Sunday, July 29, 2007

Running Windows XP on my Everex VA4300M

I got a Everex VA4300M laptop this weekend and it came with Windows Vista® Home Basic and 512MB memory installed. With the hard disk doing IO all the time, this VA4300M appeared to be even slower than my 3-year old Thinkpad running windows XP. I purchased a 1GB memory stick but I heard that Vista needs at least 2GB memory. So I decided to give Windows XP a shot. But the process turned out to be more complicated than I had expected.

  1. Below is the Vista32 driver information of the VA4300M from the Readme.txt found in the "drivers" folder of the "VA Series" recovery DVD shipped with it (only Vista drivers are provided in the DVD Rev.VP):
    • [Chipset]--[VIA VN896]--Driver Version: Use build-in driver
    • [VGA]--[VIA VN896]--Driver Version: ('d)
    • [Audio]--[VIA Azalia VT1708A]--Driver Version: (logo'd)
    • [LAN]--[VIA VT6103L]--Driver version: (logo'd)
    • [Modem]--[Castlenet,(Motorolla chip)]--Driver Version: (logo'd)
    • [TouchPad]--[ALPS]--Driver Version: 7.0.1402.1 (logo'd)
    • [WLAN]--[AzureWave AW-GM100]-- Use build-in driver
    After I enable the "Boot-time diagnostic screen" in the "Advanced" tab of the BIOS setup, I found more information such as the south bridge is VT8237A and the make of the hard drive is WD and Optiarc for DVD burner. This VT8237A has both a SATA (VEN_1106&DEV_0591&CC_0101) and a PATA (VEN_1106&DEV_0571) controller as shown in the device manager, so service pack 2 may be necessary to install XP on it. Here I found a wonderful guide on creating a bootable XP installation CD with integrated service pack 2. And the device drivers for these ATA controllers can be found on VIAarena.

  2. The device drivers for windows XP found on the Everex website are incomplete. After I examined the links, I found all the downloads on the MODEL VA4300M page are copied from those for VA4101M. For e.g., I copied the file location for VA4300M WLAN XP driver here: wlan.exe. Nevertheless, I still downloaded all the files found on that page in case they might work and most of them (including audio, chipset, LAN, touchpad and VGA) did work. The ones didn't work:
    • Modem: Downloaded driver was not for the Motorola chip as shown above on the HD audio bus. But the Vista driver found on the DVD worked for XP.
    • Wireless LAN (big headache): Downloaded driver was not for the AzureWave AW-GM100 card as shown above and Vista has built-in driver support for it. So no driver is found on the DVD. And technical support of Everex didn't have a release date for its XP driver yet.

  3. The fact that Vista has native support for the wireless card made me think it may be using a very popular chip and other vendors may have released the XP drivers for it.
  • Device ID found on device manager: PCI\VEN_11AB&DEV_1FAA.
  • I searched the ID on internet and found the vendor_11Ab refers to Marvell Semiconductor, Inc. But I cound't find the XP drivers for the chip DEV_1FAA I need on its website.
  • Finally I found the name of the chip is Marvell Libertas 802.11b/g Wireless (8335) from I also found that TEW-421PC/423PI(Version B1.1R) made by TrendNet has identical PCI device ID and its XP driver can be downloaded from the website. All I need are the files under the folder "Drivers\windows XP" in the archive. No need to run the setup.exe.
  • The version of the driver found in the driver file mrv8335.inf is: Ver=08/22/2005, and it worked well with my wireless card in XP. After I push Fn+F2 to turn on the power of wireless radio, all wireless networks around are detected and I could connect to one at my home with excellent signal.