Archive for September, 2007

Booting Acronis TrueImage from USB even when your BIOS does not support USB boot

I recently acquired an ancient laptop where the DVD/CD-RW drive has died. This makes it difficult to boot from a Acronis TrueImage recovery disc. While you can install the Acronis TrueImage recovery on a USB key, the laptop is too ancient to boot from a USB key. Usually, if you want to boot from USB, you have to have boot from USB in the BIOS.

Acronis TrueImage runs on top of Linux. Various distros like Puppy Linux, feather, and Damn Small Linux comes with helper floppy that allow you to boot from a USB key even when boot from USB is not supported in the BIOS. Can we use the same helper floppy to boot Acronis TrueImage recovery USB key? The answer is yes.

How does it work?

If you have the ability to boot from USB in your BIOS, the BIOS contains drivers to boot from your USB drive. However, the BIOS is just a transitional phase. All the BIOS does is load the OS from the USB drive. Once the OS is loaded, the BIOS role is over. This mean the OS is independant of the BIOS. Suppose the OS has no USB support, the OS will not be able to access the USB drive even if you have loaded it from the USB. The reverse is also true. If your OS has USB support, but the BIOS does not have USB support, the OS will not be able to boot from USB.

The helper floppy serve the same role as the BIOS. The helper floppy loads a small OS with USB support to gain access to the USB drive, so it can load the bigger OS. Once the bigger OS is loaded, the boot OS disappears entirely.

After looking at the various boot floppies, the Puppy OS seemed the most promising. It is essentially a FreeDOS floppy that loads the USB drivers and then use a program call linld to load the Linux OS.

Creating a Floppy to USB Acronis TrueImage system

Here’s how to create the system.

  1. Run Acronis TrueImage and select the option to create a recovery disk. Select the USB drive as the destination drive to write to.
  2. Download the WakePup program. I am using WakePup 2.02.
  3. Unzip the WakePup zip file. There should be a MakeDisk.bat file. Run it and you’ll be prompted to insert a floppy disk into the A: drive. This will create a WakePup boot floppy.
  4. Edit the Autoexec.bat file on the boot floppy. Normally, this file is invisible, but you can make it visible by setting the folder options to show hidden files and uncheck the hide operating system files. It is designed to load Puppy Linux, which means it will look for Puppy related files. We will modify it to look for bootwiz instead, then we’ll modify the linld arguments to load Acronis TrueImage. Note that the ramdisk_size is important. Without it, the kernel won’t load properly because the default ramdisk size is too small. Here’s the entire modified file:
    @echo off
    rem wakepup2 0.2 (C) 2006, Paul Akterstam ('pakt' on Puppy Linux Forum)
    rem Boot diskette for Puppy 2.xx series. For Puppy 1.xx series, use wakepup
    rem This version for IDE/USB drives (built-in or external CD-ROM, HD and flash)
    rem Inspired by Barry Kauler's BOOT2PUP (
    rem Except for the drivers, uses only GPL'd software or freeware
    rem Requires FreeDOS & FreeCOM
    rem This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but
    rem WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
    rem General Public License for more details.
    rem The GNU General Public License is available from
    rem or, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place,
    rem Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111 USA
    echo *** wakepup2 0.2 by pakt - Boot Puppy2 Linux from IDE/USB drives ***
    rem Pause here so USB driver messages can be read...
    echo Pausing for driver messages. Press any key to continue or Ctrl-C to abort...
    pause >NULrem Init
    set drv=rem Using SHSUCDX.COM 3.03, a freeware replacement for MSCDEX.EXE
    rem Assign 1st IDE-CD to drive X:, 2nd (if found) to drive Y: and USB-CD to drive Z:
    driver\SHSUCDX /D:?IDE-CD,X,,2 /d:?USB-CD,Z,,1 /QQ

    echo Checking any IDE drive for marker file BOOTWiZ.sys...
    for %%x in ( C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W ) do if exist %%x:\bootwiz.sys set drv=%%x:
    if "%drv%"=="" goto failed

