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38 Posts

01-21-2018

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Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-07-30, 19:51 PM

I've got a Thinkstation S30 4351 (Socrates rev 2.0) motherboard.  All of the power rails check out near as I can tell.  The powerup sequence works to the point of spinning up the CPU fan, and it will recognize the poweron and poweroff signal (so, holding the power button closed for a few seconds will power off the system, and pressing it again will power the system back up).  This tells me that the PCH is working.  And I know that the CPU itself is functional because it works just fine in other motherboards.

 

On a properly working motherboard (with intact BIOS and all that), the system is supposed to emit a series of beeps from the speaker when there's no RAM in the system.  On my motherboard, this doesn't happen.  Now, as I understand it, the boot sequence first initializes the PCH, then the PCH loads some bootstrap code from the BIOS chip into the CPU, and that executes and tests the memory.  It's able to do this even when there's no memory present because it uses the CPU's internal cache to house that initial bit of code.

 

But that's dependent upon the code in the BIOS chip being intact.  Given the symptoms here, I don't believe it is.  And I have further reason to believe that the issue is with the BIOS code.  There's a set of pads for a BIOS programming header on the motherboard.  I soldered a header to this and hooked up my oscilloscope to it so that I could monitor the activity on the SPI bus connected to the BIOS chip.  I can see plenty of activity on it during the boot cycle, so I know that data from the BIOS chip is being retrieved.

 

This issue happens irrespective of the position of the CMOS recovery jumper.   Since the power rails appear to be good, and it's obvious that data is being retrieved from the BIOS chip, it follows that corruption of the BIOS image is most likely to be the root cause of the problem.  And because it's failing to get to the point of detecting memory, I have no reason to believe that the usual BIOS recovery methods could possibly work, since they depend on the system getting to the point of being able to read from a peripheral device (such as a USB stick or CD drive).  This means the only recovery path is to directly flash the BIOS chip with a good image. 

 

So I managed to use a utility called "flashrom" on a Raspberry Pi to pull the image from the BIOS chip.  I then used another utility, UEFITool, to examine it.  And it does indeed suggest that there's corruption, because it says:

 

parseRawArea: one of volumes inside overlaps the end of data
parse: not a single Volume Top File is found, the image may be corrupted
parseFptRegion: FPT partition table header checksum is invalid

 

The image itself is 16 megabytes long, which is correct because the BIOS chip is a Macronix MX25L12835EMI-10G (https://www.kynix.com/uploadfiles/pdf65976/MX25L12835EMI-10G.pdf), which is a 128 megabit chip (128 megabits is 16 megabytes).

 

So my intent is to re-flash the chip with a known good copy of the BIOS.  The problem is that I don't have such an image.  The image type that is present on the BIOS chip is "Intel image" and has to match the BIOS chip in size for flashrom to be able to write the image to it.  When I download the BIOS updates from Lenovo's support site and crack them open, there's a "cap" file that is an AMI Aptio capsule.  But what's inside the capsule isn't an Intel image, it's a UEFI image.  And the internal structure is *very* different, and the wrong size to boot (8 megabytes for the full UEFI image).

 

And so, my question: where can I get a 16 megabyte Intel image format file that I can flash the BIOS chip with so that I can get this motherboard going again?  Alternatively, (and even better, since it would be a more flexible option) how can I go about converting the UEFI image that the Lenovo BIOS updates supply into an Intel image that is suitable for flashing onto the BIOS chip directly?

 

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29 Posts

11-16-2019

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-08-03, 21:57 PM

Lenovo support is great as usual,

I also managed to find you a full SPI backup for your  S30 https://github.com/SuperThunder/HP_Z420_Z620_Z820_BootBlock_Upgrade/files/4128499/S30.zip

Ignore the hp part of the link and just try it , is 16 mb for s30 v2 pch

Let us know if your board works

 

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29 Posts

11-16-2019

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-07-31, 2:09 AM

It looks that your skills are great but just curious... cause for me made a lot of problems  and was simple fix.

Did you replaced the cmos battery and swap rams and reset bios using jumper ?

Also the board supports bios refresh from cdrom if bios is corupted.

I know my advices are novices compared with what you try to do but just to be sure you dnt over complicate yourself ...

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29 Posts

11-16-2019

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-07-31, 2:30 AM

Again your skills are great , but just for curiosity , can you remove everything from motherboard I mean all pcie cards , rams , cpu , bios battery , everything you can remove , let just power cable and speaker and power on switch .

Now put bios jumper in reset mode

You may leaf , I know but just try ...

-At this stage power it on see if any beeps.

-Then attach the cpu and his power and if any beeps

If you see it s alive go on adding rams and video 

If is not alive go remove all again with bios jumper in normal position

Never add cmos battery until you see it alive

 

 

 

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38 Posts

01-21-2018

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-07-31, 3:46 AM

@ Gigixxyyzz wrote:

Again your skills are great , but just for curiosity , can you remove everything from motherboard I mean all pcie cards , rams , cpu , bios battery , everything you can remove , let just power cable and speaker and power on switch .

Now put bios jumper in reset mode

You may leaf , I know but just try ...

