Samsung Series 7 - NP700Z5C-S03CA: My Last Hope

Discussion in 'Samsung' started by Fitztorious, Oct 3, 2014.

  1. Fitztorious

    Fitztorious Notebook Enthusiast

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    Mod note:
    This is our go-to thread on the subject of clearing corrupt NVRAM -- a common UEFI related ailment on some generations of Samsung laptops, which causes boot problems, breaks Fn-keys and prevents access to BIOS, in many cases effectively soft-bricking the computer. Fitztorious led the way in cracking this as can be read in post #6. If your laptop has any of these problems, this is the thread you want to read. The summary guide in post #7 has been updated with links to other threads on the same subject.

    Intro:

    Hi everyone. I've used these forums many times over the years for help but this is the first time I've been this stumped so I'm turning to your expertise for help. Possibly bricked my Samsung Series 7 laptop, but you probably guessed that already given the history of these pickles. Bought it in December 2012 with Windows 8 pre-installed and upgraded to Windows 8.1 in 2013. Well that upgrade failed so I refreshed the system and I was left with a $1000 brick. My laptop was still under warranty so I called Samsung and after 15 minutes of arguing and elevating the issue they finally agreed to look at the laptop. 3 weeks later it was returned in working order with the motherboard replaced and Windows 8 installed. Cautiously decided to not even try to upgrade to Windows 8.1 again. I also made sure to keep my BIOS and all other drivers updated so they stayed current.

    Background:
    Fast forward to a couple weeks ago and the laptop fell off my bed about 3 feet onto a hard wood floor due to gf negligence. The laptop started up fine right away but the next day it was acting very odd with very slow loading and 100% read disk utilization. I figured it must be the hard drive failing so I ran "CHKDSK /r" to locate and recover the bad sectors (if there were any). The computer restarted and on startup it went into recovery mode (Windows did not boot) and the windows icon with "Attempting Repairs" was displayed. This screen remained stuck here for about 14 hours before I said "what the hell is wrong with this thing" and forced shutdown. Now Windows 8 doesn't want to start AND now F4 won't even enter recovery.

    Issue:
    Windows 8 will not start and UEFI is ENABLED with SECURE BOOT ON (insert rant about secure boot). However something is different this time because I have the option to boot from the CD/DVD [SEE HERE] (not my pic because I have the option to boot from HDD or CD/DVD drive) so I may be able to salvage this thing. I have a Windows 8 install disk that boots fine on my other laptop but refuses to boot when I select the option from the boot menu. I'm not able to get into the bios to turn off secure boot no matter how many times I press F2. I took the hard drive out and put it into my old dying laptop and booted the Windows 8 install disk. Windows 8 said "the windows partition was locked, please unlock it to continue" so I went to the repair options -> cmd -> diskpart and discovered that there are no partitions indicating to me that the drive is probably wiped. So I tried running 'clean' to completely erase (no important data) everything but cmd hangs for 5 minutes and then it says the drive has been removed :confused: That's fine, the hdd is probably completely destroyed (now it is for sure because I took it apart to get the magnets to see how they work).

    Questions:

    1. If I've done my research correctly, pre-installed Windows 8 leaves a signature in this bios so if I buy a new drive and install Windows off my own Windows 8 instillation disk will it even boot since the signatures won't match? (drive will cost $50 to try this)
    2. Is there a way to boot from a Windows 8 DVD (or any DVD for that matter) with UEFI and Secure Boot turned on?

    I've read hundreds of posts regarding this laptop and it has honestly been nothing but a headache. Samsung really dropped the ball and even if this gets resolved I'll be staying away from Samsung's products. If your thinking of buy one of these used, RUN and don't look back.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 1, 2017
  2. Dannemand

    Dannemand Decidedly Moderate Super Moderator

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    Hi Fitztorious, welcome to NBR.

    It sounds like the HDD was probably broken when the computer hit the floor. But in addition to that, you're suffering from a common UEFI issue where the NVRAM/CMOS data gets corrupted and prevents you from using the F-keys during boot (F2 for BIOS, F4 for Recovery, F10 to select boot device).

    You need to fix that NVRAM/CMOS before you'll be able to install on a new HDD. Updating BIOS will usually do it, but since you're already on the latest BIOS, you have to FIRST roll back to an earlier BIOS, THEN update again to the latest. And in order to do that, you need a running Windows. Chicken and egg dilemma.

