Serial number not found (on boot)

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HP Compaq laptop Windows Vista 32 bit

This computer had many problems including the 'Serial number not found'  
message on boot. I reset it back to factory condition and all is well  
apart from the continued message on boot about the missing serial number.

The serial number is missing in the BIOS along with some other numbers  
which are particular to this Laptop but those are not reported on boot  
or at any other time as far as I can tell.

The InsydeH2O BIOS can't be edited, except possibly with some BIOS  
editing software from somewhere out there.

However I am not inclined to bother, as this message on boot is not  
particularly annoying, it's only a few words on one corner of the screen  
for a short time during boot. Additionally I'm aware that there are  
risks involved in editing the BIOS.

If I leave it as it is Will it be a problem sometime in the future?

Re: Serial number not found (on boot)

123Jim wrote:
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That's not necessarily true. Not in the way you're thinking.


     ?10-30-2010 04:13 AM

     This issue is only take 3 minutes to be done, so sad to
     read no free service from HP. No need to purchase new motherboard,
     you just need HP DMI tool to write serial and product number.
     I'm guessing the previous technician forgot to do it since
     PN and SN only can be altered by HP DMI tool. Only a nerd one
     (like me) that always checking everything after the notebook
     has been repaired"

The thing is, the BIOS chip is actually split into a number of
storage areas. Now, this is just my mental picture of it - this
is not something you'll find on Wikipedia :-)

     Main BIOS code block <--- Actually a miniature file system
                               Gets updated when you flash the BIOS.
     DMI                  <--- Segment can be updated, independent of others
     ESCD                 <--- Segment can be updated, independent of others
     Microcode Cache      <--- Ditto
     Boot Block           <--- Updated by BIOS flash (for poorly written
                               BIOS, that is). The boot block is supposed
                               to be immutable, so as to guarantee it would
                               always be possible to recover from a BIOS
                               updating mishap. Sadly, seldom true.

DMI has room for a few fields, and serial number is one of them.
Originally, a tool called "DMI Explorer" from Intel might have
been used for this. I think Asus Probe provides read-only
access to DMI, so you can see how it's constructed. DMI
is used partially for asset management.

In Linux, this tools allows readout.

And apparently, there is a Windows port of that tool.
Download the bin archive. Extract the archive (I use 7ZIP).
In SBIN folder, you want "dmidecode.exe".

In Command Prompt, cd to the folder holding dmidecode.exe
and run it by typing "dmidecode". A bunch of text is output
into the command prompt window. Next, run it again,
only this time, redirect the output.

    dmidecode > output.txt

Using notepad, open the new output.txt file. In there, I
can find stuff like this from my computer...

    Manufacturer: ASUSTeK Computer INC.
    Product Name: P5E Deluxe
    Version: Rev 1.xx
    Serial Number: MS1C...        <--- mine has an actual serial number,
                                            but it doesn't match the number
                                            on the cardboard box ???
    Asset Tag: Asset-1234567890   <--- there is much sliced baloney
                                            stored in the DMI... A big
                                            company, the IT department
                                            writes the asset tag here.
                                            I can tell this field was
                                            never programmed.

So this isn't a heavyweight tech issue. The issue
will be two-fold:

1) Is the "serial number" available in the existing
    documentation, or on a plate on the machine ? A good tech,
    would have dumped the DMI, before discarding the old hardware.
    Even if the twit pulled the BIOS chip and inserted it into
    your replacement motherboard, you'd get to keep the info.
    (Because it's stored inside the BIOS chip, and the BIOS chip
    could be pulled from its socket, and moved to the new mobo.)
    So to have a serial number (one that matches stuff already
    written to the hard drive perhaps), you'll need the actual
    serial number. Look for a plate, on the computer case.

2) Will Tech Support give you a copy of a tool
    suited to setting the serial number ? This will involve
    the tool reading out the entire DMI segment, changing
    the serial number field, and writing it back. Even if
    the update attempt fails (say, the segment is write
    protected), this will have no impact on the main
    BIOS code block, or on the boot block. It's because
    the areas in the BIOS, align with separate segments
    in the BIOS chip, that it is "reasonably safe" to
    reprogram a separate area in the chip.

This is also why, if you program a BIOS chip, then
make an archival copy after the machine has booted
just once, the checksum of the BIOS image will have
changed. Since some areas of the BIOS chip are
non-volatile and others are volatile, the checksum
cannot be trusted once the machine boots once. And
every time you pull a DIMM or add a DIMM, the BIOS
self-updates the appropriate structure in the appropriate
asset management area.