-At this stage power it on see if any beeps.

-Then attach the cpu and his power and if any beeps

If you see it s alive go on adding rams and video 

If is not alive go remove all again with bios jumper in normal position

Never add cmos battery until you see it alive

 

Yeah, I've done all that already.  Battery or no battery makes no difference.  RAM or no RAM makes no difference.  The BIOS jumper location makes no difference.  Nothing seems to make a difference.

 

This is why I was initially suspicious of the power rails.  But I checked those with a multimeter and they're fine as far as I can tell.  Moreover, the fact that there's SPI activity on the BIOS is near proof that all of the necessary power rails are working properly, because the BIOS is (as far as I know) only accessed once it's time to load the boot code into the CPU.

 

And UEFITool's parse errors give me significant reason to believe that the BIOS image in the flash is corrupt.

 

 

Just for kicks, I attempted to get it to boot from a USB stick with the DOS BIOS update on it, and of course that didn't work because the CPU doesn't appear to be initializing.

 

I don't have the motherboard in a case.  In fact, right now the motherboard is completely bare except for the CPU and its heatsink and fan. The litmus test of whether or not the BIOS works is whether or not I get the appropriate beep sequence with the RAM out of the .  The reason I'm not using that other S30 system to pull a BIOS image is, firstly, because I don't want to risk the system by soldering the necessary programming header to it and, secondly, because the BIOS might (in fact, probably does if what I've seen of my corrupt image is any indication) contain system-specific information such as the ethernet address, serial number, etc.

 

The system from which the motherboard was taken has since had a replacement motherboard installed.  I suppose I could remove the DVD drive from one of my systems and use that in an attempt to get it to update the BIOS, but I don't see how that can possibly happen if the BIOS in the flash is corrupt to the point where the CPU can't initialize.  I'm skeptical that the PCH has enough brains to talk to the SATA controller, much less understand the filesystem format of a DVD enough to load the CPU initialization code from that.  But that does raise an interesting question: *does* the PCH have enough brains for all that?

 

If someone here has a detailed description of the exact sequence of events that happens when you flash the BIOS with the DVD, I'd love to see it.   What if, for instance, the BIOS chip were completely blank?  Would the update still work?   I'm skeptical that it would, of course, but if it would then that's worth trying.

 

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11-16-2019

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-07-31, 9:13 AM

If somebody from lenovo staff could respond wold be super great .

I m also very interested if a s30 motherboard with broken or missing bios can be revived with the DVD. 

From what I know but never had to try it , if you fail in the middle of bios update and your s30 looks bricked , you have to put the jumper in bios reset mode and use the DVD with the iso .

So theoretically this looks the way to unbrick a mobo with corupted bios , but please somebody from lenovo make some light here

Thank you all

 

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113 Posts

07-26-2015

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-07-31, 17:18 PM

@ n2185x wrote:

I've got a Thinkstation S30 4351 (Socrates rev 2.0) motherboard.  (...)  And I know that the CPU itself is functional because it works just fine in other motherboards.

 

Since you know the CPU works in other motherboards, that means it has been manipulated.

 

So I have a few questions :

  1. Have you ever seen this motherboard work before ?
  2. Have you swapped the CPU of the S30 by yourself ?
  3. And most important : have you checked the CPU socket pins for bent pins ?
-------------------------------------------------------------
P700 2x2620v3 32GB 1050ti 2xSSD 2xHDD PSU490
W500 P8700 6GB HD3650 - does not boot anymore
Helix 2 CoreM-5Y71 8GB HD5300 SSD
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38 Posts

01-21-2018

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-07-31, 18:11 PM

@ LeFrettchen wrote:

@ n2185x wrote:

I've got a Thinkstation S30 4351 (Socrates rev 2.0) motherboard.  (...)  And I know that the CPU itself is functional because it works just fine in other motherboards.

 

Since you know the CPU works in other motherboards, that means it has been manipulated.

 

So I have a few questions :

  1. Have you ever seen this motherboard work before ?
  2. Have you swapped the CPU of the S30 by yourself ?
  3. And most important : have you checked the CPU socket pins for bent pins ?

Yep, the motherboard was in operation and working perfectly, and suddenly stopped working for no apparent reason.

 

Yes, I swapped the CPU myself.  I have several on hand, and the CPU that's in it now is one that was in an operational system that I performed a CPU upgrade on.  So I know the CPU that's in the motherboard right now works.

 

I did indeed check the socket for bent pins.  I did so using a stereo microscope.  They all look good to me.

 

 

It's always possible that the issue with the motherboard is in the hardware somewhere, but a corrupt BIOS is a possible cause that I have to rule out, and the only way I know to do that is to flash a known good image to the chip.  The fact that there's SPI bus activity on the BIOS chip during the boot sequence means that a lot of the hardware involved in the boot sequence is working properly.

 

 

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-08-02, 21:25 PM

You've done a tremendous amount of debug work so far, and most of it seems spot on from what I can tell in trying to narrow down the problem.

 

Since a corrupted BIOS image seems like a viable possibility, we should really go down the BIOS recovery path first.  It's really the last ditch effort prior to having to either replace or manually reprogram the SPI (or in most cases, replace the board since that SPI is soldered).

