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Accessing IBM PS/1 BIOS

Posted on 1998-02-16
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Last Modified: 2008-02-01
A relative has got hold of an old IBM PS/1 and has asked me to help resolve a problem with it.
It's been running Windows 3.1 quite happily, but for no apparent reason a few weeks ago it refused to allow the program to work any more, and instead gave a message about requiring "himem.sys" to be loaded in the config.sys file.
In addition, the machine now boots to a screen divided into four giving options to run DOS, Works (installed on the machine), "your programs" or the guided tour/help facility.
Among the choices offered when you enter one of these four options is to go to the DOS prompt, which I have done and found that himem.sys is correctly called by the config.sys on C: drive and is in the right place.
HOWEVER, it appears that there is a D: drive in the form of a ROM chip which has its own system files and I suspect that these are now being called first, ahead of the C: files. The D: config.sys file has no mention of himem.sys.
I've asked the company that supplied the machine (MANY years ago) for help, and was advised to get into the Bios to check the boot sequence. I can't do that. The method I was told to use was to hold down the F1 key while switching on, but this doesn't work. Nor does holding down escape.
It was also suggested that I boot with the MS DOS disk 1 in drive A, but the machine refuses to boot from this drive.
I suspect that this machine has had it, but if anyone can suggest how I can over-ride the ROM chip, I'd be grateful. I opened up the case and had a look for an easily removable chip, but all I could find was something that appeared to be providing about 128k of RAM!

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Question by:Oggy
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12 Comments
 
LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:jrhelgeson
ID: 1128863
The old PS/1 uses software to configure the bios.  You can obtain this software by downloading it from IBM's website.
It sounds like you are having problems with the hard drive, have you run scandisk? -- Or that machines vairiant of it, probably chkdsk.

It also sounds like this machine may have had hard disk compression that has since failed.  Could this be the case?
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Expert Comment

by:doddd
ID: 1128864
Oggy,
  The old IBM PS/1 has some of it's BIOS information stored on the HDD, which most BIOSs don't do.  In fact, I seem to recall that most of the BIOS data that is normally stored on a ROM chip is stored on an HDD, which most machines DON'T do.  This seemed, very unIBM to me at the time, because it made the computer very susceptible to viruses that work at a low level.
  The D: you are seeing is that hidden partition.  Don't delete it.  I am not certain as to how you fix the problem as I don't know exactly what triggered it, but it is likely to be corruption of the HDD, or virul infection.
  One thing I would do is to run a scandisk first.  This can force the HDD to reallocate bad sectors and may in itself fix your boot problem if that is the problem.
  In any case, if you format the HDD without obtaining the BIOS software, your system will be entirely unusable.
  Check your system for viruses.  It is possible that you have an MBR virus which conflicts with the boot loader that IBM has.
  Investigate some of the programs which are on the D: partition.  Some of these may allow you to configure your system.  On very old Toshiba BIOSs I've used, they have a program called TSETUP.EXE.  This allowed you to boot from the Default ROM config.sys or the C:\ Config.sys.  Hope this is of help to you.

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Author Comment

by:Oggy
ID: 1128865
I can't run either scandisk or checkdisk, since I get a message saying "incorrect Dos version". For some reason the built-in software thinks the machine has Dos 6 installed, but when accessing the Dos prompt we're told that Dos 4 is installed! Efforts to reinstall Dos have also failed.
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Expert Comment

by:doddd
ID: 1128866
Can you tell us,
1.) What files are located in the hidden partition (D:) especially EXE?  You are likely to find a file which configures your system there.
2.) How do you know that the built in DOS thinks that DOS6 is installed?
3.)What version of DOS did you try to install (And if you can't boot to an FDD, how did you install it?  Did you just boot to your normal DOS prompt and run setup or autoexec.bat from your boot disk?  I'm perplexed).
4.)Did you try to reinstall DOS BEFORE you got the incorrect DOS version when trying to run scandisk?
5.)Have you tried to locate a Patch etc from IBM for your BIOS?  I seriously recommend this.  If you find one, please post the URL location as I still have a PS/1 board myself and I had a similar problem.  I trashed the HDD and subsequently the ROM before I found out.  I just got a new board at the time, but it's something I wouldn't mind getting working again.
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Expert Comment

by:jrhelgeson
ID: 1128867
What was your reason for rejecting my answer?
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Accepted Solution

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rmarotta earned 50 total points
ID: 1128868
Oggy,
As I understand it, the machine IS booting?
If DOS 6 is booting, you should be able to interrupt the execution of config.sys and autoexec.bat files with the F5 key when you see "Starting MS-Dos message at boot-up.
If that won't work, try a bootable floppy from another machine with fdisk and scandisk copied on it.
Run fdisk to determine what's going on with any partitions.  Then run scandisk on each to correct the file errors.
I don't see how the machine could boot/load any information at all from a "D" drive.
Ralph

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Author Comment

by:Oggy
ID: 1128869
I rejected the first answer because I have been unable to find the appropriate Bios software at the IBM site. In order to track it down, I obtained the serial number of the machine, but this did not tally with any of the information on the web site and I was therefore unable to get the new bios software. Scandisk and chkdisk will not run, for the reasons I have explained.

Because the machine isn't mine, it could be several days before I have a chance to try out rmarrotta's suggestion.

I will grade the second answer when I've tried out the suggestion.
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LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:jrhelgeson
ID: 1128870
you can also obtain generic software to modify the bios information.  Bios setting are stored in the same basic locations on all bios'.  Search the net for one of these generic utilities.

jr
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LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:rmarotta
ID: 1128871
Oggy,
Does the following look like what you need? I pasted it from IBM's website at http://www.can.ibm.com/helpware/ps1_949e.html
...................................................
Note:
A two-mouse-button reset will reconfigure your PS/1 to boot from the ROM DOS 4.01. If your PS/1 boots to the ROM DOS 4.01, an indication may be the appearance of "incorrect DOS version" error messages when your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT file are processed at boot time. This same message will occur if you attempt to enter a DOS command from the DOS 6.22 directory on the harddrive. If, at any time, you perform a two-mouse-button reset, you will need to rerun CUSTOMIZ to "Try diskette first, then try fixed disk" at boot time.
...........................................
I hope it helps you find what you need.
Ralph

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Expert Comment

by:rmarotta
ID: 1128872
I think this may be a better place to start....

http://www.can.ibm.com/helpware/ps1upgrd.html

Ralph

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Author Comment

by:Oggy
ID: 1128873
For what it's worth, here's a list of the programs on the "D:" drive -
(all show a creation date of 1990 and cannot be modified since they are on ROM)
command.com; shellstb.com; romshell.com; keyb.com; mode.com; display.sys; nlsfunc.exe; printer.sys; 4201.cpi; 4208.cpi; 5202.cpi; config.sys; autoexec.bat; checkc.com; mouse.com; ega.cpi; country.sys; keyboard.sys.

I attempted to install Dos version 6.22 by first of all booting with the first disk in Drive A: This didn't work. I then tried running setup, but got the "incorrect version" message. I was receiving this message even before I tried reinstalling Dos.

The information about the Dos version 6 that is apparently installed comes from the IBM interface that opens every time we boot up. If I select the "DOS" option, up comes a list of DOS commands with the legend "Dos version 6" at the top of the screen. Trying to run any of these commands also gets the "incorrect version" message.

I'll now try and follow the suggestion of rmarotta and report back when I've had a chance to try it out.
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Expert Comment

by:rmarotta
ID: 1128874
Any progress on this, Oggy?
Ralph

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