[SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

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layzee
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[SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby layzee » Mon Sep 07, 2015 12:19 pm

Occasionally, on a few of my Power Memory cards, some sort of 1-5 block corrupt save file with a gibberish file name like "yyyyyyyy" would appear at the bottom of the save file list. I was wondering if this was a legitimate save file that became corrupt or were the save files on the card still safe and this new corrupt "save file" was a new addition?

I also get situations where the console detects the Power Memory card but it shows as having 0 blocks available, even though it is completely empty and to fix it, I would need to erase the card completely, using the system menu.

In the meantime, I have written down how many save files are on each Power Memory card so the next time it happens, I'll know for sure what happened. Ideally, I would like a brand new Power Memory but Sega products, like most Nintendo products don't come sealed so it's hard to determine whether a new item is in fact, new. The best alternative is probably to back up the save files (i.e. to another Power Memory, or three, just to be sure).

Also just to confirm, am I correct to say that the official Japanese Power Memory cards have flash-based RAM while unofficial American etc ones uses batteries like the CR2032 that the console itself uses (i.e. if the battery dies, the save files on the memory card dies with it)?

And another thing, what constitutes proper Power Memory handling/use? I guess that the proper method is to insert the Power Memory into the slot before turning on the console, and to not remove/desert it while it is on. I confess that, true to my username, I sometimes get lazy and "hot swap" or "plug and play" it while the console is running (seems to work). Any corruption on the memory card would probably develop this way. Alternatively, I might swap the Power Memory cards while holding the reset button. Not sure if that's any better or worse.
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Re: [SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby ryu » Sun Sep 13, 2015 8:38 pm

Are you sure your cart's pins and the slot itself aren't dusty/dirty? Also make sure to always insert the cart properly. I've had issues with memory corruption on my SS memory cart as well. Seems to me like the thing is pretty susceptible to those issues. Just think of how loose the cart sits in the socket...

btw I think when you get gibberish file names that's usually something that was added due to corruption. Corruption has at least not wiped any of my save files.

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Re: [SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby layzee » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:55 pm

I've used isopropyl alcohol (which I assume is suitable to use) on the contacts so it should be okay. As far as cart insertion goes, it's similar to the Super Famicom: sometimes instead of inserting it 100% fully, it works better when you leave a very small gap (about 1 millimeter).

My memory cards still haven't developed any corruption yet so my experiment is still ongoing.
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Re: [SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby layzee » Thu Mar 23, 2017 3:34 pm

Recently, I dug out my Power Memory carts (I have multiple of them - gotta keep a backup of the backup!) and tested them. All of them were detected by the Sega Saturn console on the first or second tries with the save files intact. However, one of them worked then a minute later, became corrupt (and the save files probably gone).

Man, I have to say, the Sega Saturn cartridge port and/or the carts they are for (Power Memory, 1MB/4MB Expansion RAM) are the most unreliable things ever (and the Internet agrees). Compare with for example, a Super Famicom/SNES and carts. I've tested many SFC carts in my time and not a single one has failed me. For any that doesn't work, use some isopropyl alcohol and the cart will work in the first insert, guaranteed. Reliability - it's synonymous with the word Nintendo. As for Power Memory and 4MB Expansion RAM carts, I honestly think isopropyl alcohol has little to no effect.

Whether the problem is the cart port on the Saturn console, the carts themselves, or both, I don't know, but in this particular issue "Sega does what Nintendon't" - yeah, Sega probably implemented cost-cutting measures. The Power Memories having their own non-replaceable batteries are probably a bad decision as well and the laughably low amount of system space (512KB) for save files doesn't help. At least they learnt that lesson for the Sega Dreamcast's Visual Memory Unit.

Here are the issues I've had with Power Memory carts:

    Cart has not been detected
    Cart has been detected but save files are missing and the copy save files to and from the console function is disabled
    Save files with gibberish text
    Duplication of save files (every save file has a copy)
    Cart has been detected but "re-initialisation" (clean wipe of the cart) takes several attempts before it works

Finally, if you care about your save files, I would recommend making at least three copies (i.e. back your save files to three different Power Memory carts). Just in case.
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Re: [SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby zinger » Fri Mar 24, 2017 8:40 pm

Many years back when I used the RAM expension for a couple of games, I remember I had to flip the entire console upside down for it to work properly. :roll: Other than that, I mostly used the internal back-up memory, but from what I remember the battery for that didn't last very long which was also very annoying? I think there was a thread over att Assembler on how to maximize the lifetime of those batteries, but I mostly played shooting games and arcade ports back then so in the end I never really bothered with that.

Recently though, I've been playing more adventure games and ARPGs/SRPGs where saving is essential, so I got a Power Memory cart. It worked perfectly for a couple of weeks, but suddenly my Saturn just stopped recognizing the cart. It was driving me crazy! Next time I hook up the Saturn I'll probably just get a new internal battery and see how that works, I don't really care about my saves after I'm finished with a game anyway. But yeah, I do feel your pain!

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Re: [SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby layzee » Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:58 pm

zinger wrote:Many years back when I used the RAM expension for a couple of games, I remember I had to flip the entire console upside down for it to work properly. :roll:


According to what I read, other people on the Internet do it too. Seems a bit dangerous! I mainly just use the "insert cart, take out cart, insert cart, now leave a tiny gap, rinse and repeat..." strategy. Works eventually. I do this while the console is on though because I'm lazy so I guess this is also dangerous in its own way.

zinger wrote:Other than that, I mostly used the internal back-up memory, but from what I remember the battery for that didn't last very long which was also very annoying? I think there was a thread over att Assembler on how to maximize the lifetime of those batteries, but I mostly played shooting games and arcade ports back then so in the end I never really bothered with that.


zinger wrote:Next time I hook up the Saturn I'll probably just get a new internal battery and see how that works


Is it that bad? The Saturn's internal battery is a CR2032 which is the same battery as the Dreamcast's VMU (and Sony's PocketStation) and they're also cheap ($1 or $2 each or your Euro equivalent). Just be sure to get at least a brand name one - you get what you pay for, even at this price and then replace every few months or whenever. For the record, the Dreamcast console's internal battery is a different kind of 2032 and is a rechargeable one (the Saturn does not recharge its battery but is easier to replace).
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Re: [SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby schadenfreude » Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:06 pm

layzee wrote:I mainly just use the "insert cart, take out cart, insert cart, now leave a tiny gap, rinse and repeat..." strategy.


I've read some (probably paranoid) recommendations in various forums to remove the RAM expansion as little as possible, probably because the weak metal contacts in the Saturn's expansion slot can't handle insertion stress very well. That's why I got an Action Replay 4M Plus many years ago, inserted it into the system, and have only removed it when transporting the console: having one device that does everything you want allows you to leave it in the system and save those brittle contacts from wear.

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Re: [SS] Sega Saturn Power Memory Problems

Postby layzee » Sat Apr 01, 2017 12:56 pm

schadenfreude wrote:
layzee wrote:I mainly just use the "insert cart, take out cart, insert cart, now leave a tiny gap, rinse and repeat..." strategy.


I've read some (probably paranoid) recommendations in various forums to remove the RAM expansion as little as possible, probably because the weak metal contacts in the Saturn's expansion slot can't handle insertion stress very well.


If that's true, then by now my Saturn probably gets PTISD (Post-Traumatic Insertion Stress Disorder) every time it sees me. :( Blame ya maker, Sega.
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