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Preparing for Defcon by Voiding a Warranty (or how to replace an Asus B121 hard drive)

Preparing for Defcon by Voiding a Warranty (or how to replace an Asus B121 hard drive)

So I thought to myself... Self?  How about we replace the hard drive in this handy tablet, install linux, and bring it to Defcon?  I typically prepare for a security conference by wiping a hard drive before and after so I can experiment and enjoy the con.  Instead of wiping and reinstalling, I have always just popped drives in and out.  I love this device because it weighs 2.5 pounds and has a large 12" x 8" screen which makes a perfect travel companion.

How to open the Asus B121

Tools required:  Something thin like a credit card or library card

After staring at the tablet for a good 10 minutes I was stumped.  Google did not help either.  I called ASUS support.  They refused to provide any information and told me that I would void the warranty.

So this is what I did:

  1. Pop out the USB receptacle covers.  
  2. Slide something thin like a credit card between the two sides of the case
  3. Getting each side started is tricky so take your time and be careful
  4. Once the side is completely loose, carefully place the covers side-by-side (they are taped together)

IMPORTANT:  The hard drive is taped down with some nifty copper tape that I have not seen before.  The tape appears to be connected to a wire and looks to form a circuit.  Since the tape itself may be part of the antennae or used for grounding, carefully remove the sticky tape.  Now replace the hard drive!

 

Asus b121 tablet 01

Asus b121 tablet 01

Asus b121 tablet 01

UPDATE: Here is a video that makes the process look easy

 

 

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  1. Jarrett Higgins

    Jarrett Higgins on 11/02/2012 6:27 p.m.

    I have a question for you as I am trying the same thing, both with an SSD and RAM from Crucial. (I engaged in conversation with Asus and Crucial about the matter, apparently replacing with parts crucial designs for it do not void warranties... Crucial tries to be helpful, but they aren't really, Asus is worthless with support)

    Anyway, with RAM, power light comes on for 5 second then the entire thing shuts off. it's an 8 GB stick which both Crucial and Asus say should work, updated the BIO no go.

    Onto the SSD. It is a 256 GB also from Crucial. With it it is a little different. I can't access BIOS, and it says put in a valid Boot Device.

    My suspicion is I have to prep it, and as it is part of the Eee line, I was thinking it might have to do with a cached partition for boot booster. (In BIOS I do not have an option to enable or disable). I loaded up my favorite linux distro from USB (This was after restoring the original parts) and poked around a little for any kind of partition that may be attached to Boot Booster, no luck. I did a clean install of Windows 8 before ever loading the BIOS, so maybe it destroyed the partition? I haven't gotten as far as loading up Gparted live and recreating and flagging it, but that is my next step. Is there anything specific you had to do to get yours to work?

  2. Charles

    Charles on 11/13/2012 10:05 p.m.

    Sorry for the late reply!

    I have always had good luck with Crucial specing out RAM that works with systems. If Crucial makes mistakes, I would guess it would be with a scenario like this. Of course, it could be bad RAM too.

    As far as the SSD goes, there would not be anything on it from the factory that is required for functionality. Pretty much just choose your OS, partition, install a boot loader and you are good to go.

  3. Jarrett Higgins

    Jarrett Higgins on 11/14/2012 1:01 p.m.

    So I figured some things out and ran into more issues. The initial issue with the SSD and the valid boot device message was resolved by doing a proper Windows 8 shutdown on the initial drive and retrying. From there, I was able to install Windows 8, it ran through updates, joined to my domain, rebooted, and blue screen. Rebooted again, disk repair utility came up, it failed to repair, restarted to load into live linux distro and reformat the drive and try again, drive did not appear, back into BIOS, drive not recognized, then I had a whole issue with the BIOS locking up.

    At this point I popped in the initial drive, no problems at all from BIOS or Windows 8. Got very frustrated at this point and moved on to the new RAM stick Crucial sent. It also did not work but failed at a different point. This time it loaded to the Windows 8 Load screen before black screening and becoming unresponsive. Again loading initial RAM everything worked fine. I had called Crucial to ask for a replacement RAM stick earlier, which was the one I just tried, but during that call, they mentioned they had 3 builds of that RAM module that we could try, and it may have been a compatibility issue.

