Friday, March 06, 2009

Reclaiming my Mirra

I own a Mirra M-250 personal server. I originally purchased the device to serve as an easy backup solution for part of my home network. One day it was replaced with another solution and I set the Mirra on a shelf. I took it down today with the intention of converting it into a small Linux box for the lab.

DISCLAIMER
No warranties, either express or implied, are hereby given for anything provided by Eurowonka (this includes "data", "process", or "software".) All data, process, or software is supplied as is, without any guarantee. The user assumes all responsibility for damages resulting from the use of the data, process, or software, including, but not limited to, a voided warranty on your Mirra/Seagate product, the loss of all data and configuratiom from your Mirra/Seagate product, the permanent loss of all function for your Mirra/Seagate product, loss of all data from other hard drives on computers used during the process.

HARDWARE
The hardware for the M-250 I own is a custom case that includes a EPIA 5000 Revision E motherboard. The RAM is 64MB of PC133 memory and a Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM 250GB IDE hard drive.

The motherboard has a full compliment of components for being so small: PS2 ports, VGA, LPT, TV out, NIC, USB, AC 97 sound, COM, power leads for case fans, one PCI slot, two IDE connectors.

As shipped, the Mirra has covers over the VGA, LPT, COM, and front USB ports. These can be removed easily. The PS2 ports are covered by a piece of permanent shielding on the back of the unit.

NOTE: The Mirra devices were manufactured for several years so the hardware inside your unit may differ from my device.

BOOTING
Connecting a VGA monitor, USB keyboard, and USB mouse allows you to monitor and control the boot process. There should be a Mirra splash screen during which you can press the DELETE key to trigger the BIOS configuration program.

The BIOS asks for a password. A quick search of the Internet did not reveal the default Mirra password. My assumption was that a CMOS clear should take care of the password. Checking the VIA web site, I was able to verify which model of EPIA motherboard I had and I downloaded the manual.

NOTE: VIA has several versions of their mini-ITX EPIA motherboard. My model happened to be the original EPIA. It is possible that your device may have a different motherboard model or maybe an entirely different mini-ITX motherboard brand inside. Verify carefully which motherboard you have to ensure that the manual and software are appropriate for your device.

Version 1.31 (dated Sept 23, 2008) of the EPIA manual had the motherboard schema on page 12. Jumper J10 is for clearing the CMOS on this revision of the board. I followed the procedure on page 37.

NOTE: Verify that the power is off to the unit before clearing the CMOS to prevent possible damage. The power supply is so quiet in these units it is best when you just unplug the unit from power to clear CMOS.

Upon reboot, the BIOS password was still intact. At this point I figured something was up. A quick search of the Internet turned up the cause. Mirra had modified the BIOS to ensure a CMOS clear would not erase the password.

SOLUTION
In order to remove the BIOS password, the OEM BIOS image had to be reloaded. This process is made a little trickier by the hardware configuration of the Mirra.

NOTE: By opening the Mirra case you will void any warranty you have with Mirra/Seagate for your device. This may also preclude you from using their support services on a pay basis as well.

NOTE: Modifying the hard drive from the Mirra will erase all Mirra data and configuration from it. Do not modify or format this drive unless you intend to lose all data on it and never use is as a Mirra drive again. You should be able to use a different drive but I did not test that possibility.

1) Download an ISO image for FreeDos v1.0 (http://www.freedos.org/freedos/files/) and burn a bootable CD of the base or full install.

2) Remove the hard drive from the Mirra and place it in another computer as the only HD. It should be configured as a master IDE drive already. The second computer should also have a CD drive configured as master IDE drive on another IDE channel.

NOTE: If there are other hard drives in this second computer you may accidentally delete the data on them. It is safer if the Mirra hard drive is the only one inside this second computer.

3) Boot the second computer from the Free Dos CD in Live mode. Choose 1 from the boot: prompt to continue and then choose 5 to boot Live CD.

4) Switch to X: drive and CD to path X:\FDOS\BIN. The CD drive showed up as X: on my configuration. It may be different on yours.

5) Run the following Free Dos commands in order:

FDISK /CLEARALL --- erase everything on HD permanently
FDISK /PRI:64 -------- create a 64MB partition on the HD
FDISK /ACTIVATE:1 -- make the partition active
FDISK /MBR ---------- populate HD MBR with Free Dos boot software
FORMAT C: /U /S ---- format the partition to be bootable C: drive

6) Download the files needed to reimage the BIOS

AWDFLASH.EXE http://www.biosmods.com/download.php
EPIA0207.BIN http://www.via.com.tw/en/products/mainboards/downloads.jsp?motherboard_id=21

NOTE: Although the VIA web site has BIOS flash programs, they will not work with your Mirra until you re-image the BIOS. As long as the Mirra BIOS is installed, the OEM flash programs will fail and say that there is a mismatch between the flash program and the ROM chip. The Award flash program (I used v8.83) works as long as the ROM chip is compatible.

NOTE: EPIA0207.BIN is the OEM BIOS image for my model of Mirra server. I verified that the DOS flash program from VIA supported the ROM chip id (39SF020A) on my unit. The ROM chip is in the corner of the motherboard closest to the front USB ports. It is important that you verify that you have the correct ROM chip and software to prevent issues.

