Re: The Acer TravelMate 8215WLMi

A sizeable minority of searches which bring people to this blog seem to have to do with enabling hardware virtualization on the Acer Travelmate range of notebooks.

Although this feature – specifically: Intel Virtualization Technology (VT for short) – is present in at least some of the Intel Core 2 Duo processors which ship in the TravelMate 8210 series, such as the T7200 powering my 8215WLMi, it is disabled in BIOS by Acer.

This (probably) allowed them to share a single BIOS image across multiple models; maybe even across their entire Centrino/Centrino Duo range. And, at the time, other notebook manufacturers did something similar – Sony, among them, with most models in their Vaio range.

Recently, my own 8215 wore out – after two-and-a-bit years of near-constant use, the fan quite literally ground to a halt. Lest the innards melt and ooze out through the vents, I replaced the machine outright with a shiny new Dell.

Up until the end, I had periodically checked on-line for ways and means by which one might enable VT on the 8215. The last such trawl threw up a pair possibilities: upgrading the BIOS with a compatible version from an alternative vendor; and patching the existing BIOS NVRAM so as to unlock VT.

I never got around to pursuing either, but I post them here on the off-chance that someone else might find them useful. It’s timely, as well: the recently announced XP Mode of Windows 7 will require hardware-accelerated virtualization to work.

Upgrading the BIOS from an Alternative Vendor:
The BIOS in the 8215WLMi is based on PhoenixBIOS, from Phoenix Technologies. BiosAgentPlus.com claims to be able to “quickly identify and update” PhoenixBIOS, among others. This is a paid-for subscription service (USD$29.95/year, as of writing) and there’s no indication (or claim), anywhere, that they will provide a subscriber with anything other than the latest BIOS from the manufacturer. In fact, having checked this out to write it up here, it’s not clear that this is worth pursuing any further.

Patching the existing BIOS:
As noted above, the BIOS in the 8215WLMi is based on PhoenixBIOS, in common with several other makes of notebook, such as the aforementioned Sonys. At least some of the users in this forum claim to have successfully patched the PhoenixBIOS-based BIOS in their respective Vaios to enable VT, and this poster claims to have been able to patch the BIOS in his Acer 5684 “in order to enable the VT flag.”

In one respect, this seems a more promising option, for which the Phoenix BIOS Editor may be useful. But to mess with a PC’s BIOS like this is to run the risk of bricking the computer. So, caveat hax0r.

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