    You want to study the following two threads very carefully before you even begin. The first contains a step-by-step guide that partially covers your situation. The second contains more elaborate diagnosis and discussion of the problem.

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/samsung/762238-how-unbrick-samsung-laptop-after-win-8-1-upgrade.html
    http://forum.notebookreview.com/samsung/755985-how-boot-bios-when-function-buttons-not-showing.html

    Here are some summary points specifically for your situation. Again, please read them all before you even begin:

    1) Not having an HDD installed is how you are able to boot an external device, which is otherwise impossible when SecureBoot=enabled, OS Mode Selection=UEFI OS and Fast BIOS/Fast BIOS=enabled.

    2) If you are able to boot Windows 8 Setup, either from a USB stick or from DVD, you can use its Repair option to enter the Firmware page and change your BIOS settings: SecureBoot=disabled, OS Mode Selection=UEFI & CSM OS and Fast BIOS/Fast BIOS=disabled. That will not solve anything permanently, but it WILL make it easier to boot external devices while you fix this.

    3) If you create a Win8 Setup USB stick, make sure you create it as GPT/FAT32, otherwise you won't be able to boot it in UEFI mode. The good old Microsoft ISO/USB tool does NOT work for this. Use Rufus (Google it) or create it manually using this guide in our Windows section. Selecting OS Mode Selection=UEFI & CSM OS will allow you to boot even an improperly created Win8 USB stick (NTFS) but don't install Windows in this mode.

    4) Create a WinPE USB stick (see the first of the threads linked above) which you'll be able to boot as long as no HDD is installed, and use that to re-flash your BIOS.

    5) Use our BIOS roll back thread to roll back to an earlier BIOS. It's a tricky procedure which I have not tried myself. I recommend you read the entire thread carefully before you start. There is a utility on page 16 that can locate Samsung BIOS files for you. Once you (hopefully) have managed to roll back, you can update to the latest BIOS. Do NOT use SW Update for this, instead download the BIOS updater file and run it standalone. This should clear the NVRAM so you can enter BIOS again (F2) and select boot device (F10). Recovery (F4) was lost when you wiped the HDD.

    6) Now (and ONLY now) install a new HDD or SSD. Make sure it is GPT style, which is necessary to install Windows in UEFI mode. You can either do this on another computer (use Minitool Partition Wizard) or use your WinPE or Windows Setup (DISKPART). It's covered in the second of the threads I linked above.

    7) Set OS Mode Selection=UEFI OS to make sure Windows installs in UEFI mode.

    8) If your Win8 DVD is an official Microsoft one, you should be able to boot it. But if you downloaded an ISO from Microsoft, booting it in UEFI mode may not always work -- unless you have an official TechNet/MSDN ISO.

    Note: On this model, you really want to avoid installing Windows from a USB stick, since it will usually be confused by the small SSD used for ExpressCache (so-called iSSD) and place the boot manager there -- even though the iSSD isn't bootable. There is a workaround for legacy BIOS/MBR installations (here) but installing from DVD is much preferred.

    9) Windows Setup should automatically pick up your Product Key from the BIOS. If it doesn't (due to the corruption and subsequent re-flashing) you may have to contact Samsung/Microsoft for help. You can also try using RWeverything (Google it) or a similar tool to extract it before you begin.

    10) Once your new Windows installation is up and running on the new HDD, you can re-enable SecureBoot and Fast BIOS/Fast BIOS to improve security and boot speed. Or reset your BIOS settings to default, which is always good practice after a BIOS flash.

    As I am sure you gather, this is NOT a trivial procedure. Your laptop is only one wrong step from being perma-bricked. Expect to spend significant time reading BEFORE you do anything with your laptop, making sure you understand the steps and their purpose.

    And please don't be tough on your GF over this. It sounds like placing the laptop on the bed, AND neglecting her, was the real mistake :)
     
  3. Fitztorious

    Fitztorious Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks Dannemand for the detailed response!

    You seem very familiar with this situation :p I'll give this a detailed read and try it out this weekend. Don't worry I'm not mad at her, just gives me a reason to buy a new laptop ;)
     
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  4. Fitztorious

    Fitztorious Notebook Enthusiast

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    Seem to be stuck on rolling back the bios. This post here is basically what I'm experiencing. Since I have the latest bios I'm tring to downgrade from P07ABJ to P06ABJ. I've found the bios updates fine and I've booted into Win8PE but I think it's impossible to rollback the bios. Samsung uses .cap bios files in their newer laptops it looks like and they use SFlash to update the bios. Using the SFlash64 /s /sd /sa commands to skip the date & version checks is overruled in the bios "WARNING: Rollback flash is disabled in BIOS, build date time check was not skipped." That gives us one more option to use /sforce which forces the rollback. However /pwd xxxx has to be used for /sforce to work and I have no idea what the password is. It cant be blank and I've tried basic passwords but nothing seems to work. The error I get is with the incorrect password is"Error 230 - Failed to verify admin's password!".