    echo ...file found on drive %drv%
    echo º Select Puppy2 boot option º
    echo º º
    echo º 1. acpi=on Default for newer PCs (made 2002 or later) º
    echo º º
    echo º 2. acpi=off For older PCs, or use if acpi=on causes problems º
    echo º º
    echo º 3. acpi=force Needed to force acpi=on on older PCs º
    echo º º
    choice /C:123 Please choose :
    if "%errorlevel%"=="1" set acpi=acpi=on
    if "%errorlevel%"=="2" set acpi=acpi=off
    if "%errorlevel%"=="3" set acpi=acpi=force

    set append=root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk_size=40000 init=linuxrc %acpi%
    LINLD.COM image=%drv%\dat4.dat initrd=%drv%\dat3.dat "cl=%append%"
    goto end

    type FAILMSG.TXT


  5. Insert the USB key and the floppy on the machine and have it boot from floppy. It will load config.sys and load the USB drivers. Autoexec.bat will run and look for bootwiz.sys and then load the Acronis TrueImage.
  6. If everything works correctly, you should see the drive boot. Instead of getting the Acronis screen, you’ll get a prompt. This is because Acronis runs on top of Busybox and you are at the command prompt. To get the Acronis TrueImage application, type “product” and press return. I haven’t figured out how to get it to boot directly into the product.

What can go wrong?

The boot floppy is not perfect. It loads a set of DOS drivers that should give you access to the USB drive, but it doesn’t work with every hardware. While it worked with a majority of the machines I own, it did not work with a eMachine T1221. The DOS driver was unable to detect the USB.

In those situation, you may have to experiment with loading different USB DOS drivers until you find one that works.

September 29, 2007 at 9:45 pm 14 comments

Ubuntu 7.04 on Averatec 2370 – a failure for now

The following post should applied to Linux Mint 3.0 as well. I attempted to run Ubuntu 7.04 on an Averatec 2370 and it turned out mostly OK, but several essential functionality did not work.

Dual Core Support Pass
CPU Scaling Pass. Can run at 1.67Ghz unlike in Vista
Display-Open Source Drivers Requires editing to the xorg.conf to get 1280×800
Display-Proprietary Drivers Requires editing to the xorg.conf to get 1280×800
Audio Pass
Hard Disk Pass
Optical Drive Pass
Ethernet Pass
Wireless Requires downloading and compiling of open source drivers
Modem Not detected
SD Card Pass
Suspend to RAM Failed. Cannot be made to work without kernel upgrade
Suspend to Disk Pass

Display – Open Source Drivers

Ubuntu correctly identified and install the open source nv drivers. However, the screen defaults to 1024×768. To fix the probem, all you need to do is to add the resolution “1280×800” to the Modes line in the file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

In your display section, change the line in xorg.conf:

Modes            "1024x768"  "800x600"  "640x480"


Modes            "1280x800"  "1024x768"  "800x600"  "640x480"

Save the file and reboot the computer. You should be able to set the resolution to 1280 x 800 from the menu System->Preferences->Screen Resolution Preference. Note that PCLinuxOS 2007 actually detected the screen properly.

Display – Proprietary Driver

The proprietary Nvidia drivers can be activated from the menu System->Administration->Restricted Driver Manager. Mines failed to install until I updated the system. You need to add the following line to your Section “Device”.

Option "DynamicTwinView" "False"

The option needs to be set or the Nvidia driver will read the refresh rate incorrectly. For more info, see this launchpad entry.


The Ralink RT73 chipset in the laptop actually has an open source driver, but unfortunately, the version that comes with Ubuntu 7.04 does not work. I downloaded the source for the latest RT73 Next Generation driver, but I was unable to compile it because it require a particular options to be compile into the Kernal. Frankly, I am not going to compile a new kernal.

Suspend to RAM

Currently, when you suspend to RAM, it puts the laptop into a coma that you cannot return from. There appears to be no way to get suspend to RAM to work. None of the distro I have tried will correct this issue. Users who want this feature will have to wait until they fixed the problem in future versions of the kernal.

