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Old July 10th 04, 07:21 PM
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In article ,
(Lindsay) wrote:

Ok, a few weeks ago, my BIOS chip died, so I ordered a new one.
I have a ASUS P4S533 motherboard (it's like 1 1/2 years old). I
started the comp, everything worked, except for the CD and DVD ROMS.
Turns out, before I found out it was the BIOS that was dead, I had
taken it to a computer store to have it looked at. Without even asking
if they could start work on it, they switched a bunch of wires around
and never pulgged the power cords back into the CD drives but they DID
plug in the floppy, HD, and MB (with the 4 pin rectangular
So I tried to plug them back in. I switched them around to try and get
them all to fit into the 2 CD drives, the floppy, the HD, and the MB
and couldn't. I then called ASUS and they said that the motherboard
had something like EASY power or something (Im not sure) and that I
didn't need to have the 4 pin plugged into the MB. So i unplugged it
and reset the RAM just incase.
I started the comp and got a message that read SMART predicts that a
failure is imminent blah blah blah.
Now that didnt show up before i switch the wires. Could that be the
cause? Should I just hit "f1" and continue? or should I do something
else? I WAS fetting a different error before that. it read "failed to
write ESCD." So im not really sure what to do here. I've got alot of
important crap on there.

You are probably working on two or more failures at the same time.
This complicates life.

When you say the BIOS chip died, was it just innocently sitting there
and one day the computer wouldn't POST ? Or, did you attempt a flash
upgrade, and it died on the spot ? The difference is important, as
the "failed to write ESCD" is another BIOS chip problem.

The BIOS chip has the following areas - at least the ones I've
run into.

Main BIOS code - Basic Input/Output Drivers for hardware. BIOS setup
screens and the like.
Boot Block code - A subset of basic I/O, usually just enough to aid
in reflashing the BIOS, if there is a problem with
the main BIOS code.
DMI block - Some kind of management information. Like inventory records
suitable for harvest by a central database in a big company.
This block is writable and there are some kinds of tools
for changing the contents.
ESCD block - Again, some kind of inventory info, but in this case
used by the BIOS during enumeration of the hardware.
If new hardware is detected, the ESCD block will be
written by the BIOS. This is what the failure message is
telling you, that during POST, the BIOS is attempting
to do an update. It has to do at least one update, after
getting a new BIOS chip, as flashing the BIOS can erase
this area, giving the processor a chance to write a clean
Microcode cache - On a P4 board, when you plug in a new P4 processor,
a 2KB code segment from the BIOS is copied into a
temporary area. There is room for two segments,
before they are reused. If the cache fails to be
written, there might not be any message, as the
BIOS still has the CPUCODE.exe code segment to get
any of the microcode patches it needs. Microcode
patches correct errata in Intel processors.

So, now maybe you understand why the circumstances of your flash failure
are important. If the BIOS chip died on its own before, it sounds
like it is still having trouble, implying something else is wrong
with the computer. For example, if the power supply voltages were out
of spec, that might be enough to do it. But, if that were true, there
might be some other symptoms as well.

Now comes the SMART error message from the disk. A disk can have trouble
too, if the voltages from the power supply aren't correct. That could
be the source of your SMART message.

You cannot afford to ignore the SMART message. This is how I would
proceed - your response may differ due to budget concerns.

1) Buy a new disk drive. A person who builds computers for themselves
should always keep a spare disk drive handy, for emergencies. They
are cheap, and very useful.
2) Find a second known working and stable computer. Take the drive
with the SMART errors and the new disk drive, and try to make
a copy of the drive, to the new disk. Before doing the copy,
you could do a surface scan of the disk, looking for reports of
CRC errors coming from the disk. If any errors are reported, a drive
to drive copy is going to lose the intelligence in those sectors,
but there is little you can do about it now. A CRC error happens
when the drive has run out of spare sectors, to correct the CRC
errors, so the sector you are reading from, is a bad sector that
the drive cannot automatically replace.

I copy drives with Partition Magic, and when I plug them in, they
seem to boot OK, so I guess all the necessary info is getting
copied across. You would think the MBR (Master Boot Record) wouldn't
be copied, but I don't seem to have any problems with the method.
3) Armed with your clone copy of the boot disk, you are now ready for
more hardware debugging, secure in the knowledge you have two copies
of your valuable info.

When working with the disk drive(s), I assume you know about master/slave
or Cable Select jumpering for the disks.

Now, back to the duff computer. If you can get into the BIOS, check
the power monitor screen that lists the voltage coming from the power
supply. Check to see if any of the listed voltages are more than 5%
off from the nominal +3.3, +5, +12, -5, and -12. The last two aren't
that important, but if they are malfunctioning, it can still indicate
the need to change out the power supply.

It is possible, if you replace the power supply, that at least the BIOS
error message will go away.

Now, assuming the power supply swap gets rid of the "ESCD write failed"
message, you are still left with a drive that has SMART stats filled
to the roof. I don't know if reformatting a drive will erase the SMART
stats or not. If you can get the computer to run with the clone copy
of the drive, and all your info is intact, you might consider formatting
the old drive, and see if the SMART error message goes away. Don't
format the drive, until you are sure all your info is safe on one or
more backup devices, such as the clone drive or drives.

The EZplug power connector (called AUX12V1 in your manual), was placed
on Asus boards during the transition period during which ATX power
supplies didn't have the necessary 2x2 square ATX12V connector. The 2x2
connector has two 12V pins on it, and they are capable of carrying at
least the 10 amps of current that a high end processor might need.
A disk drive connector, has one +12V pin on it, and that is rated
for 8 amps. Either the 2x2 connector, or the EZplug, or both can
be used, as the more connections in parallel, the more current carrying
capacity, and the less voltage drop. As the manual states, your power
supply has to have enough current output at +12V, to meet the needs
of the processor. The difference between an older, midrange processor,
and a high end processor, might be having a power supply with say
10A to 15A of current on +12V. Many supplies now will be able to
source the second of those two numbers without complaint.

With cabling, you have to think about where to put the drives in
the case, and how to route the cables, pretty carefully. Some supplies
now, don't have enough drive cables on them, so every connector counts.
Plan the cables, so each cable is fully used, with the exception of
your EZplug cable. If you are using that cable, instead of the 2x2,
then don't power a drive from the same cable. Better yet, use the 2x2
connector, as the wire on it powers only the 2x2 connector. Disk drive
cables make a poor power supply to a disk drive, if one of the
connectors on the cable is connected to a "current hog", such as
the EZplug, an ATI9800 or a FX5900 type high end video card. It is
OK for two or more drives to share a drive power cable, but don't
have a disk drive sharing with a high power toy, as there may be too
much voltage drop for the disk drive to tolerate.

In summary, I would:

1) Back up the current disk drive. Use a known stable computer.
Make sure your info is safe first. Only use one of the two
drives in the duff computer until it is fixed.
2) Try a power supply swap, if the symptoms at least hint at power
not being stable. The fact the drive is in a mess, and the BIOS
flash chip cannot update itself makes me suspicious. Many of the
problems in this news group are traced to supply, so it is the
first suspect.
3) Plan drive cabling carefully, using all connectors on a cable if
only drives are being powered on that cable. Save some drive
cables for private powering of high power loads, like high end
video cards and the like.