The Microsoft Zune: Part 1 – Troubleshooting the Installation and Initial Firmware

This is the first in what will be a series of posts about the Microsoft Zune device. I’ve been interested in this for some time–having suggested the idea of a wireless media player in 2005.

First things first: Let’s differentiate between software, firmware, and hardware:

  • The Zune Software is the program you must install in Windows to use the Zune. The Zune software resembles Windows Media Player 11. It allows you to browse the Zune Marketplace.
  • The Zune Firmware is the software running on the Zune device. This is the stuff that makes things happen when you turn it on, move through menus, share songs over wireless, etc.
  • The Zune Hardware is the device. This includes the action of the buttons going up and down, the lock switch working, the screen showing bright and the battery lasting for a certain amount of time.

When you purchase the Zune for $250 or less the product includes these three things. You must count each of these to work individually to get a good customer experience.
So far I have not had a good customer experience, but I’ve looked past that because I see it as a device to debug and am enjoying that side of it. If I were a normal consumer I would have returned the device and not gotten another one. It is problematic and unless you don’t mind unraveling knots I would suggest you wait on buying a Zune for at least a few months until more updates are given out by Microsoft.

My biggest problem had to do with getting my Zune firmware updated. The Zune comes with Firmware version 1.0 installed on the device. This is burnt into a ROM, and the device can be reset to this version if something goes real bad. You are required to update to a more recent version of the firmware in order to sync new media to your device. This means that unless you want to use the included media forever you must perform the update.

Unfortunately, my device would not successfully update from the firware. After multiple tries, restarts, firmware restorations, etc. I finally had to use Anne’s computer (which has a very clean Windows XP SP2 install) to perform the 1.0 to 1.2 firmware update.

Here is a brief description of the problem I faced trying to update the firmware on my Zune:

After installing the Zune software I was told that my Zune firmware that needed to be updated to 1.2. I clicked next once it found the device and watched as it updated the firmware. Unfortunately, after getting to “updating the device” I would hear the Windows XP sound of a USB device disconnecting. Then two things happened:

1. The Zune software would sit there supposedly still updating until finally saying that it had failed and that I should try again later.

2. The Zune itself would show the “connect device to PC” or “connect zune to pc” screen with clipart of a computer and a Zune. It would continuously restart itself alternating between the Zune logo and this screen. This occured despite the fact that the zune was connected to the computer via the USB cable.

I tried to solve this problem by disconnecting and reconnecting the Zune, closing and restarting the Zune software and also restarting the computer. The Zune would no longer be recognized by my PC and I could no longer view the pre-loaded content or any of the functional menus.

The firmware restoration only got me back to the point of the computer seeing the device again, but when it came to try and update the firmware the process above would repeat.

If you run into the above scenerio, you are not alone–just stop trying to use your computer. Use someone else’s. :


  1. Well i am facing the same problem and i used my girlfirend’s com but this is not working please help me…

  2. I just wonder if there is a way to install the firmware through the hard drive i dont want my other option “ipod” or anyother shit i like my zune…

  3. my zunes tells me to update the firmware no updates are found. my zune no longer responds. im going back to the ipod apple is a much more reliable company.

  4. My brand new Zune has a pic of a battery charging and will not reset or change from this screen even when it is not connected. What do I do it was a Christmas gift fro my Fiance?

  5. Thank you, I needed, I live in Honduras, but I`m from Guatemala, so it´s difficult to make it, so tahanks alot!

  6. evertime i try to use my zune, it says “the item is missiing or cannot be played” then continually scrolls through all of my songs. does anyone know a way to fix this?

  7. I am having the same problem, and I have used 6 computers. how many more computers do you want me to use. Im thinking im just gonna get rid of it. Its sad, a good looking device and the company is losing customers and money.

  8. Uhm my problem is different.
    My zune won’t even show up as being hooked up
    to my computer.
    I’ve restarted the computer
    updated everything
    tried a different cord
    and I’ll try a different computer sometime soon but still
    I’d like this thing I paid good money for
    to work correctly
    like it did before…

  9. ive got a new 8gb zune. the device tells you to go to to put anything on it. that site is where you get the sune program. the zune program comes fully updated, and the fully updated program wont recognize my not fully updated zune. its sending me on a wild goose chase i wish i could just download the firmware for my zune from the website, but instead im stuck.

  10. Had zune software dowloaded successfully and was using on my computer. my hard drive “went” and had to get a new one. Now, when I try to download software again from Zune software again, I ge tan error msg that says it is not a valid win32 application.

    What do I do??

  11. my zune is really fucking up, it tells me to connect to the computer and afterwards tells me to restore the firm ware, i tried but nothing seems to work even though i used other computers…..what do i do??

  12. Hi, I’ve had my zune for a little over 7 months, but finally just added all my pictures and music yesterday. i was so excited, and started listening to it last night, but then it froze, and shut off. Now it wont turn back on. I have plugged it into my computer, and it was fully charged when i started listening to it. Please Help 🙂

  13. My Zune did the same thing. Even if I hard reset it, the Zune title screen shows up and then it just shows a black screen. My Zune disconnected itself during installation and I don’t even know how to go back to Zune 1.0.

  14. i have downloaded the zune software and it says it has a problem and when i send the error report it doesn’t do nothing what should i do????

  15. i have downloaded the software and ran in my system. but it shows some error and is not even starting to download the software. what should i do..??

  16. hi guys. i hope z i can find a solution for my problem. i’ve purchased a year ago zune 120GB. i travelled to egypt and there i bought a laptop and i installed zune software without any problem. 3 months ago when i click on the zune icon on the desktop it didn’t respond at all. i tried to uninstall then reinstall the program on the computer but with no success. please help me in this problem. thanks

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