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Old 01-22-2022, 09:44 AM   #1
sijones99
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Default Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Hi Everyone, please can I share my situation and see if anyone has any ideas? I'm trying to help my brother out, but am at the outer limits of my knowledge. I'd like to do my best before this laptop gets thrown away - it's quite a good spec and I think it'd be a shame to trash it without trying. Also, I'd like to understand the problem for my own experience.

I've been searching online, but am not really any the wiser.

The laptop
  • Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E
  • Intel Core i5 - 3337U, 1.80GHz x 2
  • Onboard graphics

Background / symptoms
This is my brother's laptop, it wouldn't boot, and before I was involved he'd already removed the hard drive, and had opened up the drive for a poke around (I know, I know, he's a mechanical engineer, he can't help himself), then thrown it away. There was nothing important on the drive (apart for the OS!) He came to me asking how to fit a new drive and install Windows.

He lives 100 miles away, so I mailed him a nice new SSD, a Windows 10 installer disk, and some instructions. No dice: it seems this model cannot use an SSD, it needs to be an old-school mechanical SATA HDD.

So I sent him a copy of Linux Mint on a USB stick, just to double check that the laptop worked at all - it booted nicely. My next step would have been to buy him a mechanical HDD, tell him how to install Windows, job done.

But that's when what I believe to be the main problem showed itself: the laptop spontaneously shuts down after running for approx 30 minutes. It didn't seem to be overheating, and I had him re-do the thermal paste, but no change.

What I have done
At this point I took the laptop away from him and started to explore myself. When I boot it into BIOS I can see the firmware is listed as version R0250DA, but the ME Version says 'UnKnow'.

Googling around suggested that a missing ME Region in BIOS could cause spontaneous shutdowns after a set period. (My brother swears he hasn't been meddling with the BIOS.)

I have found a tool that claims to be able to clean & inject a fixed ME Region setting ('Intel Easy Clean Me.exe'), but it's designed to run within Windows, which I don't currently have on the machine, and the machine won't run for long enough to install it. I've tried running it under a Windows Live CD that I made, but it still won't work. Of course, any time I'm on the laptop it's a race against time before it shuts down again.

Sony's support / download pages are not very helpful.

Has anyone encountered a similar problem before, and can you offer any tips? It seems like quite a nice laptop, shame to trash it. I bet it wasn't cheap when new.

If there some kind of software procedure / solution I can follow, I have nothing to lose. If the remedy for this sort of problem involves unsoldering and reprogramming chips, that's beyond my wits.

Thanks in advance for any tips / opinions, please let me know if I can elaborate on the situation.
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Old 01-22-2022, 10:04 AM   #2
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Quote:
the laptop spontaneously shuts down after running for approx 30 minutes.
This is a security lock on the laptop. Fairly sure there is a thread on this forum that discusses it in more detail. Not sure if there is a work around.

What is the history of this computer ? Did it ever work properly and not shutdown at about 30 mins ?

Is this shutoff time repeatable ? Once off, you can turn it on but will the computer shut off again after 30 mins ?
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Old 01-22-2022, 10:26 AM   #3
sijones99
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Quote:
Originally Posted by mon2 View Post
This is a security lock on the laptop. Fairly sure there is a thread on this forum that discusses it in more detail. Not sure if there is a work around.

What is the history of this computer ? Did it ever work properly and not shutdown at about 30 mins ?

Is this shutoff time repeatable ? Once off, you can turn it on but will the computer shut off again after 30 mins ?
Hi mon2, many thanks for your reply. Yeah, you can set your watch by it: consistently 30 minutes after startup, it'll do what I'd describe as a 'hard shut down'. No 'shutting down' procedure, it just switches off in an instant.

(Imagine a desktop PC with no battery, if you were to simply pull the power cord: it's like that)

Once it's shut off I can reboot it, it's perfectly happy and will run for another 30 minutes, then shut off again. This is new behaviour - before the HDD failure, my brother assures me it ran fine.

Can't see any appropriate setting in the 'security' section of the BIOS. I'll go search for a thread on '30 minute security lock'. (edit: looks like this might be it: https://badcaps.net/forum/showthread.php?p=965446 but no conclusion reached...)

Could the 'ME Version unknown' line in the BIOS be irrelevant? Could a laptop in theory run OK in that situation?

Last edited by sijones99; 01-22-2022 at 10:39 AM..
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Old 01-22-2022, 11:10 AM   #4
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Personally have not had to deal with bios issues yet but others here have.

The last post on the referenced thread seems to offer the hint to fix this case. In the end, it is a hack but if it works, worth a try. I will bet that the HDD (which offers unique parameters / serial #, etc.) is a key to the locked logic board. That is, the bios may have been extracting the vitals in real-time to keep the logic board from shutting down. You still have these values somewhere onboard. Without the original mated HDD, you will have to bypass this lock mechanism.

