

Golden Member
Dec 12, 2010
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For ultimate secure erase you can always use a (large) hammer. If you don't need the drive afterwards of course.

On some occasions, I've had to make absolutely sure data was deleted, unrecoverable and gone before handing over the drives for recycling.

Edit; This isn't a flippand remark. I'm completely serious.
Software ver 7 is released.
 

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