Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Honey, I Bricked My K3

K3/100 in the operating position
A couple of weekends ago, I noticed that Elecraft had updated the release firmware for the K3 back in February. I'm not much for trying beta firmware, but I try to keep up to date. 

So, I fired up the old Elecraft K3 Utility and set it to go. I did not realize at that moment that I was to undergo a multi-day ordeal. 

MCU load went OK, but then it decided to upload the FPF. It kept getting stuck on the FPF. I figured it was just a glitch, so I tried it a half-dozen times. Each time, it would fail on the FPF load.

Of course, this left the K3 unusable. Without the front panel firmware, there's no front panel. My K3 was just about as useful as a brick.

Frantic e-mail to the elecraft email list brought several helpful responses, the most helpful was from Elecraft support.

Unfortunately, it would be a couple of days before I could try their suggestions, as I had to leave my Floyd County QTH for Gwinnett County. 

Three days later, I was able to put my full efforts into the solution. Apparently, I had tried to load the firmware with an old version of the K3 Utility. While Elecraft says this won't work, what they don't tell you is that it breaks your K3 in a weird way. 

That was easy enough to figure out. However, my problem was that even after I updated the utility, it wouldn't load the firmware, either.

At some point, someone suggested I try to load the old firmware. Well, doing that is not straightforward. You see, you have to go to your firmware download directory and remove all the files that weren't in the previous firmware. That's not obvious.  Eventually, I figured out that the FPF firmware hadn't changed -- only the MCU and DSP firmware were updated. Removing those files, I attempted a full download.

Voila! It worked. My K3 is un-bricked. I was now back to firmware 4.67. Now to try the update.

Instead of selecting the option to download all firmware, I chose the option of only downloading the updated firmware. That way, it wouldn't have to try to re-load the existing FPF, saving a bit of time.

Of course, it upgraded without a hitch. Goes to show you need to use the right tool. And follow directions -- the Elecraft instructions stated you need to use the latest utility. I should have checked instead of just assuming.

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