Hope for the future

Just as an experiment, I upgraded to Ubuntu Gusty Gibbon and notice that wireless actually started working though it was still pretty unstable. Various post indicated that ACPI support is improving, though suspend to RAM still does not work. One of the nice things about Linux is that even though the OS does not work on your machine today, it may work in the future when they release future versions. In contrast, if your machine does not work with Vista today, it will not work with Vista tomorrow or ever.

September 23, 2007 at 3:42 pm 1 comment

Averatec 2370 is downclocked to 800 Mhz after upgrading to Vista (Averatec abandons customers)

I installed Vista on my Averatec 2370 and it became painfully slow. Vista sucks! On the other hand, may be we shouldn’t blame Vista without more proof. I ran Super PI and notice that performance has been cut exactly in half. That sounds more like there is an issue with the power management, since a laptop run at half the speed during idle to save power. I installed RMclock and discovered that my hunch was correct. The processor is running at 800 Mhz no matter which power profile I used. Vista has made my laptop lazy!

Death by Inaction

No only was my laptop running at half the speed, there were other problems. Normally, when the laptop screen is closed, it goes to sleep. I normally set the laptop to do nothing when when the lid is closed so I can carry it around without it going to sleep. Instead of doing nothing, the laptop screen goes blank and never comes back. There was no way to recover without reboot (though I did found a solution for that later).

Calling Averatec for some help

I contacted Averatec to see if they know a solution to the issue. They told me that no one has reported this issue and that I was the first person to report this. Averatec thought that there was something faulty with my machine and that I should send in it. I did not want to do this. During the warranty period, I had to send my laptop in twice for repair. The second time, Averatec kept the laptop for over 2 months waiting for parts. If I sent in it, I may never see my laptop for another couple of months. I decided to do some investigation on my own.

The Online investigation

If no one has reported this issue to Averatec, there are certainly a lot of people online who have the same problem who called Averatec. Many of the posters had gotten the free Vista upgrade that came with the Averatec purchase and encountered a drop in performance after the upgrade. To make things worse, Averatec also told them that since they upgraded their laptop, they were no longer eligible for technical support unless they revert to XP. Unfortunately for people who upgrade, they cannot go back since their XP license key had been invalidated by the upgrade.

The Linux kernel thread indicated that ACPI on Averatec 2370 and many of the AMD Turion machines were broken. At least for Linux, there were patches to allow the laptop to run at the full speed, but no such patch exists for Vista.

In addition, Everex makes a laptop name Everex StepNote ST5340T that’s identical to Averatec 2370, since both are rebadged Twinhead H12F laptops. Users of that Everex laptop owners did not report any problem with Vista. The difference between the two models is that Averatec 2370 has R1.05 BIOS and Everex has R1.09 BIOS.

The Cause of the problem

The root of the issue is a bug in the BIOS for version R1.05 and earlier. The ACPI implementation is broken in the BIOS. As a result, Vista is trapped into running at the lowest possible speed and the no action to fail. I don’t know why this doesn’t happen in XP.

Unfortunately, Microsoft did not created any patch for Vista to correct the BIOS issue, so it must be fixed in the BIOS for Vista to work properly. Since the Everex laptop did not have the same problem, one would assume that the problem has been resolved in the later release of the BIOS. I contacted Averatec to know if they have answers to my investigation and if they will release a later version of the BIOS that will solve the problem. Averatec promised that they will contact HQ for some answers.

Averatec invokes the Doctrine of Infallability

Averatec HQ’s response was highly unprofessional. I already told them that I know of others online who have called in with the same issue and Everex has resolved the issue with the R1.09 BIOS. If Averatec can just release a more recent version of the BIOS, we could be all happy. Instead their response was

  • I am the only person with his problem. Never mind that I already told them that I know of others who called Averatec with the same issue.

  • There is no later BIOS because the manufacturer did not release one. If they did, Averatec would have release it. However, since Everex gets the BIOS from the same manufacturer, this is not true. The most likely explanation is that Averatec has stop paying the licensing fee and so can’t get the later version of the BIOS.

