Vaio's BIOS seems hosed.
May 23, 2005 10:51 AM   Subscribe

My roommate's Sony Vaio PCG-F590 notebook, has had a peculiar problem for a couple of years now. In short, BIOS doesn't recognise the HDD, but only for the purposes of booting.

One fine day, a couple of summers back, my roommate powered on his computer, only to find a solitary "Operating System Not Found" message, with no recognizable cause or trauma. The way to get around this is to insert any bootable CD, and do nothing while "Press Any key to boot from CD" flashes across, after which it properly boots from the HDD. Yesterday, I decided to fix this, since he wanted to reformat the drive anyway. After reformatting, I did a 'fdisk /mbr' and then reinstalled XP. No change. So, I checked the BIOS for the boot sequence. It shows,

1)ATAPI cd...
2)Diskette drive
3)Diskette drive

and that's it. The Diskette drive presumably refers to the 3.5" floppy drive it has. Note that the hard drive is recognized elsewhere in the BIOS(Primary slot). I experimented with giving priority to the 2 Diskette drive entries. No luck. So, I flashed the BIOS to the latest version, from the Sony site. No change in the entries.
When I booted using Ultimate Boot CD 3.3, and selected "Boot from 1st Hard Drive" --> no problem.

This seems to be some sort of BIOS glitch, but which the new BIOS hasn't resolved. Any clues?
posted by daksya to Computers & Internet (2 answers total)
It's weird that this would happen "all of a sudden" as the only real explanation that I could think of would require changes to the physical hardware itself.

So, it leads me to believe that there may be something wrong with the HD or the motherboard that is not picking-up the IDE controller as a viable boot option at POST. I'm not that familiar with older laptop hard drives, but I presume that they may still have master/slave designations based on the jumper settings on the drive itself. It may be possible that a jumper has come loose and the drive is no longer the master during boot (which is why it may not be an option in the BIOS). See if you can get at the HD and check the jumper settings.

Note: As I mentioned before, I am not that familiar with older hard drive models on laptops, and in particular this Vaio series. It may be as simple as popping the hard drive off the bottom (as it is with newer laptops) but some older models actually require you to open the case itself to get at the drive. I would not recommend this route unless you really know what you're doing.

Other than that, re flashing the BIOS was the only other option I could think of. Have you tried posting this question in some specific Vaio support forums?
posted by purephase at 11:22 AM on May 23, 2005

purephase: I have never seen a laptop hard drive that can be set as master/slave via a jumper. (Laptops only have/have room for one hard drive, so there's no point.)

Check the BIOS again. Sometimes there is a set number of slots for drive boot order, so for instance if you only had one drive (no floppy or CD), the hard drive would just be listed three or four times. See if one of the diskette drive options can be changed to hard drive (if this works either one should be changeable). Since there's not two floppy disk drives (right?), this sounds like that style of list. (Then again, if there's a Memory Stick slot, BIOS may read that as a diskette drive.) But since the autodetect in the BIOS sees the drive, it should be an option in the boot order, whether or not it's partitioned/formatted.

Has there ever been an external floppy drive, card reader, or flash memory, like a USB key, installed? These would probably have been bootable, and changes may have been made to BIOS to accommodate that, either intentionally or accidentally.

When you flashed the BIOS, did you have to reset anything? At least the time? If the entries are exactly the same, I'm wondering if the flash didn't take.

Basically, futz with it some more. Good move flashing the BIOS, but since that didn't help, and the drive is recognized, I think it's probably simply a boot order choices issue.
posted by attercoppe at 6:16 PM on May 23, 2005

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