“It couldn’t hurt to read the manual first” is great advice for any endeavor, from assembling an entertainment center (it cuts down on those mysterious leftover parts) to installing new hardware. This commonsense quip from network engineer Joseph Moore is quite true. Accurate, accessible documentation is an important support tool, and in a perfect world, instant access to every imaginable hardware/software spec would be available. But as you well know, this is hardly the case.

Clearing a CMOS password
Finding manuals for older hardware can be tricky and, like troubleshooting, requires a bit of detective work. TechRepublic member jdhNV recently put on his sleuth cap in an attempt to clear a CMOS password. Working on a Compaq EVO N1000V, he and his colleague have tried removing the CMOS battery, switching DIP switches (no jumpers are present), and flashing the BIOS. To add to the frustration, no documentation came with the unit and searches on HP/Compaq’s Web site produced no helpful results.

Member DR The Corporate Groups suggested popping the CMOS chip out and replacing it with a new one. One could also attempt to short-out the CMOS, thus erasing the memory and password. In this case though, the CMOS chip is hardwired in and can’t be removed from the board.

In a previous From the Technical Q&A, one TechRepublic member faced a similar problem with a BIOS password. In that case, the CMOS battery was fixed to the board. Members suggested switching jumpers, draining the battery with alligator clips and a light bulb, and shorting-out the CMOS chip with static electricity. In the end, the member was successfully able to flash the BIOS after reconfiguring the drive boot order. In this case though, flashing the BIOS hasn’t worked.

Keep digging—the Internet’s a big place
The HP/Compaq technical support site didn’t provide any answers, and member jdhNV couldn’t find a user manual or any type of technical documentation for the EVO N1000V. Luckily, this didn’t stop TechRepublic member Joseph Moore from continuing to search for online help. Through his persistence, he came across the HP/Compaq FTP server, which houses a massive store of technical documents, software, updates, and patches, etc. The server contains a maintenance and service guide for the Compaq Evo Notebook N1000 series and Presario 1500 series—just what the jdhNV was looking for.

The maintenance guide, offered as an Adobe PDF file, outlines a procedure for clearing the CMOS password and settings. On page 1, the document states, “If the notebook you are servicing has an unknown password, follow these steps to clear the password. These steps also clear CMOS:”

  1. Prepare the computer for disassembly.
  2. Remove the RTC battery (a CR1220 lithium disk cell battery).
  3. Wait approximately five minutes.
  4. Replace the RTC battery and reassemble the computer.
  5. Connect AC power to the computer. Do not reinsert any battery packs at this time.
  6. Turn on the computer.

Using the Compaq FTP server
This server is a great resource for supporting Compaq equipment. Note that the documentation is not organized by model number. Compaq uses something called a replacement number, which can be found somewhere on the external casing of most equipment. Also, you won’t find documentation for every Compaq product, but the site can still be of assistance even if what you’re looking for isn’t listed. For unlisted equipment, you’ll likely find a manual or tech sheet for a comparable model.

The FTP server contains a massive amount of information; countless PDFs are available. However, navigation through the various directories can be confusing. The sheer size and volume makes it easy to get lost—especially if you don’t know which specific directory to search. In the directory of maintenance guides, you can search for equipment by the Compaq replacement number. The guide used to answer this member’s question, for example, was number 279372-001 on the FTP server.