The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Toshiba Portege M400 TabletPC Issue - Vista activation problem / reinstall

I was mailing the below to myself, using Gmail as a log, when I realized that maybe other folks with Toshiba problems might like to learn what I have learned - e.g. the Reboot-Tap 0 sequence to get to the Toshiba Recovery Partition - and I think there is nothing sensitive here.


At 6:30 pm, just before supper, keyboard problems:

a) when rebooting (restarting) the machine beeped for circa 20 seconds - circa 45 beeps. (it hasn't done this for a while - still haven't figured out pattern).

b) having logged in, I tried to use first FireFox, then Internet Explorer, to go to http://www.barkzone.com/.

"www." typed in ok

but everytime I typed "b" it acted as if a weird control key had been typed. nothing more went into the URL. by the time I got to "r" it was as if I had typed the windows key followed by "r" - bringing me to the "Run" menu.

now this gives me a theory - it is as if the Windows key was stuck. which is a bit of a surprise, given the Toshiba's keyboard, where the Windows key is at the top next to the function keys.

I powercycled, hoping to clear up the above problem, and got a new problem:

c) Rebooting got me to the login screen. When I tried to login, first on my usual account "glew", then on "glew-admin", I got a dialog box with the following error:

"The Windows Vista Ultimate Product key you typed is invalid for activation"

with options such as to buy a new product key.

Well, I never entered a product key, since Vista was preinstalled. But I have heard rumours that the product key may be needed again if the computer is changed, e.g. if the motherboard is swapped as my motherboard was, in attempting to fix the keyboard problems that have plagued me since I got the computer.


I contacted Toshiba support at (800) 457-7777.

After the usual questions - their records of what repairs have been done is inaccurate, I corrected them but I doubt that my corrections were recorded - they told me to reinstall from scratch. I had no particular need to preserve anything on the laptop - thank goodness for Gmail - although it will be annoying to have to reinstall patches, FireFox, etc., which took me the best part of a day when I first received my computer.

Here's the "magic" to reinstall:

Reboot (power cycle)
Tap "0" (zero)

This will show the "booting Windows" progress bar, but will get to the Toshiba Recovery Wizard (running out of the hidden recovery partition). Answer the questions, ad you can reinstall the OS.

The recovery partition also has utilities to repartition the drive, etc.

So now this reinstallation from scratch is in progress.


Summing up my rather annoying experience with this Toshiba Portege M400 so far:

I received it before Xmas.

Unfortunately, I didn't actually start using it until the New Year. This was unfortunate because the 15 day return policy had expired; if I had powered it on immediately, I would have returned it immediately, along with all the accessories (dock, etc.) I bought.
MORAL: start using immediately, to test in the return window
MORAL: don't buy accessories until you are happy with a device. Returning them is just additional hassle if the P is unsatisfactory.

When I finally powered it on, there were two big problems

a) the fan was the loudest I have ever heard in a laptop

b) the machine beeped loudly for several minutes while booting.

Later, various attempts to type at the keyboard showed that the 5 or 7 keys were stuck. 555555555555555....

I believe that the keyboard being stuck is what caused the beeping.

My first calls to Toshiba service resulted in On-Site Warranty Service being sent to me (I paid extra for that). This is how I learned that On-Site Warranty Service is rather useless for a non-business:
a) they would not come out on the weekend to my home
b) I cannot stay home all day to await them
c) they cannot come into my place of work.

I suppose they could park in the company parking lot, and I bring my PC out to them.

Instead, I got Toshiba to put me in touch with the off-site service center in Portland, NorthWest Computer Support. They are "only" a half hour's drive away.

I dropped off my tablet PC at NWCS. They kept it for a week, and replaced keyboard and fan.

After a week or so, I picked up my repaired computer. It seemed to work fine. However, once again I did not use it intensely for a week or so. When I started trying to use it - installing FireFox, etc. - I realized the keyboard problem was still occurring.

A few days later I brought it back to NWCS (after phoning Toshiba). This time they kept the machine for 2 weeks, replacing the motherboard.

When I received the machine repaired for the second time, I tried using it immediately. I noticed that the keyboard problems and/lor beeping during boot still occurred sporadically, but could be tolerated - e.g. it beeped for 20 seconds, not 20 minutes. I am also just resigned to the fan noise.

This was the state until today, when I got the Vista activation error, and when Toshiba told me to reinstall. Which I am doing.


Sigh - it isn't so much the reinstall that sucks, as the follow-up. For example, I really need to make new recovery disks for the reinstall, since I think the activation code may be different. Reconfigure network, etc.

If I could return this Toshiba, exchanging it for a different model, I would. I suspect that some of the problems may be due to having gotten a relatively maxed out machine:

_I_n_t_e_l_(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T7600 @ 2.33 GHz, 2.33 GHz
Memory (RAM): 2039 MB
Windows Vista Ultimate (32 bit)

Product ID: 89580-OEM-7332132-00182

104GB disk (at least on main partition)89.8GB free