VIA VL811 USB 3.0 Hub Firmware Upgrade

2.8.13:This post is no longer current

Please refer to our newer post Plugable USB 3.0 Hub Firmware Upgrades

VIA Labs has released a new firmware version for their VL811 USB 3.0 hub chipset.

A primary feature is a work around for issues on Mac OS X 10.8 systems, where USB storage devices would disconnect unexpectedly upon system sleep. Windows and Linux users will likely see limited benefit from applying this upgrade (as those OSes did not have this same disconnect problem), so we would advise against upgrading unless you’ve encountered a specific issue. Note that late 2012 Macs (Macbook Pro Retina, iMac, Mac Mini) have USB 3.0 issues that are not solved by any firmware update (we’re expecting an Apple update for these at some point).

One challenge is the firmware update utility VIA provides is Windows-only, even though a primary benefit for this particular version is for Mac users — you’ll need a copy of Windows and a USB 3.0 capable machine to update your hub.

We’ve tested the upgrade succesfully on Plugable’s USB hubs, including the 7 port USB3-HUB7-81X (VL811 version; versions purchased after November 2012 use the different VL812 chipset), 4-port USB3-HUB4 (currently out of stock), and 4-port USB3-HUB81X4.

Note: The Plugable UD-3000 USB 3.0 Universal Laptop Docking Station is not compatible with VIA’s generic hub firmware update utility — putting a generic firmware on the UD-3000 dock will make it non-functional and non-recoverable. Only use the information in this post for updating standalone USB 3.0 Hubs.

We’ve tested the firmware flash utility on 32 and 64 bit Windows 7, 64 bit Windows 8, as well as 32 bit Windows XP with good results. We were also able to successfully update the firmware on a hub running Windows 7×64 in BootCamp (Parallels and other virtual machines, however, will not work).

Determining if you need the update

You can check the Apple System Profile or Windows Device Manager to determine what version of firmware you currently have.

To launch Apple’s system profiler, from the top right of your screen click the Apple Logo, choose “About This Mac” and click “More Info” on the screen that pops up. Another screen will appear: click the button here for “System Report.” Once system report is loaded, click on “USB” at the bottom of the “Hardware” section, and then find your USB hub. Different models of hub will display differently, however you’ll know you found the right device when you find one with the following details: in the lower right hand section of the next 2 images:

Product ID: 0x0811
Vendor ID: 0x2109 (Via Labs, Inc)

OS X System profiler entry for hub with older firmware version (version 0300)

OS X System profiler entry for hub with firmware upgrade applied (version 2A97)

Note that the new firmware will show as revision 2a.97 on Mac after update.

Checking VIA firmware version in Windows

To launch windows device manager, hit the Windows-R hotkey and run devmgmt.msc

Find your hub under “Universal Serial Bus controllers”. The firmware version can be seen under the “Details” tab and “Hardware Ids”.

And here’s a hub already updated to the new firmware.

Updating VL811 Firmware

Download the latest VL811 specific version from VIA here:
VIA hub firmware download page.

We recommend having your hub connected to AC (wall) power, and disconnecting all devices from your hub before updating the firmware. Also, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you’re not experiencing the hard drive disconnect issue on OS X, it’s best to forgo the update.

Upgrading your Via VL-811 chip based USB 3.0 hub is a 2 step process:

  1. Download and extract the firmware update zip file from the link above
  2. open and start the USB3HubFWUpgrade.exe utility to update your hub

Please note that Disabling User Account Controls as suggested in the Via user guide was neither required by our tests, nor advisable in our opinion. We recommend you do not disable User Account Controls on your Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 PC. If your hub isn’t detected by the firmware upgrade utility, please try right clicking on the utility and choosing “Run As Administrator.”

Note that 2012 Macbook Pro Retina and 2012 Mac Mini systems have additional issues with USB 3.0 that aren’t related to or fixed by this firmware update. Apple users who just have drives lost on sleep, but who don’t have access to a Windows PC, should contact us at support@plugable.com — we’ll be happy to help.

We welcome your feedback. Please comment below if you have any questions or if you find any discrepancies in our steps above. Thank you!

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