Home opinion-and-analysis The Linux Distillery Restoring and updating the ASUS Eee Linux PC

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Well, I’ve been hornswaggled. My lovely brand-new ASUS Eee from Myer may have been a shop-soiled demo model. It wasn’t a virgin system but one that had played the field with many. Never worry: here’s how to take the ASUS Eee back to the complete factory image at any time, along with how to update the apps and Xandros Linux distro that it uses.
Last time, I reported my Eee booted into its bold iconic interface straight away; there was no login prompt or EULA. Yet, the instructional guide accompanying the unit says there should actually have been a first-time setup wizard.

Presumably, the Myer store turned the Eee on, themself, at some time – and went through the wizard, entering a username (they opted for brevity, entering the ever so subtle “m”) and – get this – accepting the EULA before on-selling it. This raises an interesting question for someone more legally-minded than I: what is the standing of an end-user license which has not been accepted by the end user, because they were never presented with it?

Nevertheless, time to turn the clock back. An ASUS support DVD is provided, loaded with Windows drivers and tools. The guide promises the existence of a tool to make a bootable recovery USB floppy disk. Obviously, the Eee doesn’t have its own optical disc and nor does it run Windows anyway (out of the box, at least, but ASUS provide Windows XP drivers so anyone can do so if they choose.)

The first snag with the support DVD is it needs a Windows PC; you can’t run its apps on another Linux system or a Mac. Secondly, the support disc doesn’t work as well as advertised. This may be a fault of the software or it may be a problem due to the Windows Vista system I used, but the disc’s autorun did nothing. Double-clicking setup.exe on the disc’s root did nothing. Running assetup.exe in the bin directory did nothing.

Happily, Toolhelper.exe found within the Software\BootTool folder did work – and this let me copy the ASUS Eee 701 image to a USB stick (provided it is larger than 1Gb) and make it bootable. Even so this wasn’t strictly troublefree; if you’re not paying close attention the “Quit” and “Run” buttons are in the opposite areas to where you’d normally expect.

Not to worry, it worked, and a bootable USB drive resulted which can restore the Eee to its pristine state at any time. Toolhelper was a two stage process; first it formats the USB drive. You are then prompted to remove the drive and re-insert it so Windows detects it again. Be careful not to click the badly worded “Retry” button too soon; open Windows Explorer to make sure the USB drive has been re-detected by Windows before continuing, otherwise my experience was the program wouldn’t continue – no matter how many attempts you made to retry afterwards; the only option was to cancel and restart.



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David M Williams

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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.