  • There is no problem with Vista, if I can’t see the reality of this, then there’s nothing more they can do for me. These were their almost exact words. Apparently, HQ’s words trumps customer experience.

  • Vista is not a supported OS even though there is a “Window Vista Capable” sticker on the front of the machine.


What an interesting customer service strategy, tell the customer that their problem doesn’t really exist and point out that the problem only exists because the customer has no grip on reality.

Solving the problems on our own

I looked through the web and figured out a few solutions. I will post them in the order of difficulty in hopes of helping my fellow Averatec 2370 owner


  1. Stick with XP. This is the easiest solution since the computer does not have problems under XP. Of course, if you upgrade to Vista using the free Vista upgrade in 2007, you can’t go back.

  2. Install RMclock to get around the broken power management by replacing it with RMclocks’s custom power manager. RMclock is fairly easy to setup and it is a program so it is perfectly save. As soon as you quit the program, the laptop returns to its default behavior. The downside to RMclock is that it is a just a program. You cannot run it until you login. This mean when you first boot up the computer, it will run at half-speed until you login and run RMclock. Every time you log out, RMclock will quit and the computer will be slow again. In addition, you need to have admin permission to run RMclock.

    RMclock will not fix the problem No Action, so make sure that your Power button, Sleep button, and Lid isn’t set to “No action” or you may end up with a blank screen. If you managed to do this, you can get out of it by hitting the hotkeys for sleep (Fn+F4), which puts the laptop to sleep and then click on any key to bring it back out.

  3. Install an alternative OS like Linux. Under Ubuntu, my Averatec 2370 runs at the correct speed and CPU scaling worked properly. Amusingly, you can then install a virtual machine like Vmware or Virtualbox and run Vista in the virtual machine at speeds that are faster than the real machine under the broken BIOS. Unfortunately, after trying it for a few months, I decided that it was not feasible. I had initially tried several distro and found that only Ubuntu 7.10 seemed to work mostly out of the box, but not everything worked. The wireless had drop out mysteriously until I compile a more recent driver from sourceforge. The sleep and hibernate worked, but sometimes the laptop would not wake up. The audio jack didn’t automatically switch off when you plug in a headphone like in Vista.

    When Ubuntu 8.04 came out, I was hoping that more of the issue had been fixed. The wireless was now worked close to perfect, but now sleep and hibernate does not work at all even with the corrected BIOS.

  4. Install the Everex BIOS. Basically, we flashed the Averatec 2370 with a later version of the R1.09 BIOS from an Everex StepNote ST5340T machine. After the flash, the machine will work perfectly with Vista. The following instruction shows you how to do this. Keep in mind that I am talking about an Averatec 2370. There is a model out call Averatec 2371. I don’t know if 2371 is the same motherboard as 2370, so it may not work. I must warned you again that this method have a potential of bricking your laptop, though the chance is small.

Flashing the BIOS

Flashing the BIOS is dangerous. It’s dangerous not because we are flashing a BIOS from a different company (the machines are identical), but because the flashing process itself can turn your computer into a brick if interrupted. Some manufacturer will not warranty a flash failure. This is why you should only flash your machine if there is no other recourse. In addition, think about not doing this until your warranty has expired. I am pretty sure Averatec will void your warranty if the machines boots up with an Everex logo during repairs. You can reflash the BIOS with the Averatec BIOS before sending it back to Averatec, but if you’re probably not going to be able to this if your machine is broken.

The first problem we encountered is that there is no Everex BIOS to download. The Everex come pre-installed with the R1.09 BIOS so there was no reason for Everex to post it online. However, a clever person name Jackyl managed to grab a copy of the BIOS off a machine and posted it on the notebookreview site as a bunch of zip files. At this point, you may wonder if this is even legal. It is definitely questionable from a copyright standpoint. The only reason we are doing this is because Averatec won’t release the later BIOS and because we can’t even buy the BIOS from the manufacturer. If Jack Bauer crash through the door to arrest you, tell him that Averatec set you on this life of crime.

