Repair.IT – Asus Taichi 21 Notebook

This follows on from my data recovery of the D: drive of the Asus Taichi 21 notebook.  Actually, it wasn’t really so much data recovery as just copying files and folders from the SSD drive once I had it mounted, but this is about the repair of the notebook.  After I returned the notebook and the data, I was told that the owner would order a replacement motherboard and let me know when it came in so I could then fix the notebook.

In due course (a week and a half later), the motherboard arrived from the US and I got the notebook back. By the way, I didn’t mention about opening the case – there are 10 little Torx screws to be removed and then the two plastic feet near the hinges can be removed to uncover two more Phillips screws.  Then I disconnected and removed the battery, and then removed the heatsink/fan assembly.

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Once the heatsink came off, I could see that the cpu was covered with excessive amounts of thermal interface material – actually only the top of the cpu that contacts the heatsink needs the thermal interface material.  Then it was a matter of disconnecting and removing the wireless card, and the other connectors – then put in the replacement motherboard and reconnect everything.  For the heatsink, I used Arctic Silver thermal material to cover the top of the cpu as a thin film, then put the heatsink on top, jiggled it around a little, then screwed it on firmly.  The last thing was to install and connect the battery.

While powering on, I did notice that occasionally the screen would flicker but it stayed on most of the time, and when I closed the lid, the back screen came on as expected, so that was that – or was it?

The notebook went back to its owner the next day, and all was well – there was the occasion that the screen did not light up but after updating drivers, all appeared to be well.  At least until the owner tried to connect a couple of external monitors and somehow there was no display anymore.

I got the notebook back and I thought it would be strange if the motherboard was faulty again – but it is possible since they might only test it for a short time.  After some examination and reconnecting of the two screen cables, I found that one of the the connectors might have been a little dodgy, so I had to unplug it, then plug it in, unplug it and do this a few times – each time ensuring that it was lined up and would click back in securely.  This seemed to fix it and was able to get a working screen consistently and told the owner what I had done in case it happened again.

That was a couple of weeks ago and nothing has been heard of it since, which I guess is good news.

Recover.IT – Asus Taichi 21 Notebook

I haven’t been writing much lately so it is time to get a few out of the way.  Some weeks ago, I was asked about an Asus Taichi 21 Notebook that had suddenly stopped working.  The notebook is one that has a dual screen, open up normally as a notebook, close the lid and the back screen comes up as a tablet.  Neither screen was operating and it had been sent to Asus to look at.  I suggested that I should be able to get his data off the notebook as Asus would not provide this service.  Eventually a quotation was received which was quite high – you could buy a second hand Asus Taichi 21 on eBay for much less than the quote, so eventually it came to me to look at and get some very important files from it.

On inspection, the notebook as an internal SSD which at first glance looks like a normal mSata or M.2 SSD however on closer inspection – it is quite different.  Further research indicated that there were adapters available that would convert this SSD to standard Sata – and I was fortunate enough to find a local Sydney supplier that had one of these in stock for $20 or so.  I ordered one, and when it was ready – went for a  short drive to pick it up.  Now the adapter looked like it wasn’t the right one, but they assured me that it would work.  The socket is much larger and is not quite the same as the socket on the motherboard, so after some further research, I decided that it should work.  Of course, this can be a risk that could destroy much wanted data – but there were no indications on the internet that these adapters posed a problem.

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This shows the adapter with the SSD installed.  Note the size of the socket.  This adapter is used for the Asus Taichi and UX21/31 notebooks.  See below, for a photo of the motherboard with its socket.

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You can clearly see the difference as the motherboard socket has 6 and 12 pins, but the adapter socket has many more pins.  Anyway, I connected the adapter to my recovery machine, and it was recognized by the Bios and by my Ubuntu operating system.  I went to mount the disk, but it complained that the partition had not been cleanly dismounted.

No real problem, the way to get around this is to mount it as read-only which will ignore the dirty bits as I only want to copy data from it.  After doing an “fdisk -l”  to list the partitions, I eventually used the “mount -t ntfs -o ro” command to mount the partition and then was able to copy the required data to any external usb disk.  The D: drive folders and contents which is what I copied – as this was what was required.

