Way 2 Cool
Way 2 Cool
I reclaimed a motherboard tonight. The procedure I used is one I wouldn't recommend, but it worked.
For those not familiar with the reason that this was even necessary, I got my Abit BX6r2 motherboard wet. This happened as a result of a very hot, humid day and a very cold Celeron. The Celeron was peltier-cooled with a water cooler added to remove the peltier's abundance of heat (see this article for the setup). I had been running this setup for about six months with no problems. On the fateful day, I had been on-line and working for quite a few hours with the Celeron's temperature running right around 0°F in an 80°F room, when I heard the sizzling noise coming from the area of the case. Scary stuff when you're running a water cooled box. I immediately shut down the box and checked for moisture around the processor and the slot 1 socket. No moisture was visible. However, when I pulled the Celeron out of the socket I found water. Lots of water. To make a long, sad story short, try as I might, the farthest it would boot after drying everything off was to the screen that showed: "Verifying DMI Pool Data.............." and then it would hang. After a full weekend of searching for information and trying every suggestion I encountered, I resigned myself to the "fact" that I had probably shorted something out on the board. Not having the luxury to be without my main computer, I shelved the board and moved on to a newly purchased Asus P3B-F.
Over the next few months, I learned how to avoid the problems with condensation and designed a new water cooler setup. I also kept my eyes open for more information on the particulars of the DMI information stored in the CMOS chip.
The Desktop Management Interface (DMI) is a method of managing system information. The main component of DMI is the Management Information Format Database, or MIFD which is the actual DMI Pool Data. This database contains information about the hardware, settings, and software. This information is particularly useful in an enterprise setting where knowing the particulars of each computer is a must. The "hang" at the "Verifying" message means that an event happened that was deemed serious enough to stop the boot process. This event can range in severity from “Monitor”(not too serious) to “Non-Recoverable” (possibly fatal). I guess mine was closer to the latter. There is way too much information about DMI for this short article, but if you are so inclined, there is more information than I wanted to even think about at DMTF.org in their information documents.
Getting past the error
There are some general procedures to follow when trying to get past the "Verifying....." error.
1. The most quoted fix when nothing else works, is to reset the BIOS by loading the default settings.
2. The next is to remove everything from the system but the video card and floppy drive, turn off all of the other hardware in the BIOS and try to boot.
3. If this fails, a reset of the CMOS jumper seems to be popular.
4. The last item on most of the lists I've read is to replace or hot flash the CMOS chip.
Replace the Chip
Your motherboard manufacturer can supply you with a new CMOS chip, which will be pre-flashed with a workable BIOS. The down-side is that this takes some time to arrive at your doorstep - and we know how much we hate to wait....
Doing a hot flash may seem radical, but it's nothing more than flashing the bad chip on a different (working) motherboard of the same make and model.
Here's one way to do it. (This procedure is not approved by anyone. While it worked for me, do this at your own risk.)
On a working computer (hopefully with the
same motherboard as the board with the bad chip), insert a floppy and make
a DOS boot disk by typing
=> sys A: at the DOS prompt. This will put the files needed to boot into DOS on the floppy so you can perform the flash in a clean environment (meaning not in Windows).
(Update: you can also download the files to make a DOS boot disk for your version of Windows from http://www.bootdisk.com/) On the same floppy (or if you can't fit it on the first disk, use a second floppy) copy the flash utility and BIOS bin file to the floppy disk.
I was able to get everything on one disk.
For my Abit BX6r2, these were the files needed to flash the new BIOS:
awdflash.exe (the utility that executes
Bxr_kh.bin (an old, but workable BIOS version)
NOTE: The Bx6r2 is an older board and while the information stated above is correct for that board, many of the recent boards come with new BIOS Flash utilities, which include a DOS-type interface to flash the BIOS (usually something similar to DrDOS). See your motherboard manufacturer's site and read the BIOS flashing instructions. If your board manufacturer has a DOS utility included in the flash setup files, you won't need to do the "sys A:" command, just make a floppy of the BIOS tools, the flash utility, and the proper "bin" file that you are going to flash. Do not try to run the BIOS flash from a file on your hard drive, or from a command prompt from within Windows. Use a floppy with DOS or an equivalent. If you try to flash from a file on the hard drive, bad things may happen!
Whatever DOS / BIOS flash setup you need to use, the next steps are as follows:
1. Shut down the working computer and carefully remove the CMOS chip, then reinsert it loosely enough that you won't have to pry on it too much to get it out a second time. See that it is seated well enough that all pins are in contact with the socket. Take care that you don't bend the pins and play it safe by grounding yourself with a wrist strap to prevent static discharge from killing the CMOS chip.
2. Boot the system with the DOS or Flash Utility disk.
3. With the computer running, CAREFULLY remove the good CMOS chip and replace it with the bad chip. Observe the orientation of the chip when you remove it. There will be a notch in the top of the chip to show you where "pin #1 is." Make sure that this indicator is in the same direction when you insert the bad chip. This should be done carefully. Did I say carefully? Should I say it again? Don't let the pins on the chip touch anything but the socket (and in the proper place.)
4. Now that the bad chip has been installed, from the DOS prompt, type your flash command - for the BX6r2 with the BIOS file I used, it's:
A:\ awdflash bxr_kh.bin /py /cc /sn /cd
Now, hit return to get it started and follow any instructions your particular BIOS / flash utility requires. (Read the README file that comes with the flash utility for more information.
The flash procedure will take place and if you're lucky and soon you'll be prompted to restart the computer. DON'T RESTART THE BOX, SHUT IT DOWN. Use the power button or yank the wall plug if necessary.
When the computer is shut down, remove the CMOS chip. Replace the newly flashed chip with the good (original) chip and reboot the box (in normal - Windows - mode) to make sure the good computer still works.
Now you can try your newly flashed CMOS chip in your broken board. If the gremlins that live inside of all electronic parts like you, you'll have fixed the broken board. If not, you can always buy that new CMOS chip.
There are some variations on this procedure depending on the outcome. I read about a guy who couldn't get the DMI section of the chip to clear until he shorted the right side pins of the chip to "clear the memory." Interesting reading here.
All of this is well and fine, but I had a bit of a different situation. I didn't have another computer with a BX6r2 motherboard. I did have a Abit BH6 (different size CMOS chip), an Abit AX5 (not a chance from the data sheets), a bunch of even older boards (nope), and an Asus P3B-F. Hmmm, I wonder.....
The Asus uses a Mosel
Vitelic V29C51002T-90P chip and the Abit uses a Winbond
W29C020. After going through the data sheets, it appeared that
the chips were pretty similar. I figured I had nothing to loose but
an already unusable chip. I went through the procedure without a
problem up until I started the flash using the Abit Awdflash utility on
the Asus board. No good. The utility wouldn't recognize the
board and stopped there. Being half-way there and not ready to give
up yet, I tried using the Asus Aflash utility with the Abit bin file.
It complained that the BIOS was not the correct one for the motherboard,
but gave me the option to flash it anyway. I gave it a try... and was then
told that the flash was successful.
It didn't lie!
I now have one BX6r2 that has been reclaimed from the dead.
Now, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't warn you that this was a somewhat foolhardy venture and that if you have any sense, you'll order a replacement CMOS chip and wait for the replacement chip to arrive. However, if you're like me and throw caution to the wind on occasion, you just might find yourself hooting and hollering with that great rush that unexpected success brings.
I hope you have the same luck that I did!