Go to this thread and download all of the Zip files. Unzip each of the files and unrar the file. I used the 7zip utility to both unzip and unrar the file. When you finish, you’ll have an R109.bin file that’s 512K. This is the BIOS file.

Now you’ll need some way of installing the BIOS, there are several ways of doing this. I will give detail description of how I did this in the past. I will also mention how other people online said they have perform the installation. You’ll have to google and ask them yourself on the exact details.

In all cases, make sure that the laptop is plugged in and that you have a fully charged battery. This is insurance to prevent a fail BIOS flash because there was a power outage.

Winflash method

In the old days, BIOS was flash by booting into a DOS floppy and then running a program to flash the BIOS. Most computers these days don’t even have a floppy drive, so most manufacturer these days uses WinFlash. Winflash allow you to install flash from within Windows.

If you go to the Averatec website and look up Averatec 2370, you’ll see two BIOS related files, one for R1.04 and one for R1.05. You actually want the R1.04 file because it comes with the Winflash utility.

Download XP_Bios_with_WinFlash_Utility_R1_04.exe and unzip it. Inside the folder is the BIOS file H12FA000.ROM. Rename your R1.09.bin file to this file and replace H12FA000.ROM with the renamed R1.09 file. What you have done is replace the 1.04 BIOS with 1.09.

Next, reboot your machine in case there’s something running in the background. Turn off your virus checker, your windows automatic update, scheduler and quit from all possible program. You do not want your virus checker or check disk to interrupt your BIOS flash. Follow the instruction and run the AFUWIN.exe utility.

Noted that I have only upgraded my computer under XP. I do not know if Winflash works properly under Vista.

The Floppy Method

If you download the R1.05 BIOS from the Averatec website, the readme file tells you to boot from floppy. This will leave most people scratching their heads since there is no floppy drive on Averatec 2370.

What you can do is buy or borrow a USB floppy drive and then create a boot floppy. Do the following:

  1. Create a boot floppy. You can do this by going to a machine with XP and a floppy drive and formatting a floppy with Boot disk option. This is the way I did it. If you don’t have access to such a machine, check out the boot disk site. There is probably a disk image you can use to create a start up floppy disk. All the disk do is to boot your command to a DOS command line so you can run the flash command.
  2. Go the Averatec site and download the R1.05 BIOS. Unzip the file, you will notice a BIOS folders with the following file H12FA105.ROM. Rename your R1.09 to H12FA105.ROM and replace this file with the rename R1.09. Copy everything in the BIOS folder to the floppy.

    Insert the floppy into the USB drive. Connect the USB drive to the laptop. Boot the laptop and press F11. This give you a list of devices to boot from. Note that if you can’t see the USB drive, turn off the machine and try again. If it still does not work, go into the BIOS and make sure the USB legacy option is set to true or auto.

    Select the option to boot from floppy. It should boot into a command line prompt.

    Enter the command FBIOS.BAT and follow the instruction on screen. Do not interrupt the process at this point or your laptop is toast.

Alternate Method

You can create a Boot CD with the BIOS files and boot from the CD. Creating such a disk is tricky, though admlam in the thread has done it.

You can also create a boot usb key. I have not tried this at all, but it should work.

Post BIOS flashing

After the BIOS has flashed properly and rebooted, you’ll get notice that screen now say “Everex”. Ignore this in the same way Averatec told you to ignore your own problems and press DEL. This takes you to the BIOS setup screen. Before the flash, the key to enter the BIOS was F12. It has now change to DEL from now on.

In the BIOS screen, select “Restore Optmized Default”. This clears out any outdated settings from the old BIOS, so you don’t get checksum errors.

Now the machine should work exactly as it did before, but now Vista actually works. Unfortunately, I still can’t get Linux to work perfectly enough (at least not with sleep and suspend working), so I have to stay with Vista or XP for now.

