Toshiba NB200, life and death, and rebirth with the Phoenix crysis disk

In Greek mythology, a phoenix or phenix (Ancient Greek φοίνιξ phóinīx) is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor []

This was a very exciting Christmas. I was on the job while inadvertendly clicked on the wrong file: the latest (currently should be 2.20) BIOS winflasher for my Toshiba NB200, previously saved for later use.  Panic: I should have press Cancel right away.

I wrongly decided to go on, and tried to shut all the remaining applications to ensure I had a clean environment. This resulted in a bad idea, as probably I did more harm than good, as I ended up with a stuck BIOS update procedure, that gradually evolved in a frozen netbook without further hope.
With no way to do anything, after a while  I had to pull power off (and I am saying, Power, Battery, everything). Next thing I saw was a bricked nb200 with no apparent life signs other than the ability to power on and off. No POST, no BIOS screen,  no fan, no hope.
I had cold sweat all over myself: I was quite fond of my Toshiba, neat,  quite powerful, and suddendly  FUBAR netboook.
On the back of my mind I had two words: the feared Crysis recovery disk (CRD).
At least once in the life of an Engineer, a BIOS update will go awry. It will happen, no matter how many UPS you stack and how many times you shut down the antivirus. It may not be a computer of yours, it may be not your fault at all, but IT WILL happen.
It turns out that engineers at Phoenix Technologies were pretty clever. There’s a way to recover a computer that has been bricked, before everything is lost.

I wonder if the Phoenix company name[wikipedia] has nothing to do with this ability of recovering from the, ergh, ashes.
All it takes it’s a working PC with XP operating system or older  (always have at least an XP around), Phoenix Crysis disk application (some around forums say to look for the 1,08mb file with MD5: aebfca8cf214a19e7959c724550571ed may work), a floppy disk , the BIOS and an USB floppy drive. I know , USB floppy drives are pretty hard to find these days, at least at local stores,   so it could be possible to manage to borrow one from an electronic musician friend.
USB key, even with HP usb key floppy utility, won’t work, ot at least didn’t work for me on the nb200. I strongly suspect it has to be a 1.44Mb Floppy drive, and USB floppy driver, to recover the NB200. I suspect any brand will do. I heard someone did it with a IBM floppy drive.
Next thing it’s get hold of the BIOS. For NB200 I’d use v.1.60, as I read around several success stories. It’s always possible to update to the latest release after the recovery is done.
The actions outlined here are pretty low level and could level your warrantee, too. Why don’t just leave it to the professionals? Have you read the DISCLAMER?

Now, IF I’d get hold of the correct Phoenix crysis disk:

  1. I could extract CrisysDisk.rar in a local directory (say C:\PHOENIX).
  2. I could get file avaa160a.rom from Toshiba BIOS v1.6 (from ll20v160.exe)and rename it BIOS.WPH.File  Filename extension matters. Having the ‘hide file extensions for known file types‘ thingy enabled in XP filemanager is NOT a good idea here.
  3. I could place BIOS.WPH in C:\PHOENIX
  4. I could format a known-good floppy in the usb floppy drive. I am paranoid, so I’d use the same floppy drive for writing and reading[].
  5. I could launch WINCRIS.EXE and choose minidos.
  6. I could when the floppy is ready, connect the usb floppy to the suffering NB200.
  7. I could unplug power on the nb200, plug-in battery
  8. I could keep FN+b depressed, plug the external power and power on.
  9. I could wait, after some seconds, floppy would come to life and start reading. Some fan spinning, too. I’d let FN+b go only when floppy awakes. It may take a few tries to catch it right. I would not expect any image on the screen.
  10. I’d leave everything as is for a while. If there’s a certain floppy activity (not just some lights once then nothing) every now and then I would know the wheels are spinning.  I would leave it on its own for 10 minutes or so, briefly checking. I would not expect any image on the screen, anytime.
  11. I could expect the computer to power off by itself.
  12. I could power on the netbook, I would expect to see the POST screen.
  13. I could press <F2> to set a few things in the BIOS, like date and time.
  14. when things are back to normal, I would carefullly update the BIOS to the latest available release (providing and hoping it wasn’t the root reason of the last brickage)
  15. I could ->Fun and profit.

The netbook could work fine by now  and I could write this post with it, as if it was working again.
Things I would check if it does not work:

  • I would use a PHLASH16.exe from any NB200 bios. I would put it in the C:\PHOENIX, renaming the old PHLASH16.EXE into something else, and recreate the floppy from the beginning. Just overwriting the file on the floppy is not probably going to work.
  • battery. It must be plugged in.
  • Use a different BIOS version.
  • FN+b may need to be depressed before power plug is connected and power button is depressed.