Toshiba M400 upgraded and running

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I managed to upgrade my new Toshiba M400 this afternoon. Some time away from the first set of problems I encountered helped.

Here’s a recap:

My new Toshiba M400 arrived today–all the way from China. I got it unpacked and up and running without a hitch. That’s the good news.

I had purchased a baseline system (512MB of memory and 40GB 5400RPM drive) and was ready to upgrade it right away to 2GB RAM and swap in a 100GB 7200RPM drive.

Based on my experiences with the Toshiba M200, I figured it would be quite easy. Not exactly.

Here’s the deal: To upgrade the M400’s memory, you have to remove the keyboard. The manual says not to do it yourself. I concur. There are some instructions on the Toshiba site, however. I do not recommend that people do what I did unless you’re quite comfortable working with electronic equipment.

In terms of upgrading the hard drive, there are several things you’ll need to consider. First, the M400 uses a Serial ATA (SATA) drive and in Windows XP (and Windows 2000) there isn’t any trivial way to install the driver except from the recovery CD–which you’ll have to burn yourself after you first boot up the M400.

That’s right–Toshiba does not include recovery discs. You have to burn them. And if you don’t, you want be able to upgrade your hard drive (without getting SATA drivers and a USB floppy).

Fortunately, Toshiba provides a little program to help burn the necessary CDs or DVDs to create a recovery disc set. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to burn a complete set of DVDs. The process kept failing on disc #2. After five attempts and turning various things off and on, I discovered I could burn CDs instead just fine. I’m now guessing that the problem was that I was using 16x DVDs. I bet they are incompatible with the app. If you have 8x or lower DVDs, I wonder if you’ll be OK. I have not verified this. I might tomorrow. Having to burn CDs is not a big deal, but it was disconcerting to go through this sequence.

Now, all this means that if you want to install the OS from an MSDN CD, you’ll need a USB floppy to install the SATA driver from because again XP does not come with the necessary driver. You’ll need to install them manually. There are instructions on the Toshiba site here.

Vista is another matter. I’ve installed the beta on other SATA drives without any problems. It may be OK here too. I haven’t tried this yet.

One last point to mention here about the hard drive: Whereas the hard drive is nicely packed in a bed of padding, the connector that the hard drive attaches to simply hangs free. This is not a big deal until you consider that you have to be careful when swapping hard drives. Do not tug on the wires on the connector. I bet there’s not an easy way to fix the wires if they break. In my Gateway M280, for instance, there’s no issue like this. I feel comfortable swapping between an XP and Vista drive. On the M400 I’m not going to swap drives any more than absolutely necessary. The wires that attach to the hard drive connector are a point of failure I know I’ll become familiar with if I fiddle with them too much. I plan on avoiding a mess here by not touching them too much.

My thoughts right now? For most people that purchase an M400, I recommend buying what you need and don’t figure on doing much upgrading. Think in terms of whatever you buy is the way it is going to be. The M400 is not like the M200. The M200 is easy when it comes to upgrading. The M400 is not exactly hard, but with the memory being under the keyboard and the hard drive connector not being fixed, I’m not too keen on suggesting that just anyone upgrade either component. If you do decide to upgrade your M400, just be careful. Take your time.

Update: In a comment on Gottabemobile, there’s a link to this page which describes another approach to installing Windows XP on a SATA drive–in this case without an external floppy.

1 COMMENT

  1. You said you bought the baseline system and upgrade components separately. Is there an option for them to ship the computer already upgraded so as to avoid the difficult process you describe?

  2. Joshua, Yeah, you can upgrade an M400 online at http://www.toshibadirect.com. I could have purchased the memory and hard drive from Toshiba with the 2GB of RAM and faster hard drive preinstalled.

    Why didn’t I? I was trying to save a few bucks. It turns out that you can get the components much cheaper than Toshiba sells them for. Plus, if you have one of the components already sitting around, then that makes it even more likely you’ll want to upgrade yourself.

    A point of clarification: it isn’t really that hard to swap out the hard drive. It’s just that with the connector not being fixed, I think this could lead to problems if someone isn’t careful or swaps drives a lot—like I’ve been doing with a Vista build on a Gateway M280 and which I thought I’d do with the M400, but now have decided not to because of this.

    Also, you’ll need to realize that you’ll probably want to install from recovery CDs/DVDs that you have the responsibility of burning.

    Since more and more OEMs, like Toshiba, are not including recovery CDs and instead opting to have the user create, it’s becoming extremely important for users to realize that this is one of the first things they should do with a new computer. I’m going to be emphasizing this point over and over again with family and friends when they get a new computer.

    Just think about it. Right now, if you “forget” to burn a recovery CD/DVD with a Toshiba M400, and the hard drive fails, you decide to install Windows from an MSDN or retail disc for some reason (maybe after getting struck by an unfriendly virus), you’ll need to get an external USB floppy drive to get things running. Most people will not have one nor know what to do when XP pronounces that it can’t install on the SATA drive.

    The good part is that Vista looks like it’ll make installing on SATA drives a piece of cake. Windows XP, after all, is getting rather old in computer years. This is one more reason to look forward to Vista.

  3. Cool, thanks for the detailed response. 🙂 A new tablet for me will be far off in the future, but right now I’m using an M200 (as well as several of my coworkers and my fiance no less!)

    I’d be interested in hearing in future blogs about your experience with performance, both processor (Duo!) and graphics. I play occassional games but more of my concern is the 3d graphics intensive programs that I write.

    Thanks for writing the blog!

  4. Hi Loren hope you are enjoying your new M400 – I’ve read a few comments about fan noise over on TabletPC Buzz what is your experience of this?

    Also could you put the SATA drivers on a USB memory if you didnt have access to a floppy drive?

    Keep up the good work I look forward to reading more about your progress.

    Jon

  5. Jon, I haven’t noticed excessive fan noise. Last night someone IMed me and asked if the Tablet was hot and it’s only at that time that I noticed that the fan was on. That’s probably a personal preference issue, however. I could hear it. It’s just that it didn’t register that it was on.

    In terms of the SATA drivers, I understand that only a floppy will work. USB sticks won’t.

  6. Oh! yeah, there sure is fan noise. Just get the processor going to 100% for a few minutes and the fan will kick in. I’ve noticed that there are multiple fan speeds. the fastest is the only one that’s bad

  7. pparthas, I agree. Now that I’ve been using the M400 for several days, I have noticed that the fan does seem to run a lot. I haven’t played with the power settings to see if this helps out.