September 23, 2007 at 3:16 pm 11 comments

Why can’t I unzip files in Vista?

In Windows XP, you can unzip files by double-clicking on it or by right-clicking on it and using the context menu. When I tried this on Vista, the menu was not visible? Did Microsoft remove that feature?

Apparently, I installed ZipGenuis 6 recently but uninstalled it quickly after it had difficulty with some self-extracting archives. When the program uninstall, it did not restore the default association for Zip files. As a result, I can no longer unzip files!

In most cases, you can restore associations by selecting open and the picking the program you want to associate with that file type. Unfortunately for you, the Windows zip file is not a program, but a shell extension. If you type in a command line:

ftype | more

You will see an entry for CompressFolder and it calls a shell extension dll.

To restore the functionality, you need to do the following:

  1. Select the Start Menu, select Start->Accessories. Right click on the Command Prompt and select Run As Admin. You need to be admin to change the association. You will be prompted to enter your admin password. Enter it and press return.
  2. In the command line window, type in the following command

assoc .zip=CompressedFolder

Now when you right-click on a zip file, you should see the familar extract menu again.

September 12, 2007 at 9:29 am 48 comments

Laptop shutdown button changed on Vista

I recently purchased an Acer laptop with Vista Basic install. I noticed that my laptop power light is on after shutdown. It turns out that I haven’t shutting down the laptop at all, but put the laptop to sleep instead. On a laptop under Vista, the shutdown icon actually make a laptop goes into sleep instead of shutting down the machine like in Windows XP.

What is Vista Sleep

Putting a laptop to sleep causes the laptop to go into a ACPI S3 state. At this state, your computer goes into a minimum power mode.  The screen turns off, the hard drives stops, and the CPU goes into a sleep state that draws a minimum amount of power.

Because a computer in sleep state still draws power, the battery will still run out eventually. The computer will go into hibernation mode after a specific amount of time or when the battery runs low. In hibernation mode, the entire content of your computer memory is saved to disk and the computer is turned off. In hibernation mode, the computer draws no power. When you start the computer, it goes out of hiberation and loads the memory back from the disk so you can resume where you left off.

How is Sleep different than Standby

In XP, you can put a computer into standby and get the same benefits as sleep. By default,  the power management dump the computer into hibernation mode when the battery is low. How is Sleep different than Standby then?

Apparently, Microsoft has made some improvement on how quickly a computer goes into standby/sleep mode, so it is a few seconds faster. In addition, programs under XP can veto your standby, so a programs can keep your machine from going into standby. Now, Vista goes to sleep regardless of how loudly these programs complaint. Those program may crash under Vista, but I haven’t seen any program that has caused problems. I also notice that when I have an USB external drive attached, my shutdown icon now has an exclaimation mark.

Essentially sleep and standby are the same thing. Microsoft has made some improvement, that’s all.

September 12, 2007 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

Using a cloning program to resize Vmware virtual disk files

Vmware Server allow you to create virtual disk (vmdk) files that are either growable or pre-allocated. When you create the file, you specify a maximum size. At some point, you fill the storage to the maximum size. You’ll have two choices:

  1. Create another virtual disk file and add it to the virtual machine. This will show up as another disk.
  2. Create a bigger virtual disk and copy the old virtual disk to the new one.

The first option is pretty easy, the second option will require a third party tool that can clone partitions such as Acronis TrueImage or Ghost. While Vmware does provide a set of command line tools that allow you to manipulate the vmdk files, the tools cannot grow or shrink files (well you can on a window host, but not on a linux host).

Here’s how I move the virtual environment around. I will be using Acronis TrueImage, but the concept should be the same for other partition copiers.

  1. Make sure the virtual machine is off. Add a second hard disk to the virtual machine.
  2. Boot the machine using Acronis TrueImage Boot CD, this boots the virtual machine with the backup software. Now the backup software sees two disc.
  3. I use the Clone feature of TrueImage to copy the content of one disk to the other.
  4. After the copy is complete, I turn off the virtual machine. Remove both hard disk and then re-add the destination hard disk so that it is my primary drive.
  5. Boot the virtual machine up with the new file. Delete the old one if you like.

