VOGONS


First post, by Whiskey

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Hi Vogons, I'm having problems with a PC Chips M537 VXPro+ motherboard. (manual https://web.archive.org/web/20070704112912/ht … 4.htm#mPage%205 )

Specifically the BIOS, which Posts, counts the memory/identifies the CPU correctly and then throws up some graphical glitchy-ness with a half rendered menu. If I mess with the menus I can trigger a screen redraw and it displays the 'Hard Disk Low Level Format Utility' Award Software Inc. 1992-97. I can move around the menu but no options actually work and I cannot quit it. This menu is bypassing all booting options, so I cant boot off a floppy (dos 6.22 or Win98 bootdisc) or HDD (FAT MBR Dos 6.22 install) to re-flash the bios. I've also replaced the battery and can get into the bios but the only changes it remembers are the date and time, changing floppy seek or boot order are forgotten on reset (CMOS reset jumper is set correctly).

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- Solution 1: Get a eprom programmer and reflash the bios onto the existing chip.
- Problem: Removed the Award Bios Sticker to find the chip model to see if its a 12v/21v etc. chip so I know I'm buying the right kind of programmer but its only markings are 'H.T. M11989 C9730' which yields no results on google.

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- Solution 2: Get a eprom programmer and buy a new blank IC to program.
- Problem: What IC do I buy? The only things I know about the non functioning chip is that the BIOS BIN is 128kb and its a 32Pin dip chip.
Can I use a larger chip ie. https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/eprom/1274049/ Microchip Technology AT27C010-70PU which is a 1MB (128K x 8 bit) 5v chip.

I've tried the the obvious things to narrow down the problem to the BIOS; tried other cpus, checked and tried alternative jumper settings (volts, multiplier, freq), used alternative vga cards (pci & isa) and swapped out the memory for known working.

If anyone has any advice or suggestions I'd welcome them as I'm almost at a loss now for how to proceed. (Side note: I looked online to see if I could just buy a spare bios chip and this delboy on ebay is trying to flog one for a little shy of £100 inc postage. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/AWARD-BIOS-Chip-PC … &frcectupt=true)

Thanks in advance! W.

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Reply 1 of 18, by Deunan

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Let me start from the end. £100 for an old BIOS chip that you can't even be sure is OK or that it will work correctly in your mobo is a big NO-NO in my book, but perhaps you're rich and don't care about silly little details like that. But I'm assuming that's not the case.

AT27C010-70PU is OTP EPROM, nothing wrong with that provided the BIOS image you have is a known good one. You might want to look for a 32-pin 5V FLASH, there's no shortage of those. You can reprogram a FLASH based chip many times and the price won't be that much higher.

There are no 1Mb chips that would still require erase/program voltage as high as 21V. Most will be 12V and some can be 5V only. For EPROM programmer I'd suggest TL866 - it's not exactly world's best of fastest but it's cheap, mostly works, and did I mention it's cheap? And it supports most common 32-pin ROMs.

EDIT: Oh and I forgot, your original chip is most likely OTP EPROM as well. If it glitched a bit from 0 to 1 it can be easily fixed by "over-programming" it but otherwise you can't reuse it. Sort of subjecting it to X-rays doses that will make the plastic crumble away and the rest sligthly radioactive.

Reply 2 of 18, by Whiskey

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Thanks for the reply Deunan. Yea I completely agree about the ebay chip. I just couldn't even believe someone would try and sell some thing like that for so much, they must be mental.

As for the programmer I was looking at that model (it was a TL866CS aka TL866II) https://ebay.us/hrMcv0. As for chips I didn't realise there were One Time Programming chips and Flash Chips, can you recommend any or verify if this is an acceptable choice. Microchip SST39SF010A-70-4C-PHE https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/flash-memory/8234422/.

I don't really want to spend a lot on fixing this as the board is nothing special, but I have no problem in investing in equipment which may come invaluable in the future.

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Reply 3 of 18, by Deksor

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Are you sure your ram/video card are working ok ?

I have a pcchips board that used one of these chips. When I wanted to upgrade its bios, I simply took a "Winbond W29EE011-90" and it worked. Like Deunan said, you don't need a ultra specific kind of chip.

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Reply 4 of 18, by Whiskey

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Deksor wrote:

Are you sure your ram/video card are working ok ?

Whiskey wrote:

I've tried the the obvious things to narrow down the problem to the BIOS; tried other cpus, checked and tried alternative jumper settings (volts, multiplier, freq), used alternative vga cards (pci & isa) and swapped out the memory for known working.

I've tried swapping out the video card a few times as my initial reaction was that it might be the cause because of the visual nature of the problem, but after trying two PCI cards (Cirrus Logic CL-GD5446 and a Matrox Mystique) and also a ISA card (Trident TVGA9000i-1) there was no change. I have some more PCI cards I can try also. As for the RAM I've only tried EDO SIMM memory sticks but the board does support SDRAM sticks too, so I could give that a try. Thanks for the suggestion, at this point anything is work a try.