    All old bios versions available files use .cap files but P04ABJ comes with WinFlash and SFlash. Using WinFlash can't read the .cap files or even the .rom files I attempted to extract from .cap files. WinFlash also can't read the current bios version properly so I think SFlash is the only was to go. But SFlash requires a password apparently. There is little information online regarding SFlash64 or the required password. I guess I can try to get the password from samsung but I think that will require a level of patience I do not possess. My other option is to wait until P08ABJ is released or replace the bios chip (does not look easy but the chip is $30 on ebay).

    Oh and some good news is that it doesn't look like the Windows 8 key is anywhere in the bios so any Windows 8 key should work if I can ever re-install it.

    Here's a screenshot of the (documented) SFlash64 commands.
    sflash64.PNG
     
  5. Dannemand

    Dannemand Decidedly Moderate Super Moderator

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    Well first of all, congrats on making it this far: You've been able to create a WinPE and successfully boot that. Some users couldn't even get that far. You've located and downloaded several prior BIOS versions and managed to extract those, that's another hurdle overcome.

    Unfortunately I cannot give you first hand advice on flashing that older BIOS. All I know is what I've read in the BIOS roll back thread. I would expect that WinFlash is the way to go; possibly it's a wrapper that runs SFlash but has the password built in. Did you try WinFlash with P04ABJ, using the exact options described in isosunrise's guide in the OP.? I apologize for even asking, but I wanted to make sure :eek:

    In your case it doesn't matter to which older BIOS version you roll back, as long as you can make it flash: The purpose is merely to clear your NVRAM. And you won't be re-installing Windows anyway until you have re-updated to the latest version (or a recent version anyway) so whatever bugs existed in older BIOS versions is not a concern.

    For this particular step you may be better off posting in that roll back thread until you've (hopefully) managed to roll back. isosunrise has been posting here the last few days, maybe he has suggestions for you. If you do post there, include a link to this thread for context, but describe the details from your last post, so that readers of that thread (and potential helpers) can understand the problem without having come here first.

    Edit:

    I have to wonder if some of the other Sflash or WinFlash options could be used to clear the NVRAM directly without having to change the actual BIOS, and whether that might bypass any concerns of how to force an older version etc. That cvar option caught my attention. OTOH, the way the updater "clears" NVRAM is probably by re-writing a bunch of parameters to their proper values. Just clearing them could render the machine even more dead.
     
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  6. Fitztorious

    Fitztorious Notebook Enthusiast

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    Good news! :D

    You got me thinking that using cvar or the other commands could reset portions of the bios. The following command seem to do the trick from the previous bios version folder (P06ABJ): sflash64 /cvar /patch. I believe it should work with the newest bios files as well (P07ABJ) which is good because you don't need to hunt down old bios files.
    bios flash.PNG

    The laptop immediately booted and I could use F2 to get into the bios and the "APPS MENU" in the boot selection allowed me to select "Setup" (aka bios) which was never there before. I reset all the bios settings to default including the custom signatures settings, along with SecureBoot enabled and UEFI only mode. Oddly enough FastBios is disabled by default so I'll keep it that way for now since WinPE won't load from the usb with FastBios enabled. Ill enable it again after I install Windows 8. I double checked to be safe and I can still get into the bios with FastBios enabled.

    I never found my Windows product key in the ACPI tables using multiple product key retrieval programs since the MSDM table containing product key information did not exist. I also believe I only partially replaced the bios so if the product key does exist in the bios I'm confident it was preserved. My unofficial Windows DVD does not boot in UEFI so my next step it to burn an .iso that will boot in UEFI and buy a hard drive (considering ssd :rolleyes:). I'll update again when I get a new hdd/sdd this week but in the meantime I'll be trying to figure out how to burn a UEFI bootable iso.

    Thanks for all your help!!! :thumbsup:
     
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  7. Dannemand

    Dannemand Decidedly Moderate Super Moderator

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    Wow, this is exciting! I think yours is the first report I've seen to "unbrick" your Sammy without actually updating (or re-flashing) the BIOS. Very well done!

