This week I ordered a new laptop for my work. The previous one, a HP nx9420, died on Monday morning due to catastrophic mainboard failure, probably caused by condensation moisture or dirt on the motherboard; it happens. Some power supply ICs had literaly exploded and I was not able to bring it back to life again. I have complete backups of all my data, so no problems there. I tried replacing a blown LM393 (a comparator) and a blown transistor, but to no avail. Some other components probably also failed, but didn't explode, so I was unable to do more. RIP my old trusty laptop; t'was only 2 years in the using. Boo. So I needed a replacement machine fast. I hate to waste good money, but am also not into false economics. So I ordered a proper, trusted brand and selected the cheapest machine that lived up to my requirements, which were: Must have 17" screen.
So it ended up being a HP 6830s (code KU404ET#ABH) for only 620,- euros, including tax @ misco.nl . Now that's what I call a good deal:
- 17" shiny screen @ 1440x900
- Core 2 Duo T5870 2 GHz
- 2GB @ 800MHz
- 250GB 5400RPM disk (doing 50MB/s in my tests; nice)
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3430
- Intel 5100agn wireless (a,b,g,draft-n wireless)
- Bluetooth 2.0
- Gigabit ethernet
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I unboxed the machine. It felt and looked a bit cheap at first, especially compared to the rugged, well-designed nx9420. In the above picture, it looks alot more solid than in real lif. But for the price, it is what can be expected. Hopefully the machine is up to the intense usage it will receive. I spent two days playing with the drivers and testing the machine and it is now up and running. What it lacks in visible robustness, it more than makes up for in performance. Man, this machine is FAST. And the looks are not that bad either, to be true. I rather like the simple all-black simplicity of it.
I run WXP on my desktop, and naturally had some issues installing it. But it is up and running nicely now. I imaged the disk when the complete installation was done and tested, so when stuff breaks, I am up and running within 15 minutes. Here are some tips I wrote for myself, which might be useful to others.
- I try to use non-HP drivers where possible because I like to be able to update drivers when I want to and not only when HP lets me.
Edit: This does not usually work for the Ati Catalyst drivers. Usually I am stuck to using the HP supplied drivers.
- I use the DH modder mobility.net tool to install the latest and greatest non-mobility Ati drivers, because the standard Ati mobility driver pack (currently 8.12) does not support the HD 3420 yet. This is an excellent tool that allows you to install non-mobility drivers on machines with mobility cards. On my previous laptop I could not use it because it made my machine crash on standby and hibernate. But for my current machine it works very well.
Edit: Fail. The modder.net version of the Catalyst drivers DO make the laptop crash now and then when hibernating or suspending. But no worries; I installed the HP supplied drivers and they are very nicely up to date and really do work very well. This time I've tested the driver thoroughly and have a confirmed no-fail.
- The Default Windows XP installation only supports standard IDE mode. It does a BSOD if AHCI mode is enabled.
- The Intel Matrix Storage setup and also the standard HP Softpaq for Matrix Storage, which contain the needed AHCI drivers, will fail to run if your machine is in IDE mode. Chicken and egg comes to mind. No AHCI activated, no AHCI driver install possible. No IDE activated, no WXP boot possible. The solution will follow.
- This is how you can extract files from the Intel Matrix Storage setup (IMS), this took me some time to figure out:
- Open the folder c:\windows\temp in explorer and make it empty
- Download the latest file from intel (something like iata86enu.exe, goto downloadcenter.intel.com and search "matrix")
- Arrange for a command prompt and start the installer like this "iata86enu.exe -a"
- Wait for the message appears that the files have been installed or extracted, do not click on "ok" yet
- Copy the files from c:\windows\temp\* to some place else
- Click on "ok" to terminate the installer, that will also remove the temporary files
- To install the AHCI drivers in WXP, do the following:
- Set your BIOS up to do legacy IDE
- Install Windows XP
- Unpack the Intel Matrix Storage setup (see above)
- Open computer management and goto device management
- For each visible controller in the list, update the new drivers
- Choose to install the drivers from a specific location
- Choose have disk and browse to the folder extractedmatrixsetupdir\Winall\Driver
- Select one of the .inf files there, it doesn't matter which one
- Choose your controller from the list, in my case it was the IHC9M. Windows gave a warning that this driver might not be compatible with my actual hardware. I knew this to be wrong, so I told it to be quiet and continue.
- If you have installed the new drivers for all listed controllers (my machine showed two controllers), you can now reboot
- Enter the BIOS setup and activate AHCI. If you fail to do this, WXP will BSOD because it is expecting an AHCI controller, and not an IDE controller.
- Log in to WXP. The machine will probably mention that it found some new hardware and will want to reboot again. Obey the machine.
- Operation complete. If you wish, you may now start the iata86enu.exe installation again; it will now run properly and install some extra tools. I did not do that because I have no use for RAID tools on my single-harddisk laptop.