Consider to ping the last poster in the other thread and update this thread with the feedback.
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Old 01-22-2022, 04:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

The bios has corrupt ME firmware. To fix it you will need an SPI programmer and a SOP8 clip to make a backup of the chip contents.After you have made a backup post it in the "Bios Requests ONLY" sub forum and someone will take a look at it and fix it for you https://www.badcaps.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=40
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Old 01-23-2022, 04:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Can try a BIOS update first, sometimes it may help.
Also no reason for a SATA SSD not to work in this machine.
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Old 01-23-2022, 11:21 AM   #7
sijones99
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Thankyou for the replies everyone!

@mon2: good idea, I'll message that final poster on the other thread and ask for clarity - they suggest reflashing the BIOs 'without clear ME Region' but I'm not 100% sure what they mean.

@SMDFlea: I'll order up those components, looks like they can be had for less than 20GBP, and they may come in handy in the future. I don't suppose you know of a good idiot's guide to the procedure for backing up the BIOS? If not I'll jump back onto Google & educate myself... This next step may take me a bit of time, but I will certainly post at the forum you mention.

Assuming someone is kind enough to help me straighten out my BIOS, can it be flashed using the same clip / programmer that I used to back it up? You'll see why I'm asking in the next paragraph...

@piernov: Unfortunately I currently have no way of carrying out a BIOS update using files from the Sony support pages, I'm caught in a Catch-22 situation. The Sony BIOS files are exes, so I need a working Windows in order to run them - but the computer does not have a working copy of Windows, and won't remain switched on long enough to install one, because of the BIOS problem. It's a vicious circle.

I have tried running the BIOS flashing exe within a portable Windows environment (I think it was a Hiren USB stick), but it wouldn't run.

I also had the idea of temporarily stealing a hard drive from another machine (that has a working Windows install), but my other laptops are all SSDs, which this computer can't recognise.

I am just as suspicious as you are about why the machine can't recognise an SSD, I already spent a long time on trying to make one work. I found a long forum thread elsewhere from someone with the same problem that concluded that this model can't use SSD. That seemed crazy to me, as I've installed SSDs in some real old junk laptops, and never had a problem before. But I've never had a Vaio before, either.

So I've put the SSD problem aside as being a secondary issue for now - the machine has an old mechanical drive in it, which is recognised OK, but which only has a light Linux OS on it.

Thanks everyone, more news as it breaks...
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Old 01-24-2022, 05:38 AM   #8
sijones99
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Just in case anyone comes along before I report back, in case this helps, I came across this beautifully clear YouTube video on how to use an SOP8 test clip (I assume it's OK to post links like this here?):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OttN8wQ1HhE&t=0s

The kit itself is dirt cheap, I'm going to order this set from Amazon UK:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/KeeYees-SOI.../dp/B07SNTL5V6
...at 12 quid it's worth having a go just for laughs...
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Old 01-24-2022, 05:45 AM   #9
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Quote:
Originally Posted by sijones99 View Post
Just in case anyone comes along before I report back, in case this helps, I came across this beautifully clear YouTube video on how to use an SOP8 test clip (I assume it's OK to post links like this here?):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OttN8wQ1HhE&t=0s

The kit itself is dirt cheap, I'm going to order this set from Amazon UK:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/KeeYees-SOI.../dp/B07SNTL5V6
...at 12 quid it's worth having a go just for laughs...
You`ll find them much cheaper on ali express, nowt sure what latest ebay prices are.If you must buy from amazon you might as well spend an extra quid and get one with a 1.8V adapter you might need that later. https://www.amazon.co.uk/AiTrip-EEPR.../dp/B07VNVVXW6 .
I recommend you use different software, there`s Colibri ,ASProgrammer,NeoProgrammer and flashrom https://www.badcaps.net/forum/showpo...50&postcount=5

Last edited by SMDFlea; 01-24-2022 at 05:48 AM..
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Old 01-24-2022, 06:55 AM   #10
sijones99
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Default Re: Sony Vaio SVF1521K4E 'ME version unknown'

Quote:
Originally Posted by SMDFlea View Post
You`ll find them much cheaper on ali express, nowt sure what latest ebay prices are.If you must buy from amazon you might as well spend an extra quid and get one with a 1.8V adapter you might need that later. https://www.amazon.co.uk/AiTrip-EEPR.../dp/B07VNVVXW6 .
I recommend you use different software, there`s Colibri ,ASProgrammer,NeoProgrammer and flashrom https://www.badcaps.net/forum/showpo...50&postcount=5
Thanks for the tip SMDFlea - I'll do that. I'm happy to buy from the UK, pay a bit more, and get faster delivery.

I've just opened up the laptop and identified the chip: marked as WINBOND 25Q64FVSIG. There's a decent amount of space around it to get the clip on.

I can't see my chip listed as specifically being compatible with these clip gadgets, though the 25Q64BV seems to be universally supported. Do you think it's worth a punt (I'm guessing there are numerous chips and hoping the clip makers can't list all the variants)..?

Cheers!
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