    This could have great potential for helping others with these semi-bricks, since we now have it down to some quite repeatable steps. Roughly like this:

    1) Create a WinPE USB stick using the images shared in brainiak4431's guide. Other WinPE images can be used. Essentially any form of Windows 7 or newer that can be booted. That's the key -- and usually the biggest challenge in this procedure.

    2) Determine the latest BIOS for the bricked Sammy, download and extract it, using isosunrise's guide in the roll-back thread and copy all the extracted files to a folder on the WinPE stick. (See the note at the end of this post if you have problems extracting the contents of the BIOS update file).

    3) Boot the WinPE stick on the bricked Sammy, which usually requires unplugging the HDD/SSD in order to force booting an external device. In some cases, booting to DVD may work when booting to a USB stick doesn't.

    4) After booting the WinPE stick, run sflash64 /cvar /patch in the folder to which the BIOS files were extracted. This should clear the corrupted NVRAM without changing the BIOS or Micom. For BIOS update files that don't have sflash64, WinFlash64 /cvar /patch should work as well. Presumably there is a similar command for BIOS update files using afuwinx64, more investigation required here. WinFlash (as opposed to WinFlash64) doesn't support the /patch parameter and apparently doesn't work. If the latest BIOS update file for your model doesn't contain sflash64 or WinFlash64, try older BIOS versions.

    5) Assuming step (4) went OK, re-boot into BIOS using F2 (which hopefully now works) and reset BIOS settings to default values. Carefully check that BIOS values are correct for the Windows installation being used (when existing Windows installation on HDD/SSD is intact) or for the new installation that is about to happen:

    AHCI=enabled/Auto (in almost all cases)
    Fast Boot/Fast BIOS=disabled (can be re-enabled later to speed up boot)
    SecureBoot=disabled (can be re-enabled later to improve security)
    OS Mode Selection=UEFI OS (UEFI/GPT installations, usually Win8 and newer)
    OS Mode Selection=CSM OS (legacy BIOS/MBR installations, usually Win7)

    6) Re-connect the HDD/SDD and boot into BIOS again (F2), verify that it shows up under Boot Priority. Select it there as the primary boot device.

    7) If the existing WIndows installation on the HDD/SSD is intact, boot it and verify that everything is working.

    Done.

    8) To install Windows anew (say on a new HDD/SSD) insert properly created Windows installation media: GPT/FAT32 USB stick for UEFI/GPT installations (usually Win8.x and newer), MBR/NTFS USB stick for BIOS/MBR installations (usually Win7), DVD for models with ExpressCache (to avoid mistakenly placing boot partition on small iSSD; for UEFI installations this requires an official Samsung/Microsoft disc or TechNet/MSDN ISO).

    9) Boot Windows installation media by tapping F10 immediately after reboot (or cold power on) to temporarily select boot device. Proceed with setup, making sure the HDD/SSD is converted to GPT (for UEFI installations) or MBR (for legacy BIOS installations). Follow normal installation advice.

    Done.

    Something like that. My only concern (and warning to any who might try this) is that we don't know with certainly what is wiped by that SFlash /cvar command. The fact that your BIOS default settings had changed makes me a little worried that some other data could have been flushed out with the bathwater, impacting control of fans, keyboard backlight or other hardware features. Or that infamous Windows Product Key.

    I'll be very interested to hear any updates once you have Windows installed and running for awhile, whether everything is working as expected.

    And yes, getting a proper Win8.x installation DVD that will boot in UEFI mode is difficult: On models WIHTOUT ExpressCache (Series 9, and all 2013 models and newer) it is fine to install from a USB stick. But once again (repeated here for completeness) installing from USB stick on models with ExpressCache (such as the original Series 7 and many Series 5) will cause a boot problem. The preferred way on ExpressCache models is to install from DVD. Win7 DVDs are easy since their ISOs can be downloaded from Digital Rivers. Win8.x ISOs from TechNet/MSDN are fine as well and will boot in UEFI mode. But Win8.x ISOs downloaded from Microsoft using one's Product Key have been known to not boot in UEFI mode when burned to DVDs. In those cases, it may be better to install from USB stick in BIOS/MBR mode, using the workaround here.

