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No action when booting up old Toshiba laptop

Posted on 2002-07-25
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I have an old Toshiba Satellite Pro 440CDX running Windows 98 OEM which I use as a wireless work station on my home LAN.

This morning when I booted it up, the screen remained black. After about 4 tries I got an error screen "bios is damaged" then on the fifth try it booted up properly. During the course of the day, I tried to re-boot it once and it took about 15 manual resets to get past the black screen. Now, I am afraid to turn it off!

I downloaded a bios upgrade, but the instructions say to put the files on a 720k floppy to install which presents a problem because I do not HAVE a floppy drive on this machine. Is there another way to install the bios? Is this even a good idea? Is my mother board fried? Do I just need to leave this machine on all the time and hope it lasts until I can afford a newer one?
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Question by:MrAlaska
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tonnybrandt earned 100 total points
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You can biosupgrade it from the hd instead.
Just copy the files to a folder (c:\bios) on the c: drive.
Reboot the computer and when "starting windows 98" appears, press F8, and choose "Safe mode command prompt only".
Now navigate to c:\bios with this command:
cd bios
and follow the instructions about upgrading the bios, that you already have.

Could be that you need to have the battery changed in the machine. Not the big battery, but the small one that holds the bios settings, when you power off the computer.
If the battery is bad, the computer probably will show incorrect date and time after a power off.

Hope this helps
Tonny
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by:MrAlaska
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Thanx, Tonny, I guess I'll give that a try. The problem is the way it was acting I don't know if I will ever see the start screen again. The intstructions only say to put the disk in the drive and everything else will happen transparently, but there is an changebios.exe that I will try to run if I make it to that point.

Regarding the small battery, I didn't even know laptops had one, I just assumed the big battery fed everything. I haven't had any issues with the time being inaccurate. I leave the AC power to the machine at all times. Would that not keep the bios charged? Or are the bios on battery power only? If the latter, I suppose the prudent move would be to replace the battery before messing with the bios.
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by:tonnybrandt
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If the ac power is on all the time and you haven't had any "time loss", then it is not the battery, that causes these errors, so i would go on and try to upgrade the bios.

Actually i am not sure, if bios settings are kept only through the battery power on laptops, but i know that desktops use ac, and only use the battery as backup.
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by:MrAlaska
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Ok, after about 30 attempts I was able to boot into DOS. The Toshiba website gave me two versions of bios to donwload and no indication of what the difference is so I downloaded them both. At this point I have tried them both.

The common files to each of them (and the only files in one of them) are chgboisa.exe and biofceft.com. When I run the former it prompts me for the bios file name (which I don't know), when I run the latter it errors "Program too big to fit in memory".

As a side note, one of the .com files in the complex version woke up my speakers. That was pretty cool.
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by:SysExpert
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Each laptop is different.
Some may have a Lithium cell CMOS backup, others may not.
The message " BIOS is damaged ", is strange in that the BIOS should not be able to be damaged since it is read only memory.
I would check to see if the battery is charged, and download the maintenace manual from the Toshiba site.

I hope this helps !
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by:MrAlaska
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The MANUAL?!! That's a bit extreme, but I'll give it a shot.
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by:tonnybrandt
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http://support.toshiba-tro.de/tools/bios/old-enduser-bios/satellite-pro/satellite-Pro-440-480/bios_6b0.zip

The readme file contents:
Updating the BIOS

How can I update the BIOS of a notebook? (Disconnect all Peripherals)
1.) From our BBS, down load the correct BIOS-file for the notebook which will be updated.
2.) You must extract this file to a not bootable 720kB floppy-disk.
3.) 2 files will be created  on the disk.
4.) Turn off the notebook, insert the created disk, and during booting, hold down the F12-Key.
5.) The computer`s BIOS will be automaticly updated.

My opinion:
Normally a flash update, consists of at least two files:
The program that downloads the new bios to the computer, and a file which contains the new bios.
So the program that prompts for a filename is the loader, and the too big to fit in memory file is the bios.
Also the loader normally check that the bios file is undamaged before flashing anything so i suggest that you do it again, and when promptet for the filename write the path to the c:\bios\biofceft.com.
Now see what happens.
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by:MrAlaska
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I tried to enter the filename of the other file, but I never tried to enter the full path. I'll give that a try if I ever get it to boot up again.

