Blog Post

Don't be cheap

When buying new computer components. A couple of months back I had lost a long time favorite Abit motherboard with my XP processor. This caused me to go ahead and buy the cheapest AMD 64 setup I could at the time and actually got what I thought was a good deal. I had purchased a Biostar K8M80-M7A from Newegg.com with an AMD 64 3200+ for like $70. It has worked great until I had purchased a DVD burner that was SATA II. It works fine, however it works when it wanted to. Booting from CD was a crap shoot. If I was lucky, I would get it to boot from the CD 1 out of 5 tries, however the average was 1 out of 15. I had contacted Biostar about the issue since their websites, both Taiwan and USA, suck. I was trying to find information on the issue or maybe a Bios upgrade. Well low and behold you couldn’t download the correct Bios, and to this day you still can’t. So, I fired off an email to their USA tech support and within an hour I had a response with an attachment. Rock on I thought. Well tonight I figured I would go ahead and get the Bios flashed since I had just bought a brand new WD SATA II 250GB, 16MB cache, and 7200 RPM drive from Newegg for like $60 shipped. Another great deal. Well, I go and buy a floppy drive so I can do the flash. Ya, who the hell uses floppy drives still? Anyways, it flashes fine, says it worked and then it asks me if I want to reset the system, so I press ‘Y’, and it reboots. D’OH! It doesn’t reboot, black screen, no beep. So I wait a few seconds thinking maybe it is resetting itself. Who knows with hardware these days. Well, after about a minute and nothing. I decide OK, reset the Bios. So I reset it accordingly, get the PC back in order, and press the power button. No luck, same exact thing.

So, I have emailed Biostar letting them know about the issue. I am pissed beyond belief right now. HOLY SMOKES! I just realized, I have homework to do, and the only machine where I reluctantly spared 10GB for that crappy OS, is now dead. Just my luck. So let this be a warning to you. When it comes time to purchase a major system component, don’t skimp. There is a good possibility it will bite you in the ass. And to think, I should have learned my lesson. This is my 3rd Biostar to belly up in less than 6 months. Thanks Biostar!

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  • jdong

    Yeah, I’ve learned this lesson with power supplies too…. Saving money is a good thing, but do it wisely — don’t try a cheaper brand unless you are confident it will do well, or you really don’t have much to lose ๐Ÿ˜€

    And don’t do major system changes when homework is due!

  • erik

    All the better mobos recognize a failure to flash/boot, and restore it to factory state (putting in an ancient bios version and doing complete reset) automatically in that sort of case… Also, you could have used cd instead of floppy to flash. Done that numerous times using Nero, Freedos, and a blank cd-rw.

  • mossholderm

    Here’s a nifty trick to avoid putting in a floppy drive:

    Make a Freedos disk image that contains your BIOS and the flasher, as well as command.com and the .SYS files. Then use PXELINUX and MEMDISK to boot over the network from the floppy image.

    You could also do the same thing with a FreeDOS boot CD, but the PXE lets you modify the image over time, and if just so much cooler ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • You get what you pay for I always say :-/

    I’ve got an Asus M32N-SLI Deluxe with an AMD X2 5200+, not cheap but not terribly expensive, but oh man… it is rock solid!

  • Scott Testerman

    I recently had a similar problem with my not-at-all-cheap motherboard. The board is getting pretty long in the tooth and started doing bizarre things, so I downloaded the last-ever BIOS update and tried flashing, with similar results to yours. I flashed, the flash failed even though it appeared to go fine, and voila! No boot.

    Here’s how you may be able to cure all your problems, or at least your motherboard problems:
    1) If you can get into the System Setup, pick the option for “Load Failsafe defaults” or similar (not Optimized defaults). Some BIOS versions will automatically load these, others will choose the Optimized defaults. Failsafe seems to work better for BIOS flashing. If you can’t get into Setup, then proceed anyway.

    2) Configure your boot floppy to boot and autoflash your BIOS via an autoexec.bat file. Remove all files on the floppy except command.com and the hidden boot files, autoexec.bat, and the biosversion.bin (or whatever it’s named) BIOS file. Don’t use a config.sys, and don’t try to load upper, etc.

    3) Put the floppy in the drive and power on. If the system is able to load DOS, it will do so and begin the BIOS flash. If it can’t load DOS, the BIOS has an emergency backup routine that will search for an appropriate BIOS file on the floppy and flash using its own mechanism.

    4) If nothing happens at all, try removing ALL files from the floppy except the BIOS file, which means the BIOS will only have one file from which to choose.

    5) Remind the computer, in very stern tones, that scrap metal businesses do accept computer parts, and that failure in the face of urgently-needed work is not acceptable.

    GOOD LUCK!

  • @erik: ya, this motherboard even has that warning, well had that warning ๐Ÿ™‚ It doesn’t show at all but it is well documented ๐Ÿ™‚

    Today I am going to head to Fry’s and pick up another 754 mobo, and then RMA this one. Unfortunately Newegg won’t let me RMA it and pay more for a better board. Oh well. You live and learn right?

  • Pingback: nixternal » Didn’t listen to my own self()

  • Zexy

    Pretty much have to agree with the general tone of the posts here. I’ve learned through many years and experiments with cheaper boards that the time invested trying to get them to be stable is usually not worth it. Nowadays, I generally restrict my mobo purchase considerations to 3-4 brands. ASUS boards are usually my first choice even though there is a premium price paid. I look in the closet at the old mobos I have from years past and ASUS has always been a solid performer.

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