Upgrade everything now

Okay so having got my PC working I foolishly did two things. One I tried to resize my disk partitions (hey in 2003 10Gb was all I would ever need for the C: partition), two I tried to re-install Windows XP after a house move. I got XP to install but couldn’t find my license key. So I decided to bite the bullet and buy Vista Home Premium instead and just get everything done in one go.

So Vista arrived this morning and this evening I stuck in the USB external DVD drive I use and… heard the DVD drive grind uselessly on the DVD for a while. Quickly chucking in a normal DVD I confirmed that that wasn’t a problem and headed over to Microsoft support. In the advice about unrecognised media it mentioned checking Firmware revisions on DVD players. Well, so be it, after all the drive is a couple of years old now, and so onto the Samsung website. They have a little updater program, that only runs on Windows… so now I am going to have to take my external DVD drive into work along with the Vista disk. Try the firmware upgrade with the disk and order CD copies of Vista if it still doesn’t work. Why should I do the latter? Well because Microsoft’s site for ordering alternative media doesn’t work with Firefox.

How come some many tech problems can only be solved by having a working platform in the first place?


The Agony of being a PC Home Builder

My PC did not survive my housemove. When I booted it the BIOS screamed that there was a processor fault and that the gig was up. Dismantling the motherboard revealed no obvious faults or damage with the system but there it is; the PC was not going to boot. So one postal strike and shorted order later a new Intel Dual Core and Asus P5B-Plus (Vista Edition) arrive. With the normal sense of dread associated with assembling and dissembling PCs I set to work this weekend. I marvelled at how easy the new clip together processors and heatsinks are to installed. I worried that I’d screwed the memory by accidentally installing backwards and then I screwed the assemblage back together and thumb-screwed the case into one piece. Having completed I actually thought the whole experience wasn’t so bad. Buying an expensive Coolermaster case certainly made assembly easier than it had ever been and the rest of it was mostly clipping pieces together.

So I decided to boot, first boot works okay and I get to Windows but I need to set the BIOS to it’s defaults and I can’t use any port on the back of the motherboard. So I reboot, enter setup, hit the defaults and then restart. And I get a very cryptic error message that says Intel CPU uCode error. That’s it. Apart from a message that says “F1 to resume”. When you press F1 it reboots and does the same thing. Woe begins to fill my heart and tears creep into the edges of my eyes. What the hell is this about?

Well Googling didn’t really explain much other than people who bought the Asus P5B motherboard often have this problem and it is related to the processor. Every post recommends a BIOS flash. This is a brand new motherboard, sold as being Vista compatible, with an E6550 Intel processor which is listed as being compatible with the board. Why the hell do I have to flash the BIOS just to make the damn thing work?

There is however little choice; surveying my options I can create a bootable floppy; if I had a floppy of course, or a disk drive. Thankful this being the new millennium and all motherboard manufacturers have realised that perhaps people are not stashing obsolete hardware away in case they find a manufacturer unable to ship a motherboard which allows to use one of the most standard processors to have hit the market in years. So instead you can use the USB flash drive update.

This involves: downloading the ROM image, unzipping it to your flash drive. Sticking the drive into a functioning USB port (in my case my USB bracket was fully functional), then booting. When you hear the beep press the Del key. Then hit Alt + F2 before the BIOS boot trainwrecks on the same uCode problem. With that done you should be in the EZ Update program. Select your USB drive from the DOS-like menu and select your ROM image. The application will then read and verify it and you can zap your BIOS and get on with wondering why Creative’s MediaSource software doesn’t recognise the Creative soundcard you just installed when everything else sees it just fine thank you.

As you might have guessed finding the right BIOS flashing process took some trial and error. Seriously ASUS UI guys, what was happening at the meeting where you decided that the way people should access your new “easy” flash utility would be to hit Del, followed by Alt + F2 in quick succession? All of which has to be done exactly as otherwise you have to hit the reset button and kick off the process again.

These kind of problems make you wonder why you ever bother putting together your own kit, why not just leave the agony to Dell?