[B]1.) [I]On the topic of backing up your current firmware and your EEPROM![/I][/B]
[B]First things first, the case where you have a first-generation drive:[/B] If you are lucky, you have a first generation drive. Why are you lucky? Well, you can back up your firmware using Flash Utility and grab your EEPROM using EEPROM Utility. You get to use some of the tools used with LiteOn drives, which are well-documented around here!
How will you know you have a first generation drive? Well, for retail LiteOn drives (and one Plextor model), this is easy:
[li]if your drive is an iHBS312, you don’t have a first generation drive. Sorry. The 312 is strictly a second-generation affair only, as is the Plextor PX-B950SA.
[/li][li]but if your drive is an iHBS112 with firmware CL0_, or if your drive is an iHBS212 with firmware 5L0_, you’re first gen, so you’re also probably to back up with Flash Utility.
[/li][li][PL0_ and HL0_ for the 112 and 212 are second generation, though, so…]
If your drive is a clone of the iHBSx12 line, and you are unsure of what generation your drive is, then you can probably check using a different method: Bus Encryption! DVDFab can check for this feature. ImgBurn can check for this feature. A few other tools might be able to check, but those are two tools guaranteed to do it. Each one supports the ability to list the capabilities of the drive, and you’ll find it listed there.
If your drive says something along the lines of “Bus Encryption: NO”, then your drive is a first generation drive. Or someone has put the wrong firmware on it. But most of the time, it’s just because you have a first generation drive, so you can use Firmware Utility with ease.
If your drive is listed as supporting Bus Encryption (and has never been flashed by you or by a previous owner): [B]You probably have a second generation drive[/B]. Congrats! Backing things up will still be easy, but you may have to use DOSFlash instead of Firmware Utility to get a proper readout of the firmware. (EEPROM Utility should still get your EEPROM).
Bonus tip: other drives with certain firmware revisions also easily tell you whether the drive is first generation or second generation. We’ll add that info in soon enough. But the above still applies.