    Needless to say at this point I was back on the phone with Crucial. We both agreed that the SSD was an unfortunate case of Drive failure, so they will be sending me a new one. They also suspected the reason the BIOS was locking up with that drive inserted was because BIOS was waiting for it to respond with it's info, and the drive was trying to collect it but timing out, so BIOS was left waiting for a response it would never receive. While it doesn't sound normal, it was a far more reasonable response than anything else I had thought of, read, or heard. The RAM on the other hand, we decided was not module failure, but some sort of compatibility issue. We compared the original chip with the 3 builds they had. The major differences we noted were the speed, and the voltage. The ones they were sending were dual voltage where as stock was single. We locked on to Voltage being the problem, suspecting their is a voltage control communications issue. According to Asus specs, this shouldn't be the case, but we decided to test it out and see. The speed we don't think is the problem as the chipset is supposed to support the higher speeds that Crucial was sending. As of now, I am waiting for the new RAM to come in with the SSD. The RAM should be a mirror of the stock RAM with the exception of it being an 8GB stick instead of 4.

    I'll update you when I receive the replacement parts and can test.

  4. Charles

    Charles on 11/15/2012 10:56 a.m.

    Wow, sounds like you have been having fun. Good luck with the replacement parts. Let me know if they work : )

  5. Jarrett Higgins

    Jarrett Higgins on 11/20/2012 1:48 p.m.

    I just got my replacement drive, should get the Ram tomorrow. Guess what my Turkey Day Project is going to be :) I'm going to clone my current drive and try reloading it to the new one before expanding the volume and see if it works. If I encounter any problems with that, I'll just do a fresh clean install and see how it goes. Hopefully, it's super simple this time and I don't encounter any problems.

  6. Jarrett Higgins

    Jarrett Higgins on 11/21/2012 1:14 p.m.

    Well, got the RAM Module today, opened it and found all the specs they said they would send except... It's a desktop module. I am not particularly fond of crucial right now.

  7. Jarrett Higgins

    Jarrett Higgins on 11/21/2012 2:13 p.m.

    For reference, the specs I could find on the stock module:
    Manufacturer: Samsung
    Model: M471B5273BH1-CH9
    Capacity: 4GB
    Type: 204pin PC3-10600 DDR3-1333 SODIMM 512Mx64 non ECC gold leads unbuffered
    Voltage: 1.5 volts
    Has SPD CAS 9 latency CL9

    All the Crucial modules are marked as 1.35 volts, although Crucial says they are Dual Voltage. They don't even provide a 1.5 volt only module.

    We shall see how this 3rd and final module build works, hopefully will be getting on Friday.

  8. Jarrett Higgins

    Jarrett Higgins on 11/23/2012 11:36 a.m.

    So, I set up the 256 GB drive. Through the process I found through a clone attempt that I have bad sectors on my 64 GB ssd, so it started on a bad note. Installed drive, it was recognized, set up Windows 8, went through the same process, seem to work properly. After some play time, I encountered some blue screens. I noticed these usually happened after sleep, so I changed some settings, still occurred. a few times the drive wasn't recognized again and went straight to BIOS, a quick power off and on got it to recognize. However, that finally stopped working and the drive is not recognized.

    Based on some preliminary reads, I am beginning to suspect a speed problem. Later today I am going to check the specs of the stock drive and the 256 from Crucial. The other thing I am going to do is check the specs on the chipset and controllers. The thought's I have read so far suspect the 256 drive has faster access speed then the stock drive and that may be where the problem lies. I think it has something more to do with voltage. I think it is an issue where the drive goes into a lower voltage draw for Energy Star compliance, but it does not resume normal voltage fast enough for the OS or BIOS to detect it.

    Any thoughts on the matter seems how yours went so smoothly?

  9. Jon

    Jon on 01/22/2013 3:58 a.m.

    Be careful with these B121 EP121 ASUS units... they're fragile and parts and difficult to obtain and expensive. Consider yourself fortunately if your unit runs for over a year.

  10. Jarrett Higgins

    Jarrett Higgins on 03/25/2013 6:14 p.m.

    At one point I am going to come back to this as I have been left immensely unsatisfied. Now that I have a replacement I plan on tinkering and tinkering and tinkering with this device...

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