Problems with Vista

When I tried this with a Vista Guest, I got a “winboot.exe” error after I boot off the cloned disk. Apparently, TrueImage does not handle the boot sector on Vista properly. To correct the problem, insert your Vista OS disc and select the repair option. This takes a few minute and fixes your problem with no data loss.

Using external drives

If you are using Vmware on a laptop like I do the hard disk space is rather limited, so you may want to create your destination file on an external usb drive. Vmware Server has an option for USB device, but don’t even think about using it. While I have managed to get the USB drive to mount, the virtual USB interface is running USB 1.1 (may be not even that fast). It took an entire day to create a 10 Gb backup file.

Instead, mount the USB on your Host OS and then create your destination file before you start the virtual machine. In fact, it’s better to turn of the USB interface on the virtual machine while you are doing this, just in case the guest and host starts fighting over your USB drive and blowing up partition table.

September 5, 2007 at 9:42 pm 5 comments

Is it worth upgrading the CPU on Acer 3680-2633?

The Acer 3680-2633 comes with a Celeron M 520 CPU. The name Celeron have been synonymous with trash. On many forum there are articles asking if they can upgrade the processor.

Can you upgrade the processor?

Well, the question you should ask is if it can be upgraded at all. It is generally more difficult to upgrade a CPU on a laptop than a desktop. The CPU is hard to get to, and the cooling system may be design to cool a particular processor. Still, if your laptop comes in multiple configuration (your model supports Celeron M to Core 2 Duo), it may be possible to upgrade. Your upgrade path will depend on a couple of factors:

  1. Your CPU is a Zip socket, and there is another CPU that fit into this socket.
  2. Your chipset supports the CPU.
  3. Your BIOS can recognize the new CPU.

In the case of the Acer 3680, the CPU is socketed. I ran a program call PC Wizard to get the chipset. It indicate that the Acer 3680-2633 chipset is an Intel 943GML. A quick search through the Intel website indicate that it supports only Celeron M.

Can we upgrade to another Celeron M? According to Wikipedia, there is a Celeron M 530 that is faster than the 520. A quick check through google indicates that the CPU is selling for about $125 currently. However, the CPU is only 0.08 Ghz faster than the 520, so I am doubtful that you will gain much performance from the upgrade. The other processors that 943 GML support are the Celeron ULV, which are even slower than 520 and don’t even share the same socket.

Is Celeron M really a dog?

The first Celeron was release with virtually no secondary cache. As a result, its performance was so poor that the name become associated with cheap and slow. The Celeron M are essentially single core of the mobile Intel chips with half the cache. Currently, there are 3 series of Celeron M.

Celeron M Series Based On Difference
3xx Pentium M (Dothan Core) 1/2 Cache, no Speedstep
4xx Core Duo (Yonah Core) 1/2 Cache, no Speedstep
5xx Core 2 Duo (Merom Core) 1/2 Cache, no Speedstep, no virtualization

Performance-wise, the Celeron M is actually fairly close to its non-Celeron brother. Recently, another poster wrote an article benchmarking a Celeron M vs. its Pentium M brother.

However, the Celeron M’s biggest flaw as a mobile cpu is a lack of speedstep. This may explain the Acer laptop’s terrible 2 hour battery life.

Increasing performance using Dual Channel

One interesting difference between the 520 series and the old Pentium M is the effect of dual channel. On the Pentium M architecture, having dual channel has virtually no effect on performance as shown in the following article. However, when I ran SuperPI under single channel and dual channel, I definitely got improve results.

Memory Configuration SuperPI Benchmark 2M
1 DIMM, 512 Mb 2:19
2 DIMM, 2 Gb 1:39

As you can see, there is a 29% improvement. Granted, the test isn’t very through or scientific, but it appears upgrading your laptop to two matching pair of RAM will improve performance and RAM is cheap at the moment.

September 3, 2007 at 5:19 pm 100 comments

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