 

Which jumper are you identifying as the clear CMOS jumper on your S30 board? I just want to make sure we're focused on the correct jumper.

 

The basic process of BIOS recovery is fairly straight forward...

- Move the CMOS clear jumper to the clear position (pins 2-3).

- Boot the system, you should hear two short beeps indicating CMOS has cleared.

- After that, the system should start searching available removable media for a BIOS image.  This can be provided via CD or USB, but the image file will have to show in the root of the media being used.  I tend to use the .ISO download available on the support site and create a disc from that image.

- What I can't remember off the top of my head with S30 BIOS recovery is if you'll get video sync with a basic text screen/progress bar, or if video stays dead and the system emits a series of beep tones while it's rewriting the image.  In either case, you'd want to leave the system go until it shuts itself down.

- Once it powers down, pull AC power and hold the power button to allow the PSU to fully reset (green LED on PSU should go out).

- Move the jumper back to the normal position (pins 1-2) and try to power on again.

 

See if this helps, and if it doesn't work let us know what it's doing.  I seem to recall there could be some oddities in the recovery process on this platform, so if it fails there might be a few other things to try to tweak to get it to work.  But at the very least we need to make sure you're using the right jumper and the process is initiating properly (via the initial 2 beep sequence) as if that part fails, we might be in a pickle.




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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-08-02, 22:29 PM

Thanks very much for responding, @psuturtle.

 

The clear CMOS jumper on the motherboard is a 3-pin jumper labeled JP4.  There is text below the label that says "Clear CMOS".  Moving the jumper to span pins 2 and 3 and booting the system yields exactly the same thing as everything else: no beeps at all.

 

This isn't a surprise.  The system is obviously not getting to the point that it is able to test for the presence of memory, or it is but the test is never completing due to a bad instruction, or something.  I know this because on a working system, if I remove all of the memory and bring up the system, it will emit a series of beeps that indicate that RAM is not present.  But this motherboard emits no such thing at all.

 

I have another indication that the issue is likely to be corrupt firmware.  To test the functionality of the BIOS chip, I flashed a 16 megabyte file filled with zeros, then read that off the chip.  The read was successful and a match for the original file.  I then did the same thing with a similar file filled with 0xff.  That also worked.  And again with one filled with 0x01, which also worked.  Then, just for kicks, I powered the motherboard on with the 0x01 image in the BIOS chip.  This, of course, didn't result in it emitting any beeps or anything but there was one crucial difference in its behavior: the CPU fan didn't spin up.   I then flashed the original image that was on the chip back to it, powered it on again, and the CPU fan spun up. Of course, it emitted no beeps either but that's consistent with how it was behaving before I performed that test.  In any case, this indicates something very important: the contents of the BIOS are *partially* correct at the very least, enough to get it to the point of spinning up the CPU fan.

 

The upshot of all this is that it's clear that the BIOS chip itself is fine, as is the bus connection between it and the PCH.  Which is to say, this is *not* a hardware problem that warrants a replacement of the BIOS chip or (that I can tell) of the motherboard.  All that's needed is a good BIOS image that I can flash directly to the chip.

 

And so, we're right back to my original question: how can I take the BIOS update files and convert those to something I can flash directly to the chip?  Every article I've found on the net that involves flashing the BIOS chip has the manufacturer supplying a BIOS update that contains an encapsulated Intel flash image (even when the encapsulation is "AMI Aptio capsule", as it is here), but that's not what the Lenovo BIOS updates contain at all, at least that I can find.  All of the Lenovo BIOS updates for the 4351 that I've examined have an encapsulated UEFI image, and that's not the same thing at all, and I am unable to find anything anywhere on the net about how to properly convert the UEFI image to a functioning Intel image.

 

Given what I've seen of the BIOS image I pulled from the motherboard, it's likely that I'd have to merge certain values retrieved from the original, such as the serial number and MAC address (I understand there are also UUIDs that are supposed to be unique to the motherboard), so instructions on how to do that (as well as which values need to be merged) would also be helpful here.

 

 

Thanks!

 

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11-16-2019

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Re:Thinkstation S30 4351 BIOS flash problem

2021-08-02, 23:17 PM

You do great debug out there , but I m just curious , why dnt you ignore the fact you will have same mac and same etc like in the other working mobo and just copy his bios to see this mobo really working or not?

If it works you will see how it works and if it deserve more work or not.

Also the mac may be inside another cip not in the bios but anyway , if I was you I would test and see if it works or not with the copy of the bios from the other s30 you have around .

 

Anyway  I know this may not be your case but just to let you know how my c30 workstation behaved very strange too, reading what you said I remembered  that because my cmos battery was bad , I had no sith of life from the board no beeps , until I removed all from it including bios battery , let it few hours , with nothing on it even no cpus , then I managed to have beeps just like this:

I attached one cpu and his power , no beeps, nothing else was on it attached

I said is time to trash it, but then I attached second cpu without his power 

board started to beep

Then I put all back in normal and works even now.

I know this is not a fix for you but just wanted to let you know how the low bios battery messed up my c30 which in some parts is similar to yours

 

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