So what I want you to do right now, is run "dmidecode",
redirect the output, then look at the fields. If the
serial number field is "1234567890", then it would
mean the tech who worked on the system, didn't update
it or make provision for your serial number. If the
serial number is present and accounted for, then
the issue could be something completely different,
in which case, the tech did a good job ?

If you're on an OS that needs permission for everything,
then you would right click on "cmd.exe" and select
Run As Administrator, to "elevate" the Command Prompt
window. When dmidecode runs in that case, it will
be running as administrator, which is typically
necessary to access low level hardware (the DMI
segment in this case). If dmidecode is not elevated,
it may be refused access to the hardware, by your
OS. Even Linux would do that. So if you're seeing
something like "Error 5", that means you need to
elevate the command like administrator was running it.
In a Google search, look for "Run As Administrator".
and how to "launch an elevated command prompt".


One other note. There are other ways to customize
parts in a computer. For example, you can "tattoo a
hard drive". I don't know what that means, but it's
a way to validate a hard drive, in a pre-built
computer. So there are other voodoo procedures
out there. There were even a few computers, where
you bought your hard drives from the computer maker,
because "they were special". You know the drill.
Somebody needs to make a buck :-) I'm hoping in
this case, that your serial number error message,
is just a DMI issue.


Re: Serial number not found (on boot)

On 25/06/2013 15:11, Paul wrote:
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Thanks for great info!

I've found a program to edit the InsydeH2O BIOS here: linked from  

They do make it sound risky! .. This laptop is working perfectly at the  
moment with all the latest windows updates so I am still reluctant to  
try to edit even the DMI area.

When I received this laptop for repair the Vista OS was claiming to be  
'not genuine Windows' with a message to that effect on the desktop.

I wondered if that was something to do with the missing BIOS data, but  
seemingly Windows Vista, now restored from the recovery partition is not  
bothered about that. I'll consider it some more tomorrow as it is late  
here now.


Re: Serial number not found (on boot)

123Jim wrote:
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Quoted text here. Click to load it

You do *not* need to edit the BIOS!

Let's draw the block diagram again, of the EEPROM contents.

     Main BIOS code block <--- Lenovo EFI tool edits this <== Dangerous
     DMI                  <--- You need to edit this one... Safe.
                               Does not affect booting. Cosmetic.
     Microcode Cache
     Boot Block

You need to contact tech support, make sure they understand the
symptoms. Tell them what work has been done on the unit,
what purported repairs have been done, so they can understand
that a cosmetic item near the end of the repair was not done
right. Since the complaint is "serial number", I interpret
this to mean the DMI needs to be edited. Not the main BIOS.
The main BIOS code block, should not contain dynamic information.
It should be static - every similar computer model, would
have byte-for-byte same code values in the main block.
Same with the boot block. It's the other segments, which
are volatile, and users can mess with them.

An easy way to fix this, for the tech, would have been to
move the BIOS chip from the old motherboard, to the new
motherboard, as this would keep the DMI fields of interest
(like the serial number).

And you can use dmidecode or similar, to at least look
at the fields currently written into your DMI, to see
if my theory has any substance or not.

The thing is, the main code block is static, and should
be the same from machine to machine (at the same rev level).
That's why the main code block, can have a checksum number
written near the end of it, and why the boot block code
can read and check that checksum, on every boot up. The
main code block will not run, if the checksum is bad.
Yes, you can reconfigure the main BIOS code block, because
as I indicated before, it's a miniature file system. You
can remove .rom files from it, remove support for your
NIC or other peripheral chips. Have a party for yourself.
And maybe in the process... brick the machine.

Good luck,

Re: Serial number not found (on boot)

On 26/06/2013 03:34, Paul wrote:
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Yes I probably should but I'm more inclined to leave the laptop BIOS in  
it's current state. Here's what is reported by DMIDecode on the DMI section:

Handle 0x0001, DMI type 1, 27 bytes
System Information
    Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard
    Product Name: Not Specified
    Version: Rev 1
    Serial Number: Not Specified
    UUID: Not Settable
    Wake-up Type: Power Switch
    SKU Number: Not Specified
    Family: 103C_5335KV

Regarding updating the DMI data I found the comment linked below from  
another laptop tech who suggests that in their case they could not get  
the program from HP and in order to update DMI the BIOS needed to be  
re-flashed using a program extracted from a a bundle provided by Sony  
for the same BIOS:

I could probably safely use the software from InsydeH2O I linked to  
earlier, but I am not inclined to take even the smallest risk of messing  
up the BIOS in order to fix what seems only to be a cosmetic problem.

cheers, Jim.

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