Zune 30GB players get an early hangover

[Update: Microsoft says the problem will resolve itself as son as the calendar flips over to 2009 later tonight. Details in this follow-up post.]

If you own a 30GB Zune player (the original hard drive model, released in November 2006), you got an unpleasant surprise this morning when you tried to turn it on. As many users have reported on the Zune forums, the player starts up normally, the status bar goes to 100%, and then it freezes. At that point the device is completely inoperable.

The problem appears to be date-related, and Microsoft as of 7:00AM Pacific time has a note on its Zune service status page noting that they are aware of the issue and are working to correct it.

I can confirm that the issue does not affect other Zune models, only the Zune 30 with upgraded firmware. My Zune 80GB player works just fine, and the Zune service and software are unaffected as well.

One post on the Zune forums claims that the issue can be resolved by removing the battery and doing a hard reset. That’s a tricky process that involves some risk of breaking the plastic piece that covers the Zune cable connector. In addition, it’s unclear that it actually solves anything, as other forum participants report that the problem returns as soon as the supposedly repaired device is reconnected to the PC.

And as an aside, I think the customers who are outraged and threatening class action lawsuits need to relax. Yes, it’s an embarrassing issue, but it appeared to start around midnight Pacific time during a holiday week. Microsoft responded publicly with a statement less than seven hours later. That’s not an unreasonable initial response time. Now we’ll see how long it takes for a fix to arrive.

I’ll update this post when Microsoft releases more information or if I learn anything more.

Update: On Twitter, ZuneInsider says: “We really are trying to get to the botton [sic] this ASAP. thanks for the patience.”

Another Twitter update, from around noon Pacific time: “hey folks. we are making progress and close to being able to ID the issue for you all – just running thru additional checks and testing“

11 thoughts on “Zune 30GB players get an early hangover

  1. Hi Ed
    It could a coincidence but my wife’s 8GB Zune is dead, will not restart.

    Richard Miller MVP

  2. I suspect some posters on hardware and software manufacturers blogs have the phrase “class action suit” programed as a macro. I suspect the phrase is second only to “sucks” as most commonly repeated blog words.

  3. Being pissed that a company substantially affected by a date bug eight years ago is capable of producing an even more stupid date bug that nukes an entire product little more than 2 years into its life is not unreasonable. Expecting a company that employs nearly 100,000 people to have at least one person working technical support 24/7 is not unreasonable. Making excuses for an error that should never occurred: unreasonable.

  4. Tim,

    I’m fairly certain there were tech support people working 24/7. Your problem is that no one was available to write a note on the Zune home page or in the forums to alert people that the issue was being worked on.

    Embarrassing, yeah, just like the iTunes update a couple months ago that crashed Windows computers with a BSOD. Sucks when it happens, but it happens and the real measure is how the company responds to it.

    Meanwhile, sure, be frustrated and even pissed off at MS if you want, because your music player doesn’t work for a day or two while they work out a technical issue. But class actions suits and death threats? Puhleeze.

    I’m not making excuses, just asking for some perspective.

  5. The threats about class action suits are like the Godwin’s law of hardware…

    I’m avoiding my Zune today in hopes that it’ll boot up fine tomorrow (I’m very glad I chose to listen to music from my computer this morning). Since the Zune never really shuts down it might already be affected, but I can wait a day to see what happens.

  6. “Possible leap year bug?”

    It is the 366th day of the year. I suspect it’s related to the play-count improvements they’ve made in the recent updates, since that information involves details like time of day and last date played.

  7. Got word from my MVP lead. looks like is was leap year bug, Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT).

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