After that, I reassembled the notebook and that was that, or was it?  A quick search of the internet showed that the motherboard “60-NTFMB1102-D07” was available for a few hundred dollars which would likely fix the notebook, but that is another story.

Review.IT – Asus Nexus 7 tablet slow charging problem – confirmed fixed.

Here is an update on the Asus Nexus 7 with the slow and intermittent charging problem. Previously I had replaced the USB Charging Connector Flex Cable. Yesterday, while I was out and about, I used the tablet and let it discharge until last night it got to 10%.

I put it on charge and then this morning, I checked the Battery Monitor Widget.

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This is what I saw on the display. The battery level last night was 10%, and during charge it rose steadily – this is what it should be doing. The previous charge was from 80%, but with this latest charge from 10% to full charge working so well, I can now confidently say that the problem is confirmed to be fixed.

Charging started at about 11:35 PM and was completed by 2:20 AM – under 3 hours. The charging problem used to be that it could take days to charge if it did charge, and other times plugging in the charger would indicate that it was charging but was actually draining the battery. This fix cost just over $7 in parts and is relatively easy to do. I will sometime in the future take a closer look at the flex cable that I had removed to determine what might be wrong with it.

Regenerate.IT – HP dc7700 to VMware Player on Asus

Regenerate could mean to bring back to life. The HP dc7700 machine gets new life by being able to run again as a virtual machine in my VMware host. My neighbour came by last night in between the bursts of rain. It turns out that their email is not via browser, as I imagined but is through Microsoft Outlook 2003. Once they demonstrated that Outlook was able to get new emails in the virtual machine – I knew what I had to do.

First off, they had forgotten the Optus email password, and it is stored in the credentials for Outlook. It was a relatively easy matter to extract the password. However what then to do with the 2.5GB of emails that were saved in two personal folder files. I can give them the pst files, but then they need to configure Outlook in order to access them.

Anyway, I have the virtual machine running, so I should be able to set it up so that they can run it on one of their other machines. They brought over to me, an Asus laptop with Windows 8 on it. The disk has plenty of space on it, so should be fine.

I installed VMware Player version 7.0.0 onto the Asus laptop. It required an email address before the installation can occur – mainly just for adding to their mailing list. This VMware Player is free for non-commercial use. I am sure that VMware will send timely emails asking if you wish to upgrade to another version, for a fee I expect.

I had previously run the coldclone411 again – in order to generate the files suitable for use on other virtualizing software like VMware Player. It does this by creating virtual disk image files that are a maximum size of 2GB. Some older windows versions had limits on file size, so doing this allows this virtual machine to run on even the older versions of Windows.

My new VMware ESXi 5.5 host server can handle virtual disks as large as 2TB, so the 80GB disk from the HP dc7700 is not a problem. My old server however is version 4.0 and its file size limit is based on the block size of the VMFS datastore. For a 1MB block size, this meant a maximum virtual disk size of 256GB – still more than sufficient.

To continue, after the VMware Player was installed, I then copied the virtual machine files to the laptop – this took a few hours. Then I added a virtual machine to VMware Player, pointed it to existing files and it was registered. I also added a shared folder, in case they want to transfer files from the virtual machine to the laptop.

VMware Player was run, then the virtual machine was powered on. After a number of prompts about hardware being recognized, etc – a reboot was needed, then I installed the VMware Tools – which gives better integration between the virtual machine and the host laptop – improves performance also.

Just a short time ago, the neighbour came by and picked up the laptop – she is very happy.

[PS] The neighbour is using Optus email because they originally joined Optus for their internet connection. I suggested that they should consider moving to another platform, like hotmail or gmail. The reason for this is portability – they can access those email systems from anywhere and not be limited to having to be at home to get access to email. The other thing is hardware security. If someone has access to your computer physically, there are a number of things that can be done – not the least of which is to find out internet passwords, emails etc. It is surprising what people leave on the computers. I remember many years ago, driving through West Ryde to see a relative. Outside a newly renovated Elders shopfront was a number of old PC’s – of course I picked up a couple and was interested to find that the PC’s still contained hard disk drives. The data on the disk drives was obviously old – several years actually, but it is still something that should not be thrown out. Those drives of course were securely erased before I reused them, but you really only have my word for that.