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Not sure if the motherboard is dead, not sure how to be certain

HP Recommended
HP z820
Microsoft Windows 7 (64-bit)

I just purchased a used HP z820 workstation that had the hard drive wiped before purchasing.  I also purchased along with it a Windows 7 OEM installation disk.  When I went to install Windows 7, Windows would not recognize the local drive, a 256 GB SSD.


I pulled the hard drive out and connected it to my old computer, found out it was not formatted NTFS using "Computer Management," reformatted it, and got it to show up as a clean drive, totally empty, in Windows Explorer.  I then reinstalled the SSD in the HP z820 case, and tried to install Windows 7 again.  Windows would still not recognize the drive.


In "system setup" while trying to locate the drive, which wasn't showing up there either, I got a strange blue screen asking for a password to continue setting-up options, it asked for "1504 + enter".  I typed just that, shut down the system, and after that, the monitor will not turn on.


I read how to reset the CMOS (which I did).  No luck.


I removed the motherboard battery, which was supposed to reset the BIOS.  No luck.


I followed the steps in the HP z820 user manual to reset the password jumper.  No luck.


I feared motherboard failure.  I removed all the RAM modules, video card, optical drive, and hard drive, and powered on the system.  As I expected, I got five one-second red light flashes, with a two second pause afterwards.  That is supposed to indicate a "Pre-video memory error."  Options given to fix it are to replace/reseat DIMMs, or contact HP regarding motherboard failure.  I replaced one DIMM module for each CPU (there are two), and rebooted the system.  The power light stayed blue, like it is supposed to when the system is working fine, but still nothing on the monitor.  I contacted HP; the motherboard is out of warranty, and they wouldn't talk to me unless I paid, which I suspected.


I tried swapping out three separate video cards, all of which work in other machines.  There is no native graphics on the z820 motherboard, so direct connection is not a possibility.  The laser on my mouse still glows when I boot up the system as well, so I don't know what is going on.


When I power on the system, the fans start up as normal, but then after about 20 seconds, they speed up to very high speed.


When I started, all components were viable parts; I have not noticed any damage to parts during my working on the system, other than one bent pin on one of the USB 3.0 "plugs" on the motherboard, which I then straightened. 


I am now WAY over my depth, so am hoping someone here will have some ideas.  Thanks for reading!

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Hmm, other than your SSD issue, all seemed to work OK with your z820 until that strange blue screen you received. After entering "1504" it seems you no longer get any output displayed on your monitor, have to put up with high speed fans and as a result you are locked out of firmware setup.


What the problem may be is anyones guess but since you get "Pre video memory error" when RAM is removed, it seems to indicate POST is doing its job (at least to some point) so your mobo isn't dead (as in lightning strike dead). 


So i'd look at BIOS crisis recovery technique to see if you can reflash the BIOS in the hope of seeing something on your monitor again. Have a read of z820 bricked BIOS after firmware update forum thread as well as HP article for HP descktop PCs - Recovering the BIOS and HP Compaq BIOS crisis recovery.


Much of the BIOS in laptops, desktops and workstations share a common lineage so do read all three of the above links even if two are not for workstations. Hopefully this may help you better understand BIOS reset and BIOS crisis recover for your z820.


Once you've read everything, then again reset BIOS password using the "password jumper" E49/JP49. Follow this with resetting BIOS to default settings using the "Clear CMOS button" . Both these procedures are decribed in the maintenance and services manual, section 5 page 120 so follow them explicitly.


Continue by preparing a FAT32 formated USB thumb drive with the DOS verion of the BIOS bin file placed on root of drive using another machine. You can peek inside the BIOS service pack, spxxx.exe, using 7-zip (google to find this great open source software) and thus extract the desired DOS bin file without executing teh serive pack on another machine.


The difficulty you may have is that you can't simply update the oldest z820 BIOS to the latest z820 BIOS. This is due to documented dependancies that also remove the ability to downgrade to any versin of BIOS. As such BIOS must be updated in certain steps (otherwise you can get silent failure in crisis recvery). Hopefully you took note of what BIOS version was installed on your machine and as such you can use this BIOS version for the crisis recovery version...


Then, with the USB thumb drive and the appropriate BIOS bin file, perform a crisis recovery using the process described by Asleigh-Paul. Be patient and let it do its thing and after a few restarts, hopefully you'll again see video and be able to enter setup.


Then hopefully your SSD issue can be addressed. BIOS updates towards the latest available can be done once everything else is working.


But as a warning, not knowing what was on the 'strange blue screen' makes it difficuly to help so in future i'd suggest using a camera to take snaps of such screens while also taking notes of what you are doing and in what order. It's all important when trying to remember what happened and for others to help remotely...


Lastly, your machine may already have been licensed for Win7 and you can determine if this is the case by decoding the featurebyte. If it was licensed, a HP system recovery disk will be enough to rebuild the OS and HP customisations.

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