The IBM PalmTop PC110
If it all goes wrong...
The tips on this page could cause you to get into some real problems if you make a
mistake. Be careful - I take no responsibility for the effects of this information. That
said, all these tips have worked with my machine when it's had a bad day. Take 'em or
Resetting the PC110
Right, you're here because it's all gone pear-shaped. Your PC110 is refusing to boot an
operating system, or it's not behaving as logic and everyone else's experiences say it
should. What can go wrong?
- Software - provided you have a back up - you do have a back up,
don't you? - just recover the software to a good state.
- CMOS settings - influence the machine's behaviour, sometimes for
better, sometimes for poorer.
- BIOS - technically just another bit of rewriteable memory - now
we're getting serious.
- Hardware - when its bust, it's bust. Game over. Send it to Tokyo with
a begging note...
So your operating system doesn't boot. Here's a few tips:
- If it's a partitioned storage device, check that the desired partition is set to Active,
Bootable, or whatever you're partition management program calls a partition you
boot an operating system kernel from. Also check to see if your operating system is happy
to boot from an extended drive vs. a primary partition, if a variety of partition types
exist on the drive.
- Verify that the boot sector / kernel loader combination is good by rewriting them
- for DOS users, that means using SYS.
System hangs after POST and beep, with the message 'Bad or missing COMMAND.COM', or a
SYS2025 SYS1475, or similar, depending upon operating system.
After POST and beep, the systems displays ASCII-art of a floppy disk and a diskette
drive, and a row of numbered boxes with a flashing arrow.
Just a manifestation of the above example - this time the boot sector is good, but the
kernel loader is bad. The remedy is step 2 from the above list.
The BIOS has followed the boot sequence, and none of the devices indicated were
- Use EasySetup to verify the boot sequence
- Check that the desired device really is bootable (as above)
CMOS setings control much of the machine's behaviour - particularly its power
management and reactions to power-related controls and events. Resetting the CMOS settings
is a common technique for sorting out a cranky machine. There are two ways of doing this:
- Hardware method
The PC110 has two batteries - the main one which you've probably seen, and a small
watch-style battery at the rear of the machine. This second battery is responsible for
powering the CMOS memory, so that its settings are retained, for powering the clock, and
for giving you a minute of suspended operation whilst you swap main batteries.
If you power off, then remove both batteries, and leave the machine for five minutes
before replacing the batteries and powering on again, you will cause the CMOS settings to
be forgotten, and the clock will have stopped.
- Software method
The command PS2 _@DEFAULT resets the CMOS settings. If the machine can boot, this is a
swifter and simpler solution than the hardware method.
In both cases, you will be presented with two POST errors - 00173 and 00163 - and then
be placed in EasySetup to confirm the date and time when you first power up. This is a
normal consequence of a CMOS reset.
The only definite reason I know of to upgrade the BIOS is when you install more than
12MB of video RAM, and cannot load 256 colour drivers under Windows 95.
Warning: Your BIOS controls what the machine does when you power it on, and how
it boots up. Kill the BIOS, and you kill the machine. A failed BIOS update means a
replacement system board.
If you choose to update your BIOS, these steps are recommended:
- Download the BIOS patch BIOSUP.ZIP from Seamus
Waldron's web pages
- Find a 720KB diskette, and format it as 720KB, with a full format, several times, and
check for errors - dodgy sectors on a BIOS update diskette are BAD news.
- Unpack the BIOSUP.ZIP file into a directory.
- A copy of LOADDSKF.EXE is provided. Use this to unpack the diskette image file
BIOSUP.DSK to the floppy diskette. This will only take a couple of seconds, as the image
is small - a patch rather than a replacement BIOS. To unpack the image file to diskette,
LOADDSKF BIOSUP.DSK A:
- Attach the PC110 to mains power. If you lose power during the BIOS update, you'll be
needing a new system board. Make sure it has a full-charged battery installed, in case
there is a power cut. Yes - I am serious about that.
- Set the boot sequence to include the floppy drive as the first device.
- Power off the PC110, insert the BIOS update diskette into the floppy drive, and power it
- Watch the messages, and wait for confirmation that the BIOS update operation has
finished before you do anything.
Once you have successfully updated your BIOS, you should immediately reset your CMOS
settings as mentioned above.
If none of the above have got you going, it's probably a hardware problem. Try these
- Does the battery have more than 20% charge? If not, power it off mains.
- If it works fine from a charged battery, but not from the mains, you have two
- Your power supply is dead. Verify that the power outlet is good, then that the fuse in
the plug (if fitted) is good, then that the power supply itself is good. Technically, the
last step involves a multimeter, but you can use the layman's approach: plug it in for
five minutes and see if it gets warm!
- Your DC/DC convertor circuitry is dead. This accepts power from the power supply
connector, and converts or supplies it to the rest of the components in the machine.
Arrange to have the PC110 serviced...
- Remove extra hardware, including memory daughterboard, one piece at a time, until the
machine returns to life. Service the offending item.
- Put it in a box and send it back to Tokyo with that begging note...
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Written by Daniel Basterfield. Images found on the internet.