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Reply 6 of 18, by Whiskey

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quicknick wrote:

Given that it's a PCChips, and the BIOS chip is practically unmarked, my guess is that its content got corrupted.

Yea this is my thinking too. I've heard PCCHIP's boards are notorious for being sub-par and the re-branding of chipsets to names that are similar to Intel's is questionable at best. I've gone ahead and bought the programmer I mentioned in the above post and some 1 meg 32-pin flash chips so I'll give making my own rom chip a go.

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Reply 7 of 18, by canthearu

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Don't give up on that chip yet!

If you have a BIOS programmer (I have a TL866II-Plus programmer) then plug it in, set the chip to WinBond W29EE011 then attempt to read it.

In most cases, when you just want to read data from these old DIPs, the pinout usage between them all is the same, so you should be able to read at least the chip ID, which is 2 x Hexidecimal bytes, and then if you disable ID checking, read the entire EEPROM. Good EEPROM programmers also have excellent short protection and diagnostic checks, so it is really hard to damage an IC with one if you are not too crazy.

Once you have a copy of the bios, definitely save a copy in case you need it again.

Now, once you have the ID of the chip, you can look on: http://www.mcumall.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4974 and find the corresponding ID for the eeprom that your clone chip is emulating. Set that in your EEPROM burner and you are in action.

If you need a new EEPROM, you will likely be able to get away with a WinBond w29ee011. Can get them off ebay cheaply.

Edit: having a TL866II-Plus programmer, it is an excellent device. Reliable, fast, inexpensive and easy to use. In fact so easy, I barely bother actually flashing on the device, just pop the chip and program the new BIOS on the programmer, rather then finding the right flashing program and stuff.

Reply 8 of 18, by Deksor

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The chip from my PCChips (H.T. M11685 J9709) reports 0xC2 1A
It corresponds to the Macronix MX28F1000P.

Thank you very much for the advice ! I had no idea you could do that 😁

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Reply 9 of 18, by Whiskey

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Thanks canthearu! This is great info to have. I have a TL866II-Plus on its way in the post, so I'll give what you suggested a go and see if it works. Looking at the data sheets for the SST39SF010A-70-4C-PHE and the WinBond W29EE011 the pin outs are the same and the specs are almost identical but I'll be sure to post my results when the programmer arrives. Thanks for all the input guys, I was at a bit of a loss before.

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Reply 10 of 18, by Whiskey

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So my TL866II-Plus arrived and works great, and the SST39SF010A-70-4C-PHE chips worked a treat as well.

Sadly I think there's some thing more than just an iffy bios wrong with this board. I've tried all the bios variants I can find, official and modded community ones. All of which fixed the problems I was having with the glitchy post screen and it remembering bios alterations correctly, however it will not boot.

Once it gets to the point of posting where It boots from what ever drive it's set to boot from it just locks up. Keyboard rebooting doesn't work and num lock / scroll lock are unresponsive. It's strange the only thing I can think of is a bad chipset but when the IDE options in the bios are set to AUTO it successfully detects any IDE device I have tried with it so that makes me think the controller cant be bad.

So I think its a lost cause unless anyone has any more ideas, thanks for all the help.

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Reply 12 of 18, by Whiskey

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retardware wrote:

Did you try different PIO modes?

I did not I'm not sure how to do that with the Xgpro (v8.33) software for this programmer, but I don't think the bios is the problem.
EDIT: Or do you mean the IDE PIO mode! Which I'll try now.

Last edited by Whiskey on 2019-04-19, 16:57. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 14 of 18, by Whiskey

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Its a 8.4GB futjitsu drive (MPD3084AT), but it also doesn't like my 2GB SD35VC0 SD adaptor or a Seagate 4.2GB drive either. All of which work on a Socket 5 Pentium board I have.

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Reply 16 of 18, by protobytesystems

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retardware wrote on 2019-04-19, 17:38:
Whiskey wrote:

EDIT: Or do you mean the IDE PIO mode! Which I'll try now.

Yes.

So did you get it working? i have the same mobo, trying to make a test machine with it. it kinda boots, but no beeps from the speaker and no video out. any help would be hot.

Reply 17 of 18, by Whiskey

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This one was unsolvable, no bios ROMs fixed the problem. And the behaviour just got more random with time. It's either one of the chips or crystals. I gave up and found another PC-Chips board with more features.

The fact that you have the same board with the same issues makes me think it's a whole batch of one of the components that's going bad on all these boards.

Edit: the board I ended up using was a M575

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Reply 18 of 18, by Deksor

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PCChips isn't known for their quality. Maybe there's a cracked solder joint on both of your board's ? Mine didn't work properly until I reflowed the chipset slightly.

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