I never found a manual, but I did find some utilities for editing the bios. I thought if I changed some settings then changed them back it would help but apparently not.

I have been pushing on the reset button for the last two hours and still starting to wonder whether I am dealing with hardware issues. I did get the 'bios damaged' screen one more time, but what usually happens is the 'A' drive light (or what would be the 'A' drive if I had one) blinks either one or three times, then it hangs up there and I have a hard time getting it to reset. The 'C' drive light never blinks except just before a successful attempt, which is getting rarer and rarer.

If my typing just got all sucky it is because I am on my desktop and the monitor just turned all pink and fuzzy. I gotta go up in the attic and see if I can find another one. This is getting rediculous!
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by:MrAlaska
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I finally got the laptop to boot. One of the updates I downloaded included an 'autoexec.bat' and running that I got the confirmation that the ROM had been successfully written to. I imagine it was not really a ROM I was writing to, but that's the message it gave me, then it told me to reboot.

An hour later, I was still trying to get it to reboot. It would seem the software solution does not do the trick. I did notice this unit seems to boot up a little easier when it is cold.

Not knowing for sure which components need replaced, if any, and being reasonably certain this old notebook is not worth putting any actual money into I suppose I will hafta live with it until I find one at a yard sale I can snag parts from. Unless somebody has some new ideas....
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by:tonnybrandt
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ROM = Read Only Memory
It is a ROM it is writing to, when flashing bios.

No more ideas, except you can try to tell the bios that there is NOT a floppy attached to the computer. Maybe this will be enough to bring it to boot again.
(maybe it is looking for the floppy, and halts when it is not there)

Good luck
Tonny
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by:rid
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I am not an expert on Toshiba machines, but a few thoughts, nevertheless:

Bios damaged might indeed mean just that. That's bad... It could also be a Toshiba version of "Checksum error", which in turn would mean that there has happened something with the CMOS info. If you can enter the BIOS setup, you could try going through all settings, change the time one minute or so and then save and exit. While browsing around the setings, verify that they correspond to the actual situation.

Regards
/RID
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by:SysExpert
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If flashing did not resolve the problem, the next thng to run is the toshiba diagnostics ( From their site ).
If it says everything is OK, then you are SOL.
If it points at a problem, at least you will have a starting place.

Getting parts for old laptops is a real pain. Fixing them is even more so.....

I hope this helps !
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by:Griffon
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I would have thought that the computer would not boot at all if the bios was damaged.. it is not like rebooting time and time again to get in is going to make bios suddenly work... then maybe I am mistaken.

I would try unpluggin anything that you can and see if that makes any differance maybe switching ram and things like that.

Fair enough it is a laptop and that is more difficult than it seems but I think it is more likely to be some sort of hardware failure than anything else.

Def try unplugging the Hdisk and seeing if it starts better ok it wont go in to windows but ya know it might b the problem 2.

Griffon.

If in doubt tear it apart and put it back together bit by bit :)
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by:Griffon
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I would have thought that the computer would not boot at all if the bios was damaged.. it is not like rebooting time and time again to get in is going to make bios suddenly work... then maybe I am mistaken.

I would try unpluggin anything that you can and see if that makes any differance maybe switching ram and things like that.

Fair enough it is a laptop and that is more difficult than it seems but I think it is more likely to be some sort of hardware failure than anything else.

Def try unplugging the Hdisk and seeing if it starts better ok it wont go in to windows but ya know it might b the problem 2.

Griffon.

If in doubt tear it apart and put it back together bit by bit :)
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by:MrAlaska
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Thanx everybody! I am reasonably certain that I am dealing with a hardware problem. None of the software solutions have yeilded anything.

If this thing dies I will replace it before I put any effort or money into trying to track down hardware problems, unless I do find a used one cheap to snag parts from. In the meantime, I am leaving it on all the time. The power management seems to be able to turn the drive on and off ok. I'll just drive it 'till it drops. I have had old cars I have nursed another 50k miles with that philosophy.

Tonny helped get the bios flashed which was part of the original question, even though it didn't cure this beast, so points awarded to him.
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