C400 boot options

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C400 boot options

  • Hello,
     
      recently I've purchased a refurbished C400. Unfortunately it came without the peripherals (floppy and cd) which i understand came with the original product. At this point I'd like to install an operating system since the HDD is new. The C400 won't support booting from a USB device so I'm facing a problem.
    By flipping through the BIOS boot options and some googling I've been able to determine that I need to do one of the following:
     
    1. Somehow obtain the original peripherals.
    2. Install using some network based boot protocol (such as PXE)
    3. Put the HDD into a laptop with either a CD drive or with USB boot support. Install there, then put    the HDD back into the C400.
     
    My questions:
    Is there any possibility of getting the C400 to boot from other "3'rd party" external drives?
    Will the 3g265 cable (assuming I can find one) that came with the original product connect with such drives?
    Are there any alternative cables that I can use?
    Is there any way to get the BIOS to perform a USB boot without first having to install another OS (such as DOS with the appropriate drivers)?
     
    And finally, am I missing something?
  • Given that you intend to install either W2K or XP then the best option is likely to be to buy the CD-ROM  or DVD for this model. if you intend to install an OS which is not on a bootable CD-ROM then you will also need a floppy drive (to boot and install drivers for the CD-ROM). The floppy drive will be useful if you ever need to update the BIOS (which is best done using the bootable floppy disk method).

    Installing the OS on the HDD in an another machine is unlikely to be particularly successful since it will installing the appropriate drivers and configuration for the host machine rather than your C400. What you could do is make the drive bootable to DOS in another machine and copy the OS install files to the HDD then replace in you C400 and run the install from the HDD.

    If I were you I'd buy the CD-ROM and floppy drive (with the appropriate cables) since you will undoubtedly need them again unless you plan to sell the machine as soon as you've got an OS installed.

  • You could start here:Dell™ Latitude™ C400 User's Guide & Service Manual {Click here to Link}.

    The above Documents should list "Boot Options"

    Link Here to your Dell Product Support and get "Reinstall Guides" "Drivers & Utilities"

    Copied from BIOS Notes found in Downloads & Drivers from above link:

    Systems: Dell Latitude C400 (Memory location F000:E845)
    Version: A04 (Memory location F000:E842)
    Build Date: 05/29/02 (Memory location FFFF:0005)


    The following modifications were made to the A03 BIOS to create A04:

    Issue fixed:
    1. Fixed problem where PXE booting would not connect to a RIS server.
    2. Fixed problem where some batteries would not charge after being...."

    #1. Cautious shopping on eBay would probably be best for a Floppy Drive (for BIOS Flash at least)
    and that cable to connect to Parallel Port. Floppies can use that, but CD's must be inside
    the internal Bay. I understand that they are pretty much universal and just need a 'faceplate'
    to match your C400.

    #2. Know nothing of "PXE" but spotted the above mentioned BIOS 'fix' you would need to confirm.

    #3. "Put the HDD into a laptop with either a CD drive or with USB boot support.
    Install there, then put the HDD back into the C400."

    If you do that, it would need to be another C400 as that would be the hardware it would look for.
    edit:- What chapmasj said in his post a few seconds before mine:

    "What you could do is make the drive bootable to DOS in another machine and copy the OS install files
    to the HDD then replace in you C400 and run the install from the HDD."

    Was an excellent suggestion, I did something similar when I installed Win98 on my Latitude LM, it installs much
    faster that way and an added bonus is that whenever the OS asks you to "Insert your WinX CD" you just have
    to point it to that Folder on your C:\ Drive.:)

    My D800 will boot from a Sony (USB) Floppy Drive, would imagine you could boot from a Parallel
    Port connected Floppy of any brand.

    Message Edited by Art on 01-07-2006 06:01 PM

  • If all else fails I will look for (at least) the CD drive although this might be a problem since I'm not from the states so I'm not sure how well the local Dell dealer is stocked on older components. It would be nice though to be able to boot from the external DVD-RW which I already own. That's why I asked about that cable. I know what it has on one end (i can see how the matching plug looks like on the C400), but I've no idea what's on the other side. Standard IDE? I can only hope.

    The floppy drive however doesn't seem very useful (to me at least) since even for BIOS updates (which are at this point quite unlikely havin that the model is about four years old now) i can just boot into DOS (i usually configure my computer for multi booting DOS/WIN/UNIX).

    In any case thanks for your response.

  • #1. Cautious shopping on eBay would probably be best for a Floppy Drive (for BIOS Flash at least)
    and that cable to connect to Parallel Port. Floppies can use that, but CD's must be inside
    the internal Bay. I understand that they are pretty much universal and just need a 'faceplate'
    to match your C400.


    Please note that the C400 doesn't have any internal bays. It's really a very small machine. Only 12" screen etc...



    #2. Know nothing of "PXE" but spotted the above mentioned BIOS 'fix' you would need to confirm.


    PXE is a protocol that allows a computer to boot using the onboard LAN NIC. It's pretty cool since in theory it allows for a "no hands" install. I've actually tried this already. I got to the windows setup "blue screen" but it hung there after loading the initial drivers. Still not sure if it's me that didn't configure the RIS server correctly or maybe that BIOS bug is still around.


    My D800 will boot from a Sony (USB) Floppy Drive, would imagine you could boot from a Parallel
    Port connected Floppy of any brand.


    Having a lot of experience with desktop systems but next to no experience with laptops it's rather surprising (to me at least) that manufacturing floppies with parallel port connectors is a "laptop industry standard". That is, if i understood you correctly. In any case this, too, wouldn't be so simple as it appears that C400 has no built in parallel port so I need a special cable for that too.

