UPDATE N+1: For those who don’t want to read all the now very numerous comments, it seems that comment #128 is one of the more popular fixes for Vista/Win7, though many of the other excellent variants listed also work. My advice? Switch to linux, of course…
UPDATE N+2: Wow. It’s been six years. I’ve pretty much stopped blogging (got caught up with life things), and about the only reason I keep this blog going is for a couple of technical posts, this being one of them. Thanks, HP, for keeping this blog alive with your Code Purple BS! In any case, this seems to still be a problem even with new versions of Windows. I don’t know if it’s worth reading my original post — the commenters have all the solutions now., and the comments are of much greater value than the post. Thanks to all the commenters!
On with the original post…
God blessed us all again this year with the presence of family over the Christmas holiday, but the joy was tempered by some annoyance. My brother-in-law brought his desktop computer down for me to work on. In addition to upgrading some hardware, he complained that the machine had slowed down, was acting funny, etc. Of course he was running Windows XP.
Swapping out the hardware was easy. The damage left by untold viruses/malware was a bit more difficult. I told him that I could try to clean things up as much as I could, but the only way to make sure that he was clean would be to restore the system from scratch. I told him there was always a little effort involved in restoring a system — mostly from having to reinstall all the software he had put on — but it was probably the best way to go. He agreed.
So, I created the restore disks (HP and Compaq computers apparently do not ship with restore disks on board, but instead have a separate partition from which the user must burn the disks). I did a full restore, reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling Windows XP. Everything went like clockwork…
Until I rebooted the machine. Then I got an error that there was a “Configuration error” and that I should call “Customer Care” with “Error Code Purple.” T that point, I could only power off the machine.
What in the world was “Error Code Purple,” I wondered. A quick search on the net revealed that this was a booby trap placed in HP and Compaq computers in which a “tattoo” or numerical signature of the motherboard and hardware configuration is created at the factory and encoded into the restore disks on a particular computer. When you re-install your system, it checks to make sure the system has not been modified. If you have modified your system, the “tattoo” generated by the checking program will be different than the original, and the system will not boot.
In order to fix this, you have to send in your computer to Compaq, or take it so some place like CompUSA or BestBuy where they will modify the “tattoo” so you can run your software on your computer again — until the next time you upgrade memory or swap a card or DVD player.
For a fee, of course.
I will post a couple of fixes for this below. But first — I have to vent. I cannot believe that a company would pull such an anti-consumer action as to booby trap its machines so that you can’t reinstall the OS after changing the hardware configuration unless you pay them a fee. One forum on the net said HP wanted to charge him over a hundred bucks for the privilege. This is obscene.
The funny thing is that I originally assumed it was some stupid thing with Windows XP. I have long been used to finding out idiotic anti-consumer “features” in Windows XP — which is why I run Linux on all of my boxes. I am flabbergasted that a company would decide that Windows is not anti-consumer enough, so they needed to make things even less convenient.
People should not buy HP or Compaq products as long as this policy is in place. This is inexcusable. And it ate up most of an afternoon that I should have been spending with family rather than trying to hack my way into a box before the family left.
So, here’s a couple of fixes for you folk who are burdened with an HP or Compaq computer and end up having to reinstall the OS after making a hardware change.
The underlying problem is that there is a .bat file that calls a python script to check the tattoo upon boot up. If you remove that call, then there is no check and the machine boots up just fine.
The file is:
UPDATE: A reader whose comments were deleted in my server crash noted that the file should really be:
(e.g. switch CheckConfig with ConfigCheck)
UPDATE2: A reader (see comment #23 by Nitrazepam) has found a similar solution for Vista, where the offending passages seem to be in the C:\hp\bin\CheckDMI folder. I don’t run Windows on any of my boxes — I stumbled on this thing working on my brother-in-law’s box when it broke — I don’t have any idea about changes associated with Vista. Thanks, Nitrazepam!!!
UPDATE2.5: See also comment 104. A couple of people seem to have found this to be even easier. Thanks, Red Dragon!
UPDATE3: Reader Chris Smiddy (comment 128) suggests an even easer fix for Vista. I don’t run Vista on any of my boxes, so I can’t test it, but it seems too easy not to try… Thanks, Chris!!!
UPDATE4: Claudio (comment 130) notes that this is a “hidden” directory and/or file, so you have to be showing hidden stuff if you are using a Windoze recovery disk.
The solution is to get a boot disk that will allow you to edit the hard drive and clear that file. I just deleted everything in cfgchk.bat and left an empty file with that name.A Windows solution was provided by “Alecstar” at geek.com. The discussion can also be seen on the usenet newsgroup alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt. It is to either get the commercial Windows Preinstallation Evironment, a minimal bootable OS that allows you to run from CD (which, of course, Microsoft will not sell to mere consumers), or make one using BartPE. This will allow you to edit the hard drive directly. Go to the cfgchk.bat file, edit it, save the empty file, and reboot.
I have never been able to successfully build a BartPE disk, mostly because the Windows disks I have never seem to be compatible with the ones BartPE requires — I have too old a version, the wrong service pack, etc. It’s too much of a hassle for me, but if you are a Windows person, go for it.
A much simpler (for me) Linux solution is to get a bootable mini-distro that has Captive-NTFS (which allows writing to NTFS disks) on it, and edit the file that way. Sources on the net wrote that Knoppix had Captive-NTFS in its Utilities, but when I downloaded the most recent stable Knoppix, it was not there. Instead, there was a note that there was an experimental NTFS writable system on the DVD, which I didn’t have time to download. Instead, I found a *wonderful* boot disk called the “Ultimate Boot Disk.” It comes in two forms — Basic and Full. The “Full” version contains a stripped down Knoppix with Captive-NTFS that allowed me to easily access the hard drive and empty cfgchk.bat. NOTE — SEE UPDATE BELOW.
UPDATE6: Captive-NTFS is no longer maintained, and is probably unnecessary. Just about all of the newer distros I’ve looked at can read and write to NTFS drives. LINUX advances on. I know that both SUSE and Mandriva distros do well at reading and writing to NTFS drives, and I assume (but haven’t tested) Ubuntu. So any of the live distros of these should work, such as Mandriva One.
UPDATE7: See Jill’s comment #98 — there have now been a couple folk who have followed her directions using the Ultimate Boot CD. Thanks, Jill!
UPDATE 8: “helpful” in comment 166 has a solution without a bootable disk, but with an intact recovery partition (for Vista, I presume). Thanks, “helpful”!
So that’s it — download a boot disk, edit the file, and reboot.
And, as Alecstar noted, never buy a Compaq or HP box again.