Reprogram.IT – HP EliteBook 2530p Bios Eeprom

A while ago, a HP EliteBook 2530p came into my possession. The internal hard disk drive had been erased and the Bios Setup screen was password locked. I was able to determine that the Bios version was F.10 which was very old. F.22 was the latest version available on HP’s website – which I duly downloaded at the time.

The Bios password is quite complicated in these laptops – nothing like the usual desktop. This password and associated settings are stored within an internal Eeprom – which is an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory – quite a mouthful. After a bit of examination of the laptop – I noticed what appeared to be an IC socket near the wifi cables when the memory cover was removed. I was able to work out how to open the socket after a bit of fiddling – it pays to be careful as the slightest wrong move can break the latch.

Fortunately, it was a case of push down on the cover, then slide towards the front of the laptop and with a small click – the socket cover unlatches. Underneath was an Atmel AT26DF321-SU. This is a 32-megabit 2.7V serial firmware dataflash memory chip, in an 8-pin SOIC package. Essentially, it is a SPI Serial Eeprom and can operate at up to 3.6V – ok, now to find a programmer.

After a bit of research, I determined that it would be possible to use a Raspberry Pi to access the chip – but I then found on eBay, a CH341A 24, 25 series programmer that was able to program this AT26DF321 eeprom. I decided there and then to order one, since it was only $5.69. I also ordered a replacement AT26DF321-SU at $5.18, then a 8-SOIC test clip socket adapter ($6.59) plus a 8-SOIC to DIP-8 socket adapter for $1.61. Then it was just a matter of waiting for these items to arrive.

Within the next month, these parts all came in – but as I was doing some other things, these parts got placed on the to-do shelf. A couple of days ago, I thought it was time to look at the laptop – and it wouldn’t turn on, flat battery. Anyway, after charging I confirmed that it was able to boot up – from a test version of Windows 7 that I put onto it. It’s a test version because it keeps complaining that it wants to be activated.

I was able to find on the internet, where someone had placed a dump of the eeprom for just this 2530p laptop and it was for a F.12 Bios version – great. I pulled out an old XP laptop and connected the CH341A to it, installed the driver and ran the program. I was able to choose 25 series, then Atmel, and finally to choose the AT26DF321. Next was to connect the chip – that is when I found that the 8-SOIC to DIP-8 socket adapter wasn’t what it was, but actually a SOP-8 to DIP-8 adapter. My chip is too big to fit in the socket, so I proceeded to use the test clip which fortunately worked. The test clip is usually for accessing eeproms that I still on the motherboard, but it works just as well with loose chips.

Ok, new chip connected – click the Detect button, and it interrogates the chip – it found something, so that I did a read of the chip – which only took a short time. Good, no smoke and basically I see a screen full of FF characters denoting a blank chip. That is when I noticed a button called Blank – which checks if the chip is blank, fantastic. Next step, removed the old eeprom and read the contents and save it to a file. I will probably need that when I update the data. Anyway, new chip back into the test clip, then open the F.12 dump file and program the new chip. This time, it took longer then said that chip and data is the same – fantastic. Pop the chip back into the laptop and switch on.

Not good – a red warning that the machine is not in a committed state, then below that “Invalid serial number”. I read on the internet, that I would need a program called CPQTAG.EXE to update these fields, but while I was searching for it – I had a look at the dump of the original eeprom. I could see various sections containing a serial number, model number, sku number etc, so thought I would transfer some of this data across – however it wasn’t in the same place, of course, due to a different Bios version. Since I had a F.22 Bios version, I decided to update the Bios first, then make the changes.

Late last night, I was able to download a version of CPQTAG.EXE – I had a look at the program with a hex editor – to check that it was actually the right program, this time it was. I downloaded another one earlier but when I examined it, it didn’t look right – seemed to contain certificate information similar to what Windows has, so thought that it was likely to be a rogue program, designed to replace your certificates, install a trojan or two – so this was deleted quick smart. You really must be careful when downloading programs from the internet where the source can be untrusted.

This morning, I had a go at using CPQTAG while booted from a USB stick – it runs from Dos and I had a bootable Windows 98 USB stick available. I was able to do a few things, then managed to lock the bios by running a command out of step. No matter, just erase the old chip and reprogram it with my current version of F.22 which of course I saved a copy of, after I upgraded the Bios.

To keep a long story short – here are the steps that I had to do. I had already updated the eeprom with the model number, SKU number and put back the original UUID, so all I needed to do was to update the serial number so that it stops complaining, then commit the machine state.

cpqtag write serial XXXXXXXXXX      where the X’s are the required serial number

cpqtag write me on    to enable the Management Engine

cpqtag reboot me    then the machine reboots and I boot back to the usb stick

cpqtag write vpro on

cpqtag reboot vpro   then the machine reboots again, and I boot back to the usb

By now the warning message is gone, and so is the invalid serial number message.

A quick check of cpqtag read vpro shows that the Vpro Configuration now shows VPro Enabled, Descriptor locked, Management Engine enabled, and Flash Protection Override disabled. This is good as this was the previous setting when I ran cpqtag on the original eeprom.

Why did I need to go through this exercise?  It’s because I wanted to verify the Bios settings so that I can do things like enable Virtualization Technology and UEFI Boot mode. I also disabled the Ambient Light sensor, which was causing the screen to be very dim, when it first boots up. Here is a photo of all the bits that I had bought from eBay.


CH341A programmer with test clip, socket adapter, eeprom and pencil

Next on the agenda for this laptop – since the internal 1.8″ disk drive is not readily obtainable, to install Ubuntu Linux onto it as I already have a few Windows laptops.



P.S. The photo above is to show the disk drive, a Toshiba MK2533GSG with a 2.5″ Sata disk drive sitting nearby for a size comparison. These tiny disk drives are no longer manufactured, so in the future, I would have to go the SSD way – get something like the Addonics ADMS18SA 1.8″ mSata adapter together with a mSata SSD drive.

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