7) Copy the unzipped files for awdflash.exe and epia0207.bin (or your motherboard's correpsonding software) on to the 64MB partition of the Free Dos C: drive.

8) Replace the Mirra hard drive back in the Mirra and connect it.

NOTE: Make sure the hard drive is configured as the master IDE drive. If you unplugged the Mirra IDE cable, make sure it is plugged back into the correct IDE socket. On my motherboard it is the IDE connector closest to the front of the case.

NOTE: If you can plug the Mirra into a UPS or other uninterruptible power source this is preferred. When dealing with BIOS flashing, a power outage during the process can rarely cause unrepairable damage.

9) Attempt to boot the Mirra with the drive. The Free Dos OS should boot up.

NOTE: If you see the screen populated with "L 99 99 99 ..." on boot, this means that the MBR of the disk has not been converted to Free Dos. You will need to apply the Free Dos MBR to the hard drive before it will boot. This involves running the Free Dos FDISK application with the /MBR parameter.

10) Run the awdflash.exe (or your motherboard's corresponding flash) program. Upload the OEM BIOS image to the ROM.

NOTE: The awdflash.exe program will allow you to backup the current BIOS image. If you never intend to use the Mirra as a Mirra backup device again, this is unnecessary.

11) Turn off the machine and unplug it from the power source. Clear the contents of the BIOS.

12) Plug the Mirra back into the power source and boot it up. The splash screen should be changed to a VIA splash screen. You should be able to go into the BIOS configuration now using the DELETE key on boot.

By hooking up a CD to the Mirra hardware, you should be able to install several different operating systems. The VIA web site has drivers for Windows OS of various flavors. There are also Linux drivers on the VIA arena web site.

Usually the RAM is one of the first hardware items to get upgraded. If on boot, you get nothing but a blinking green LED by the power button, you may not have seated your RAM completely. Power down and seat the RAM chips again to fix this problem.

9 comments:

Chris said...

When do FORMAT C: /U /S it returns with

SYS errorlevel 1

Can not find Kernel.sys

Any help?

eurowonka said...

Chris,

Make sure that you booted the system with Free Dos. Make sure that when you are executing commands, that the current drive is X:. Your path should be:

X:\FDOS\BIN

I think this is the /s part of the format command saying that it cannot find the system files to put on the hard drive.

It is possible that the Free Dos image you are using does not have the same configuration as mine or does not have the SYS.COM or other system files in the right spot. Please let me know if this helps.

K.C. said...

Good stuff, eurowonka!
I'm thinking of using one as a freenas server.

a couple of questions:
Does the BIOS support more than one hard drive?

Do you know how much RAM yours supports?

OutlandishTrendz said...

I finally got it to work! Thanks a bunch. Between your guild and http://www.tkarena.com/forums/general-pc-help-arena/34004-flashing-bios-installing-ubuntu-server-seagate-mirra-personal-server-m-120-a.html I got the BIOS reset.

K.C. the manual on the VIA EPIA site says 1GB (512MB x2)of PC100 is max.

Now to find a higher PCI video card so I can install Windows Home Server on the box.

eurowonka said...

I believe that my manual says the EPIA 5000 supports 1GB of RAM tops (2x512MB). I am running at 512MB on mine since that was what I had laying around the lab.

I believe the motherboard will support 4 IDE drives (2 per channel) even though the Mirra custom case only supports 2 max.

I am finding that running Windows XP is simpler then Linux due to the customization of the Linux distros if you want everything to work at its best capabilities.

Tim Cooper said...

Any idea the speed of the VIA processor in this Mirra? Wondering if I can install Windows Home Server, just for the backup functionality.

I bought the Mirra as a backup solution for my parents, but the one I got on eBay had drive issues and doesn't run properly. I want to wipe the original drive, drop in another drive, and run WHS to backup a desktop and a laptop.

Think it would work? Thanks in advance!

indesman said...

eurowonka,
I don't have a motherboard with two IDE connectors. I made the Mirra harddisk a slave but can't see it in FreeDOS. My drive choices are A: X: and B: though the last one comes back with "File not found." when I type "dir". Any suggestions?

Greg Risi said...

This was invaluable! I thought I had nothing more than a boat anchor, until I stumbled on this. For those interested in the kernel.sys error, make sure you launch from x:\freedos\setup\odin. You won't have any issues if you do that. Thanks again.

cloudsurfin said...

If it's before June 2014, PM me and I'll ship you my Mirra for whatever the cost of shipping is. It's been flashed and boots to FreeDOS. Works great, comes will all the original equipment (~320 GB HD). The hard part is done. If you want me to throw in a brand new $20 IDE CDROM that the machine boots fine from, and a couple $20 WD IDE drives we can work out a pretty cheap deal for you. Just don't have time to spend on this thing any more. If you're in the Philadelphia area in-person pickup is a possibility (if you're not a craigslist flake). This, BTW, is NOT spam.

If possible I'll delete this post when someone claims it. Otherwise I'm dropping the Mirra and everything IDE I own in the trash by the end of June. :)

--Greg