Atomic Pi BIOS secret: It’s not “bricked”

So, I have been using the Atomic Pi for a couple years now. I have one continually hooked up to the internet, and use it primarily to view Youtube videos. I have the FreeBSD OS loaded onto a micro-SD, and use that as the boot medium. The Atomic works OK most days, but there seems to be a quirk in the BIOS that occasionally causes it to try to boot ceaselessly from the internal eMMc memory, which I don’t use. The Atomic seems “bricked” at this point because it never seems to return to the BIOS setup page after a failed boot from the blank eMMc. I have found through trial-and-error that I can disable the eMMc memory in the CPU-Southbridge part of the BIOS setup, and the Atomic will boot the correct uSD drive.

From the point of the eMMc being disabled, usually the Atomic will boot to the microSD card. But, for a couple of years, the thing has occasionally “lost its mind” – and returned to the boot-from-emmc routine, in spite of the fact that I’d set the BIOS eMMc device to the “disabled” setting.

There are comments on the internet to the effect that you should press the reset button, unplug the Atomic, and then plug it back into the power source repeatedly until the BIOS screen appears. This sometimes works, but rarely and only by accident. What is really happening is that the BIOS reset switch is setting the BIOS to the initial default settings. So, hitting the reset button undoes the setting changes I may have made to disable the eMMc. I occasionally hit the BIOS reset button by mistake (it’s easy to do) – and then it loses it’s custom settings.

After the BIOS is reset with the button, it seems the device does not want to step into the BIOS setup page. It seems to “freeze” with the logo on the screen. This prompts many users to go into a reset-unplug-plug-in routine that accomplishes nothing. I discovered that the real issue is an excessive timeout for the default boot drive sequence. The timeout is about 3-4 minutes, believe it or not. Just let the “freeze” screen sit for about 3-4 minutes, and the BIOS setup page will appear. This assumes that your have pressed the del key at least once during the “freeze” period, else the cycle of timeouts with continue.

The real solution is to glue a small piece of plastic onto the side of the unit, to protect the BIOS reset from accidental reset.


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