    This is exciting :)

    Update 1-October-2017

    It's been three years, and a lot has happened which may not be apparent from reading this post alone or even reading this entire thread. @Fitztorious' courageous test of clearing NVRAM on his laptop proved successful, with no ill effects reported later. Dozens of other users have since reported doing the same to fix laptops that were (semi)bricked by corrupted NVRAM. In addition to the cases reported here, I estimate hundreds others found this forum through Google and have salvaged their laptops too.

    While several more cases have been discussed in this thread, even more cases were discussed in other threads scattered across the NBR Samsung forum. Some of them resulted in successful salvage, others did not -- usually when owners were unable to boot any form of Windows after much trying. A few resorted to re-flashing the physical BIOS chip, which requires soldering skills and access to an EEPROM burner.

    Since many of these discussions contain details that are not included in this guide (such as how to locate and extract BIOS files for different models) I am including links to a few below. Also google site:notebookreview.com samsung corrupt NVRAM for even more discussions

    Soft-bricked NP300E5E-S01PL (boot loop)
    NP530U3B-A01UK Can't access BIOS through F2, F4
    Samsung NP530U4C boot loop
    NP900X4C BIOS Reset Gone Wrong
    Samsung NP530U4C Problem with clean windows install and UEFI access
    Samsung series 5 bricked bios from windows 10
    GUIDE: How to install Windows 7 or 8 via USB on NP700Z (starting around post #175)
    2013 Series 7 chronos / Ativ Book 8 15" owner's lounge (starting at post #6006)
    Samsung DP700A7D won't start after Bios Default Settings
    Unbricking Samsung Chronos and Series 7 Laptops NP-500 and NP-700
    NP700Z7C-S01UB and Windows 10 install
    I think my Samsung may have bricked itself

    Problems extracting BIOS update files

    Some members have reported problems extracting BIOS update files, with only a .log file showing up in the C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Temp\__Samsung_Update folder. In these cases, make sure to run the BIOS update file from an Administrator Command prompt, NOT directly from Windows Explorer, not even As Administrator.

    Some of these BIOS update files are difficult to extract with Win10, which goes out of its way to protect users from executing them. The trick I found is to right-click the ITEM file and select Troubleshoot compatibility, choose Worked in earlier versions of windows and select Windows 7.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
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  8. Fitztorious

    Fitztorious Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the awesome write-up Dannemand!

    I've read here that /cvar clears NVRAM variables and sets them to factory defaults. Not sure how trustworthy it is as it looks like he was using a different bios flashing program but I'm hopeful the command is quite standardized between bios flashing programs. This gives me some hope that the hardware should still work properly once windows is up and running as he said his brightness controls started working again. Nevertheless, it won't be easy to determine what /cvar did change and we can only hope it didn't mess anything up.

    TBH, I'm not sure if my BIOS default settings have changed. Everything looked normal but FastBios = Disabled caught my eye. I know it was set to Enabled before I started this process but it is quite possible I Enabled it soon after I got the laptop back from Samsung as it sounds like something I would do. Maybe someone with a Windows 8 pre-installed NP700Z5C can verify this.

    I also found a Windows 8 MSDN x64 iso, so I'm going to burn and test it when I get home today and hope it boots in UEFI. If that doesn't work I'll have to try the dreaded bootable USB install. I have a HDD ordered which should be here between Wednesday-Friday so expect an update by the end of the week.


    Edit: The iso burned fine to the dvd and will boot in UEFI only. Now just waiting on the hdd.
     
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  9. Dannemand

    Dannemand Decidedly Moderate Super Moderator

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    That's very positive and encouraging (about /cvar). I'd say if everything behaves normally once you have installed Windows with Samsung drivers and Samsung Settings, including all Fn-keys, keyboard backlight, Silent Mode, brightness control (manual and Adaptive), Airplane Mode, Battery Life Extender and touchpad -- then I am ready to declare this our new suggested fix for those with semi-bricked Samsung laptops.

    Thanks a lot for trying this (which was a risk) and posting your results!

    For others who read this, I would add that updating to the latest BIOS (when not already on the latest) is of course still the safest and easiest approach, since it merely involves running the latest BIOS updater. But DON'T update from within SW Update since that adds a risk in itself. Save the BIOS file and run it standalone.
     
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  10. Nomad

    Nomad Notebook Consultant

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    Hi Fitztorious!

    I'm actually with a semi-bricked bios on my np700z7c-s01ub

    I'm very curious about your process in how to go back to a normal BIOS state.

    Can you confirm that you could do a win7 legacy bios install and everything is working fine as Dannemand said?

    Many thanks!
     
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