90B fan error and possible firmware corruption hp laptop

so am working on this large hp laptop from windows 7 days. was behaving erratically. when i started it up, the audio from a flash program (in the cache–it was NOT hooked up to the internet at all!) kept playing even when the user was logged out and logged onto the Admin profile. that’s pretty much not possible — any adobe flash is going to be stored at the local level. so right off the bat, i’m going how in the heck is it even doing this?

i finally get flashplayer to stop (no flashplayer process even showed running in the taskmanager details pane) — but basically i cold cocked the machine. it’s like pulling the plug. but on a laptop, that means removing the adapter cord, and also pulling out the battery.

then start it back up, is no longer playing the cached audio file. but i note there is no wifi, the card isn’t picking up anything. so i check the driver, the driver has error messages. so i reinstall the wifi driver, get it hooked up to the internet. then i start downloading and installing windows 7 updates — which there were a ton. went to restart it — and got a 90B fan error.

which this laptop normally ran its fan like a dang aircraft engine — noisiest thing you could ever imagine. so if anything, it needed a reduction in fan action! haha. but NO fan is never good.

there are tons of videos and articles on how you “fix” the error by cleaning the fan. that is false. it’s not an issue of a dirty fan, you just don’t get a stop on a fan from dust — unless some bright mind squirted oil onto it. and the reason those in video seem to get success from a clean, is they removed the hard drive and reattached it. or the windows 7 is booting up from a hibernation state, rather than a full boot. but it’s not from cleaning a fan, and as soon as they return the laptop to its owner, the fan error is going to reemerge. or that’s my guess.

i finally gave up on the system itself. as well as having obvious driver issues, the full backup system i had on the secondary hard drive — was no longer there. the user somehow deleted it — or it was hacked and deleted. since the drive itself still registered the space that the backup system image file took up — is likely it was deleted from a hack rather than from inside the system. but whatever the case, i had no backup available. and even the system recovery was stored inside the system image files. so there was nothing. no way to take it back to when it was working normally.

i installed ubuntu on the machine. this is why i know the fan 90B error is a firmware issue, not a hardware one. ubuntu ran on it beautifully. no problems whatsoever. powered down, restarted it. even ran some heavier things, and the fan kicked into high with no issues.

the problem is somewhere in the AMD drivers— but it’s in how when the AMD drivers load, they then trigger a fan-shutdown. as i said, i gave up on the system. so took the hard drive it was on, wiped it out, and installed a fresh copy of windows 7. all that was fine. i installed the chipset drivers. all fine. then i installed the original AMD drivers for the graphics chip — and bam. on restart, the 90B fan error happened again.

i took the hard drive out, replaced it with ubuntu — ubuntu would not boot correctly, had some disk errors. took that out — put the windows 7 hard drive back in — started up and NO fan error, but the graphics were running on the windows stock resolution values. so i’m going to assume the reason it didn’t not get the fan error, was because the AMD drivers did not engage.

which that shouldn’t have happened, i didn’t set it to do a safe boot. so i’m stepping back from this for awhile, to think on it. trying to research on it doesn’t help. this is a firmware issue. i tried removing the CMOS battery, to do a hard reset of the Bios. also set the Bios to its defaults. hp used an Insyde bios, and it’s pretty crummy. not a lot of options. and for the graphics controller, the machine has native intel AND ati (amd) graphics. which you can set it to run on a “switching” mode — where the ati kicks in for heavier graphics tasks. or you can set it to be constantly on the ati graphics. but you can’t set it to ignore the ati altogether and just use the intel built in graphics. that’s why it’s a bad bios.

the problem with the fan 90b error has something to do with the ati drivers WHEN they are loaded to the machine by a system. it triggers something (some kind of malware that got into the fan firmware–i’m guessing) — and then not only is there an error, but the fan loses its adaptive settings, and runs at the very low speed. so it’s not a “false” error message. there actually IS a problem with the fan. it’s just that the problem is in the motherboard rom … not the fan hardware itself. has to be. hardware does not miraculously fix itself and then work fine with ubuntu linux installed.

something or someone got to this machine and did a number on it. and with HP, you never know. they set things up so they can always remotely access your computer, and change it however they like. that can be a good thing for some users, when HP updates a bios remotely, for instance. but i don’t think it’s a good idea to have that large a backdoor built into any machine.

the answer to this HP laptop might be to just run Ubuntu on it, and forget windows. apparently the Linux system is immune to whatever malware is getting triggered by the loading of the AMD graphic drivers. of course, can’t know this for sure without running it for awhile on ubuntu.

the clean install i did of windows 7, and the graphics drivers i used were the original from HP — downloaded from HP and unpacked on the windows 7 system. pretty much no way for them to be corrupt, and so its something that’s triggered by the driver. system worked fine and with no fan issue, until i installed the AMD graphics driver. then on the restart, it showed the fan 90B error again. which of course by that point, i’m hitting my head. hard to know for sure…. so often when trouble shooting things like this, you think you have the answer. and then it does something else, just to prove you wrong.

but does seem to come down to the controller for the ATI graphics chip is conflicting with settings for the fan.

and often the ATI control center includes fan settings. i could try installing the graphics driver, ignoring the fan error — and toggling the fan settings on the ATI catalyst control center —- if this old a model has the settings for fan at all.

update: instead, tried installing a copy of Windows 8 — just to see what it does. it installs the drivers automatically, and i got the same fan error message at start up. so removed that hard drive, put the Ubuntu hard drive back in — and the fan worked. can hear it, though have to admit that even though it is running with Ubuntu, doesn’t exactly sound healthy.

i don’t want to get into taking it apart and cleaning or replacing the fan. is not worth it. and so far i still have no indication that cleaning or replacing will fix anything, since it works and has no fan error with Ubuntu running on it.

everyone knows that Ubuntu is a nice second system to have, but for most people it doesn’t do the job like with Windows. just because most of the software they are used to using is on Windows and not on Linux. makes it usable for someone that just wants to watch youtube or something.

update: took out the ubuntu hard drive (ubuntu worked the fan again). put the Windows 8 hard drive back in, fired it up — and no fan error. so it’s running with the Windows 8 ok now. but since i have no way to know why the fan error and stopped fan happened in the first place, i don’t know what might cause it again.

generally what you do in that case, is work to create the malfunction again. But i don’t know what started it. i know it’s a driver/firmware issue … if not entirely, at least partly. i know that the drivers that Ubuntu loads “fixes” it — which they generally install their own freeware drivers, rather than copyrighted ones. is still possible that the fan is just getting close to dying, and that triggers some early shutdown process in the Windows version of the drivers/firmware.

so now i have to run it and use it and see if the fan error happens again …

(i will add to this blog as i go along)

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