Xyratex Autodesk branded RS-1200 5412E hard drives (Using most drives)

07 Feb

Well we picked up a “few” Xyratex RS-1220-F4-5412E Autodesk systems a few years ago, you know the ones with the AD22 firmware that is locked.
Total cost was $40usd for 4 including a shed load of spare controllers & drive sleds
The controllers are generally marked:
RS-LRC-F4-5412E-1024-ADSK 08 Mar-31 (happy decade!!)
RS-LRC-F4-5402E-1024-ADSK 06 21 (almost a teenager)

Unfortunately no drives were included.

Had a quick look on the internet to see if we could find anything on “non Autodesk” drives, mostly just people saying that the devices were locked to drives with a special FW AD02 or AD03
Others were saying there was a magic firmware AD20 or something…….

I had a few hours to throw at it the other day, since I was waiting for some new PCB’s to assist in a hack of the new Seagate F3 drives with locked down firmware.
We burnt some drives with a drive sig of XR36 & XR38 inserted them into the array but nothing was showing up , other than the drives were “unsupported”

I cannae change the laws of physics Captain
But it’s in here some place

Trying to load a Xyratex firmware into the Autodesk kit was a failure, there are specific checks & security to ensure that the kit stays as “Autodesk”
Invalid firmware
Invalid controller file
for both of the RS232 monitor commands (the Xyratex kit has a special RS232 mode connector on the back, which STUPIDLY uses the same connector as a USB socket)
Yep it looks like a USB connector ,but is is actually a cross wired RS232 connector

Just throw some shrooms at it
Yes if only computers were like people and could be drugged & made to do things that they would not normally do.
So after pulling some chips and a bit of physical hardware reverse engineering.

build my array
well here is a preliminary image:

Any of you guys familiar with xyratex will know that both these drive sets are not part of the actual “Autodesk” range… since “AutoDesk” requires a “AD” firmware prefix
you will see I even managed to update a SATA drive to the “XR38” firmware
Finally you can see we even have built mixed arrays of both SAS drives & SATA drives.
So it would appear that the upgrade attempt to a bog standard Xyratex firmware did actually work.

Interestingly the management software also changed screen colour and logo design…

AD22 firmware

NOT AD22 firmware
now this is really really interesting.. specifically becasue there was ONLY ONE change made to the firmware
All other firmware is EXACTLY the same, this one change was enough to trigger completely new logos & new behavior as well as a new name for the management front end

Screen capture showing the different drive firmware versions Two drives are not marked with “XR38” or “AD0x”


Leave a Reply



  1. Xyratex

    April 17, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    when will you show the rest?

  2. Thomas

    June 1, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I was just trying to do that same with a
    RS-1220-F4-5402E-1.7TB-2-ADSK can you give me any advise on how I can make it use any hard drive?

    I cant seem to even find the spec for the USB to serial cable?

    • Site_owner

      July 19, 2019 at 1:06 pm

      The diagram you need is called this:

      But be CLEAR it is NOT USB to serial…
      it is a serial interface with a USB socket!!!…….


      do a google search for :

      But basically……

      2(-DATA) -> 3
      3(+DATA)-> 2

  3. mangelot

    July 17, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Can you please give us detailed information about your modification? or can you export the actual firmware for us, so we can use other branded drives with the unit ?

    • Site_owner

      July 19, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Basically you need to acquire & load in FW 0025

      BUT……. it depend what version & vendor was loaded previously..

      since there are … shall we say … anti modification/ change pitfalls built into the software……….
      Someone went out of their way to obfuscate the code…
      in particular rather than using standard ways to compare strings..,
      individual characters are loaded into 1 reg…. transferred to another reg… then indexed into a hard buffer of the command to identify the command being used..