Most of the time when someone says they’re trying to update or downgrade the BIOS on their computer, they simply mean they want to change the software running on the BIOS. But sometimes that’s not so easy to do without physically modifying the BIOS chips — and that’s exactly what Eee User forum member naviathan figured out how to do with the aging Asus Eee PC 1000HE.

He’s posted information about how he found a compatible programmer module and reflashed the BIOS using a rather complicated set of hardware and software tools.

This isn’t naviathan’s first time hacking BIOS chips. His latest forum post is a follow-up to a previous post titled “Eee 901 BIOS: The Resurrection!” A True Story, highlighting the differences in the procedure that work on the Eee PC 901 from what works for the 1000HE.

People rarely mess with their BIOS, and even crashed BIOS are for the most part usually recoverable. But there are those who, for whatever reasons, can’t recover their BIOS and may not be covered by warranty. For those people alternate options can mean the difference from having to pay for a relatively low cost fix versus having to pay for a whole new system or at least a whole new motherboard, which itself may or may not be easily acquired and still account for a significant portion of the price of the system.

Technical stuff aside this is an impressive reminder that while netbooks have proven a successful market product for its obvious utilitarian design and low prices, a lesser known effect of netbooks is that they also helped inspire a subculture of hackers souping up their little computer with touchscreens, Bluetooth and even unauthorized operating systems like Apple’s Mac OS X.  There are also plenty of examples of more extreme examples like those who converted their netbooks into DIY tablets, carputers, as part of robotic kits, and other unusual designs and modifications.

Many newer netbooks are tougher to mod than early models. For instance, older netbooks typically had more redundant connectors such as unused USB data pins on the motherboard. That’s probably one of the reasons you don’t see as many advanced DIY mods on newer models. But many enthusiasts still continue to use early models and continue to develop creative solutions that include repairing bricked motherboards.

Incidentally, user-based community forums like the Eee User forum attract enough DIY enthusiasts that they often offer better tech support than even big companies can provide — and users often provide support for free, or at least for a much more reasonable one time fee if you’d rather send your system to them and have them fix or mod your system for you and is a side of the market most people who aren’t part of these forums are usually not aware of.

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