    At any rate, thanks for your response.

  • What are the chances they'll incorporate a USB option in to the BIOS boot menu?
    This would solve the entire problem quite elegantly. :smileywink:
    For that matter, what are the chances of another BIOS update considering that the first update was published at the end of 2001?
     
    Anyone?
  • I was surprised to see a BIOS Update to be issued on the D800/M60 series some six months
    after the last one had left Dell.

    On my Latitude LM, the last BIOS was released six months before the last one left Dell.

    I would also expect that it is quite possible that USB Boot capability may be a hardware
    limitation, otherwise I would have expected it to already have been added.

    My D800 only runs its (Dell Supplied) PC2700 RAM at 333MHz because I Flashed the system
    to make it think it is a Precision M60, the hardware was already there.

    Because there had been a MotherBoard Change (coinciding with M60/333MHz RAM) it works with
    the later D800's, but the early D800's will also run on M60 BIOS, but at 266MHz RAM Speed,
    why did'nt Dell enable this performance enhancements for all the later D800's?
  • I replied to your last post before spottin the two above.

    No Parallel Port?? Can't imagine that cable would do anything for you.

    For parts for an "old" Dell, you must telephone Dell Spare Parts (no web site for them)
    at 1-800-732-3355 or 1-800-449-3355, I don't have an international number for them.

    I would still check eBay, they are often the best place to locate "hard-to-find" items.

    If you have never done eBay, first visit this website before you register Ahhhh, eBay… the ultimate worldwide flea market.
    Everyone from ...


    After your operating system is installed, would suppose that a crossover cable and another sharing system
    would fill your needs in place of CD or Floppy Drives.

    When I said "imagine" I meant that I was speculating and with no Parallel, I doubt that
    it would work.

    "Please note that the C400 doesn't have any internal bays. It's really a very small machine. Only 12" screen etc...

    Again, had no clue, best stick with a CD that Will For Sure connect, don't even know their 'normal'
    connector, would have guessed USB or Firewire.

    What (besides Hard Drive) Will a C400 Boot to? and what connection would be used?
  • Here is my boot menu (copied "as is"):
     
    Internal HHD
    CD/DVD/CD-RW Drive
    Diskette Drive
    Module Bay Cable HDD
    Onboard NIC
    Cardbus NIC
    C/Port II or C/Dock II NIC
    C/Dock II bottom PCI slot NIC
    C/Dock or C/Dock II top PCI slot NIC
     
    The last five are uninteresting for my purposes (I've already mentioned my limited success with PXE). I simply don't know what the rest mean. I mean, I don't know how to match the first four options with the relevant I/O ports on the C400:
     
    PC card slot
    External device port (to be connected with that oh so special cable)
    USB port
    Serial port
    Docking station port
    IR sensor ? :smileyhappy:
     
    Will it boot from the PC card slot (with CD having such a connector)? Doubtful.
    I'm assuming USB would show up as "USB Boot" or something similar.
    Serial port? Very unlikely!
    So I'm left with the proprietary external devices port and the docking station port.
     
    Basically what I'm trying to find out is whether the C400 will boot off of ANYTHING at all that's not manufactured by Dell. I'd settle for buying that cable if i knew it would help. But buying a x24 CD-ROM (the one that originally shipped with the C400) these days seems ridiculous.
     
    Got any idea of where I could find out from a definitive source?
    I really wouldn't like to ship hardware overseas unless I really have to.
  • What would be the hardware limitations you speak of?
    As far as i know USB is mostly software driven and the USB port is right there!
    In any case it seems most unlikely that something Windows and DOS can do (hardware-wise) is beyond the capability of the BIOS.
     
    I'd guess that it's just not very profitable to release major BIOS upgrades that aren't bug-fixes, not for discontinued products anyway.
  • "...quite possible that USB Boot capability may be a hardware limitation..." Just a speculation on why it was
    not enabled long ago, we have had so many USB Devices in use since before the C400 arrived.

    I do know that you need caution on what is connected to your USB Port on Boot-Up (or StandBy/Hibernate as well)
    as the system can go beserk on an unrecognised or mis-identified USB Device that it detects before the device's
    Driver gets loaded in the system.

    I still have (and need) a serial port, but I think it becomes a USB device when its signals get inside my system.

    IR = Infared, like your TV Remote, some printers can receive it (line of sight) and you have to enable it in
    your BIOS Setup and assign a port for it.

    You would think that my LM ought to be able to boot on its optical drive, as all that you need to do, when you
    want it available before OS can load, is to boot on a boot-floppy that has a DOS Driver for the CD.
  • That model had USB 1.1 and that did not support DOS booting; that came with later models and USB 2.0. The 3G285 cable is a substitute on the C400 for the modular bay on other Dell Models. The CS, LS and L400 used a similar cable(10NRN) but they are not interchangeable. The 3G285 is a requirement for this laptop to use a floppy or any optical drive.
  • Sorry, hit the wrong key; that's a 3G265 cable
  • Alas, it is as I suspected.

    Thanks for the info.
  • hi guys

    well its been confirmed that a latitude c400 CANNOT boot from a usb drive (shame, maybe one of the developers out there has made a bios update??). Heres my boggle:

    I have a USB DVD-RW, no floppy or otherwise.

    I want to install another operating system (maybe linux).

    i know NOTHING about booting by using PXE?? (maybe someone could shed some light on this?)

    So is there ANY other way, besides paying hard earned cash on a cable and new drive, that i can change OS?

    roweld