Asus Vivobook will not boot - black screen, no bios/uefi, nothing
I'm attempting to repair a Windows 8 Asus Vivobook (Q301LA-BHI5T02) laptop and I have exhausted just about every option. I'm starting to lose hope that I'll be able to repair it. Here is the issue and then I'll go into what I have done so far (unsuccessfully).
The laptop will not boot. Pressing power will light up the power button, the caps lock LED (for some reason, but NOT the wireless LED), the Power LED indicator lights up white, the battery LED indicator lights up amber (charging), and the HDD LED lights up white, but then blinks. The screen does nothing - it's black - no flicker, no back light. The original owner told me she thought it was a HDD issue (no idea why she believed that as she is not computer savvy). HDD makes no noise so it perhaps it is at fault. However, I should at least be able to access BIOS/UEFI, right? I pulled the HDD, set it up in an enclosure and ran a health check on the drive. I booted up my MacBook Pro and ran a first aid check using disk utility. The result came back and said there was an issue with the partition map or guide, and it may present issues booting. Well, look at that, I do have issues booting. The HDD works just fine, seemingly. I'm able to browse all folders and files, access pictures and videos, etc.
Here's what I've done - this model doesn't have a removable battery - so I disconnected the battery and tried booting with just the charger. No dice. I've attempted every keyboard/F button + power button combo possible (escape, delete, f2, fn+f5, f5, f9, f12) and I get nothing. My first thought was maybe the screen is busted, so I plugged it into an external monitor via HDMI and tried all the previous steps again, still nothing. Looking at the internals of the laptop, nothing seems to be damaged or anything. I decided to pop off the little cover over the RAM modules to see if maybe the RAM wasn't seated properly, etc. To my surprise this particular Asus model doesn't have any RAM installed! My belief was this model had 4GBs of RAM. I had read that 2GBs was soldered to the motherboard and not up-gradable, and there was a 2GB stick in the other slot that could accept up to an 8GB stick. It would seem that this model has no RAM installed in the removable slot, operating with only the soldered RAM, so that rules out an improperly seated RAM stick. Would buying a new RAM stick and installing it help me out here? I would think not, but I'll try anything to get this laptop working.
Here's what I don't understand - why can't I boot into the BIOS/UEFI? If the issue is with the HDD having a damaged/corrupted partition map, shouldn't I be able to access the BIOS, or boot from USB? By the way, I made a bootable Windows 8 USB (technically it was an SD Card as I have misplaced all my USB drives, doh!) but I can't seem to get any life out of the screen. Furthermore, since this isn't my computer, I don't know how it was used before this problem occurred. And since the owner is not a computer savvy individual, I really have no way of knowing if this laptop had Windows 8 or 8.1, was it 32 or 64 bit? Even the stuff I thought I knew turned out to be incorrect, as this model has only the soldered RAM, and it's the touch screen (in my research before I got my hands on the laptop, it seemed this model did not have a touchscreen. What I do know for sure, is that this laptop came with Windows 8 preinstalled (it wasn't an upgrade from 7). I asked the original owner if she ever updated it to 8.1, and she said she wasn't sure (of course). So I know it's running Windows 8, was probably never updated, has only one soldered stick of RAM (but unsure if it's 2GBs or 4GBs), has the Core i5, and a touch screen.
My idea was to just put a new HDD in it and reinstall Windows, but this presented an issue of course too. I haven't owned a Windows machine since Vista (Vista ruined it for me). It seems now starting with Windows 8, they don't print the product code on the bottom of the computer anymore. So I have no idea how to reinstall Windows if I can't access the product key! I think next I want to see if I can somehow lift the product key from the motherboard. I have found a few programs that claim they can find the product key embedded in the motherboard. Unfortunately, and naturally of course, the freeware program I found can't do it. The program that can will cost me $20-$40 and I'm not really trying to spend that on a product key that's already been purchased. Does anyone know of a good, free (or at least cheaper) alternative to find my Windows product key?
I downloaded a program called Testdisk for Windows to see if I could repair the boot partition table (my MacBook Pro is dual booted with Windows 10). It scanned the whole disk and told me it didn't find anything. I told it to "search deeper" and still said it found nothing. Disk Utility in OSX told me the partition table was problematic, so I'm not sure if Testdisk doesn't work as advertised, or if I told it the wrong thing. It asks for the partition table type, I selected Intel since it was being used in a Windows machine. Should I have tried something different? Is there a different type of program I could use to repair the boot partition table?
After fixing the HDD I still don't know if that will fix my issues if I can't even boot into the BIOS or UEFI. Does anyone have any insight into this at all? The laptop is not even 2 years old, definitely out of warranty, and only worth like $200 so it isn't even worth getting Asus to fix it - I'm sure they'd charge more than it's worth.
Everything I've tried to find online tells me how to boot into BIOS/UEFI from within Windows. There doesn't seem to be any documentation on how to boot into BIOS/UEFI when Windows won't boot. All I have found is that "when Windows detects an issue at boot, it will automatically boot into recovery/bios/uefi (or whatever). Yeah, I wouldn't really have had much faith in that even if I wasn't in the situation I'm currently in. Because it would seem that if Disk Utility can tell there's an issue, why wouldn't the computer the HDD originally came from be able to tell there's a boot issue, and boot me into the bios or some other method so that I can repair my partition table? I'm just really hoping there isn't an issue with the graphics, because that's the only other thing I can think of. In years past I was given an HP laptop that no one wanted because it "didn't work". It booted up just fine the first two times I used it, then it would get to the bios menu and beep constantly - turns out that model had a well documented issue of the GPU overheating, and needing to be reseated/reglued. The beep "code" told you what was wrong. With this Asus, I'm getting nothing at all.
This was a super long post, if you have read everything I am super appreciative. If anyone could give me any insight at all, or even just a thought as to something that maybe could possibly help I would be forever in debt to you (no joke, this laptop really has me at a loss). I can post pictures, video, and/or screenshots of anything you need to see more clearly. Thanks
So I've tried pretty much everything to no avail. I'm still searching online for possible solutions to this day, but I haven't found anything that will work. ASUS of course told me they could fix it if I sent it to them, but there's no way I'm paying as much as this laptop originally cost just to get it fixed by ASUS. ASUS was unforuttnely incredibly unhelpful when I talked to them on the phone. It was basically "send it to us and let us charge you" or look for a new computer. If I could simply access the BIOS/UEFI then I could boot from an external drive and reinstall Windows (or Linux) and I'd be more than happy with that. But it seems these Win 8/8.1 computers weren't built to directly access the BIOS/UEFI from a cold boot. Dumbest thing I've ever heard, I wish I know who was responsible for eliminating any method of entering the BIOS/UEFI from a cold boot so I could slap them across the face.
I appreciate everyone's suggestions; unfortunately no button combination or method of removing the battery has done a thing for me so far. I might try to see if there's something wrong with the on board graphics, perhaps even the CPU, but I'm not sure what all I'd be able to do if I found out one of those components is the problem. I'm worried about the soldered RAM, because if it's a RAM problem I won't be able to simply remove and replace the module like I could on basically any other computer - making a formerly easy DIY fix an expensive and huge PIA (assuming I'd need to send it to ASUS for that).
I will continue to look for a solution to this though, unless of course I find a decent deal on a sub 15" laptop with a Core i5, at which point in time I'll probably give up on this ASUS.
I miss the days where you could just swap in a new HDD, fire up a bootable Windows DVD or USB drive and be on your way. Why did they stop doing stuff like this?
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