I'm sure you've all seen it happen, a customers console stuck in an update loop which spits out an error code, restarts the PS3 then does it all over again. It can be very annoying if you cant figure out why, but they are surprisingly simple to diagnose and repair the problem that causes the error.
I have dealt with literally hundreds of machines stuck in these loops and have been able to repair every single one to date. For a start the update process updates or checks each device at specific percentages of the procedure. Noticing what percent the error occurred is vital for diagnosing the problem. Using the steps below you should hopefully be able help any console finish its update process. I will list a rough percentage range, problem and potential fixes in order they occur during the update.
Please note that these ranges are just a rough guideline and that the problem maybe different so try the next closest percentage range!
Cause: At this point the update is verifying and unpacking files from the .pup, then updating files on the NAND (and HDD for newer consoles with NOR flash). In 9/10 cases any failures at this point are due to a corrupt update file which happens pretty easily if it has been downloaded over a poor wireless network or poor connection in general. Otherwise in rare cases there could be a write failure to flash which I have NEVER witnessed.
Fixes:Download the latest update version and prep a USB stick into FAT32. It maybe a good idea to double check the MD5 of the file to be certain it is a 1:1 copy once downloaded. Place the update named 'PS3UPDAT.PUP' on the USB device inside the correct folders (for example: F:\PS3\UPDATE). Anywhere else and the PS3 will not see the file. Swap out the current hard drive in the PS3 for a spare one, it doesn't have to be formatted or anything like that as the PS3 will do it for you. Now you will have to turn the console on but instead of booting it normally, put it into recovery mode. For anyone who doesn't know how to do that: hold the power button until the console turns on then off again, take your finger off and hold it down again so the console turns on again then wait for it to beep twice in quick succession before removing your finger. The console should then ask for you to connect a controller via cable and press the PS button. Once in recovery mode put your USB stick in any port and then choose the 'System Update' option. It will format, prepare and hopefully install the update without any further error.
Cause: This is when the console checks and sometimes updates the WIFI or Bluetooth module.
Fixes: First if the console has been reflowed recently or someone has been inside the console double check that both the antenna and ribbon cable are securely plugged in or if they are damaged. If not try swapping the wifi module or antenna for known working ones if you have any spare, or check for and replace any missing components. In rare cases it maybe a trace or component on the main board itself. In the majority of cases simply replacing the wifi board will fix this problem. The 8 pin EEPROM on the wifi controller board contains mac address, bluetooth and USB info which you may wish to take into account when swapping boards; however the console will work fine by swapping boards as it is not tied to the console unlike the logic board.
Cause: This is when the Blu-Ray logic board firmware is updated to allow for new features like 3D Blurays etc.
Fixes: Firstly check all cable connections between drive and mainboard along with all connections on the logic board itself. You could try swapping drives or laser assembly (keeping the same logic board of course!) to see if there is a problem with any of the drive components/sensor modules. If not then expect a faulty logic board. Then you would have to replace the loading driver IC or swap the spansion firmware chip onto another logic board if you are capable of doing so. Otherwise you can follow the steps outlined under 0%-40% to install a modified update which bypasses the bluray check and update altogether allowing console without a matching logic board or without a drive to update their consoles.
Cause: From this point onwards the update is in a stage of verification and why you sometimes see it jump from 80% to 100% as it should be almost instantaneous. This is where pretty much any issues to do with the hard drive are detected from any write failures and normally down to corrupts sectors. If the update makes it to 98-99% can be either a corrupt boot sector on the HDD or the reset signal on the motherboard is not working.
Fixes: For a faulty reset signal, simply changing power supplies has fixed the problem in all of my cases; other than that I am unsure how else to fix the signal without swapping power supplies. If it is the HDD at fault then you will have to swap hard drives and then install another and update the console like outlined in the 0%-40% fixes list.
Something else to try if all the above fail
Drain/reset NVRAM: In very rare cases simply removing the battery from the console for around 10-30 minutes to fully drain and the NVRAM on the console can help with stubborn updates that still refuse to complete. I very rarely have to do this so I cant specify any particular % or problem to tie this to.
Downgrade instead of upgrade: WARNING DO NOT DO THIS IF CONSOLE IS ON FIRMWARE 3.56+ AS YOU CANNOT EXIT SERVICE MODE
So I know a few of you have got yourselves a jailbreak dongle thinking it may be a good easy way out or a magic fix, sadly its not. But that doesn't mean it isn't useful! The only advantage it really has is it can downgrade instead of upgrade. Forget the factory/service mode XMB environment as it is pretty useless, it can't access user content or backup user content so from a repair point of view you cant do anything with it. The important thing is that you can use its boot process to read executables from a USB stick, thus the ability to downgrade. Downgrading is exactly the same as updating and it will fail for exactly the same reasons as a standard update so its worth keeping that in mind! The only difference is a downgrade is done blind as there is no progress bar or display during the process however a log file is generated showing if it completed successfully or where and what caused it to fail.
Something to remember is the hard drive will more than likely be formatted so you will loose all data. Also make sure you have the newest downgrader hexes and files as the newest files do not remove bluray playback issues on older fat consoles and also bypasses bluray firmware checks and updates.
For those unfamiliar with entering/exiting/downgrading via service mode:
Full power off/on via switch on back (unplug/plug power cable on slims)
Plug jailbreak device flashed with PSGrade plugged into the furthest right hand USB port
Boot PS3 by pressing power then eject straight afterwards
Wait until the PS3 turns off by itself
Turn on PS3 without jailbreak dongle and you will see you are in service mode (look for the obvious red square!) or a black screen if the console is semi-bricked
Turn off the PS3 again
Place FAT32 USB stick with FILE 1 lv2diag.self and desired firmware update you wish to downgrade to in the furthest right USB port
Turn on the PS3 again and wait. Just wait.
The console will show nothing on screen at all. It will install the firmware on the USB stick then turn the PS3 off.
When the console turns off remove the USB and then delete everything from it the copy the second lv2diag.self to the USB an plug it back in the PS3
Turn the console on once more and then wait for it to turn off again
You are now out of service mode and should be on your desired firmware.
When the downgrade has finished the green power light will blink during the verification part of the process then the console will turn off. However if the green light blinks for an extended period of time (give it at least 5-7 minutes of blinking continuously) then presume the downgrade has failed. Remove USB stick, open and read the log file and see where abouts it may have failed and then try the steps outlined previous.
Hard drive related problems and the preservation of data
Every customer doesn't want to loose their content and when it comes to update problems they shouldn't! If you diagnose the update failure due to a hard drive related error, simply swap hard drives and follow the steps to complete the update. Now the console should be working and it should be a simple hard drive recovery steps to get the original working correctly again as the hard drive errors during updates are rarely serious physical disk damage only partition errors. Put the original hard drive in the console and boot it up in recovery mode choosing 'restore file system'. This will reboot the console and start the repair of the file system and almost always rebuild the database at the same time which should correct any errors on the hard drive. In some cases you may have to format the hard drive but there is large chance you wont have to by trying all the steps in this tutorial.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL!
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