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After quietly switching to slower NAND in an NVMe SSD, Western Digital promises to be a bit louder next time

Stealthy flash, firmware transplant in WD Blue SN550 attracts attention

Western Digital says it will alert customers when it reformulates its products by modifying their firmware and electronics, as opposed to burying salient changes on a spec sheet without any public announcement.

This issue came up lately when the computer storage giant low-key altered the components in its WD Blue SN550 NVMe SSD. The product data sheet was quietly updated to reflect the change. Nonetheless, Chinese tech site Experview spotted the refresh when it compared an SN550 SSD made on July 28, 2021 with an earlier model and found the flash memory identifier and firmware number differed.

What made that a matter of concern was that the SN550 with the new components has a write speed of 390MB/s that's only about half the old configuration once the cache was used up. In effect, Western Digital silently downgraded the SN550, seemingly using slower NAND flash, presumably as a cost-saving measure.

This is not the first time Western Digital has faced accusations of surreptitious supply shenanigans. In May 2020, a lawsuit accused the storage biz of fraud over its undisclosed use of shingled magnetic recording (SMR) in RAID products, a practice confirmed in April 2020 that both Seagate and Toshiba subsequently acknowledged.

On Thursday, Western Digital admitted changes had been made to the SN500 with minimal notice, and proposed a way to be more transparent with its customers.

"In June 2021, we replaced the NAND in the WD Blue SN550 NVMe SSD and updated the firmware," a company spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Register. "At the time, we updated the product data sheet.

"For greater transparency going forward, if we make a change to an existing internal SSD, we commit to introducing a new model number whenever any related published specifications are impacted. We value our customers and are committed to providing the best possible solutions for their data storage needs." ®

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