PC-3000 Flash Spider Board adapter. How to use it?

During the Prague monolith meetup in March 2017 ACELab announced a new Spider Board adapter for convenient monolith reading. In this article we are going to describe the main features of this adapter, show example of MicroSD reading and describe a few things about pitfalls that could be appeared during monolith reading.

PC-3000 Flash Spider Board is an adapter designed for connection to internal contacts of NAND-based Flash drives manufactured as single-package chips (monoliths). The adapter consists of 25 universal contacts, which support software configuration of their association with NAND interface signals in a corresponding task. The adapter is supported only by PC-3000 Flash Reader 4.0.

Complete overview of Spider Board adapter and example of MicroSD reading process you can watch in the video below:


Note 1:

Spider board is not just an adapter with needles. It’s very smart hardware configuration based on full-fledged configurable Xilinx microchip. It’s a complete system with wide number of functions, which might be improved or updated in future. Right now Spider Board adapter has two main features:

  • Ability to read the data from monolith devices;
  • Ability to work in Card Adapter mode with mSD, SD, eMMC devices (it’s necessary to chose Card Adapter in Device Options during the new task creation).

At the same time, in future we can add other features which could significantly improve automatic pinout research or logical analyser features. Keep watch our updates and news about PC-3000 Flash!

Note 2:

The adapter’s needle-like pins are essentially sophisticated noise-proof contacts designed considering the technical tasks and specifics of the device. They are nickel-plated to prevent oxidization and partially covered with special tip coating for short circuit prevention. Needles are rather flexible and after installation on Pin Map pads on monolith could be bended. That’s why it’s important to remember the following scheme:

Without fixing the screw, needle is stretched. But when you are going to fix it with thumb screw, position of needle edge will be shifted:

That’s why with the help of a microscope, it’s very important to check that all the needles are arranged correctly and not moved anywhere from Pin Map pads after being fixed:

Spider Board needles – are a spare parts. We understand that they might be bended, screwed or damaged after some time of usage due the wrong customer actions. Don’t worry about that – in future, it would be possible to make an order additional set of spider board needles and replace the bad ones.

Note 3:

New adapter has two ways of providing power supply – from needles and from extended clams output. Basically, it’s possible to work with monolith absolutely without soldering – everything you need is just arrange 2-3 needle for GND and 2-3 on VCC on the same pin (VCC, GND). But square of needle edge is very thin! It’s enough for signal transferring, but not enough for providing good power supply current. That’s why you will have to use several needles for PWR and GND, instead of using them for other important contacts. Whenever possible, power and ground contacts should be connected to a monolith using stranded conductors with the diameter of at least 0,2 mm! Thicker cross-section of wires will always provide better PWR supply to monolith.

ATTENTION: thin wires, weak fixing and bad soldering of power supply wires, might be a reason of incorrect Chip ID reading!

Note 4:

Even with Spider board, there might be the situations when you will not be able to read chip ID or image of NAND. These issues don’t depend on adapter that you are using, but depend on the type of monolith internal structure. There might be 2 different types:

  • With separate bus line from Technological Pin Map to CPU and NAND core:

Type 1

  • With common bus line which goes from Technological Pin Map to NAND core through controller chip:

Type 2

Usually with Type 1 there is no any problems if we are going to read the chip. You just arrange the pins, and starting the reading process. But with Type 2 recovery task become much more complicated. As you can see on Type 2 scheme, bus from technological pins goes through CPU, and controller might influence on possibility to transfer the data. As you know, the main reason why all Flash drives become corrupted is a Firmware issue. But hardware parts like CPU, buffers and NAND are stayed workable. When we make power ON, CPU starts working and might block access to NAND core through Techno Pins. The typical signs of such behaviour:

  • ID is reading incorrectly (missed or mixed bytes: instead 0x45DE9493 it might read 0xDE949345, or 0x45009493);
  • ID is reading normally but dump is not reading (abort with error);
  • ID is not reading (0xFFFFFF, 0x000000, 0x6C6C6C6C6C);

If you have one of this issues, you should be aware about possible problem with CPU influence. How we can bypass it? There are several methods:

  • You can try to decrease power supply values to 2.4V – 2.8V using Options -> PC-3000 Flash Parameters -> Power Adapter control:

With lower voltage, controller of monolith device might become turned-off, and it will become possible to read NAND chip without any noises or blocking commands from CPU side. But be attentive – too small voltage might be a reason of switching-off NAND buffers. In this case dump reading will be impossible until you restart power supply. That’s why you will need to select several values from 2.4V till 2.8V and find the best one for chip ID and dump reading.

  • Another way – physical controller destruction. This operation is very dangerous because you can damage internal structure of monolith and make your monolith unrecoverable! All operations you make are on your own risk.

For physical controller destruction you should know where exactly controller is situated. Without X-RAY picture it’s impossible to find CPU. But as soon as you will make an X-RAY picture of monolith internal structure, you will be able to find controller crystal and drill it (or just scratch) with very thin auger. After that, bus line will be free out of  controller influence, and it will become possible to read the whole dump.

Actually it’s all what you have to know about PC-3000 Spider Board Adapter. We recommend you to read Spider Board manual in your updatebox or ask ACELab technical support service for help in case of any trouble. Thanks for reading! 😉

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One Response to PC-3000 Flash Spider Board adapter. How to use it?

  1. itpsac says:

    Excellent contribution! Thanks ACELAB TEAM 🙂

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