Processors

10 common mistakes you should avoid when flashing your BIOS

The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is critical to the proper operation of your computer. The decision to flash your BIOS should not be taken lightly. It is essential that you do it mistake free if you still want to be able to use your computer. Alan Norton runs through 10 common mistakes you need to avoid.

The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is critical to the proper operation of your computer. It is the first code that is executed at start-up and defines the way your motherboard will communicate with the system hardware components.

The decision to flash your BIOS should not be taken lightly. It is essential that you do it mistake free if you still want to be able to use your computer.

For the purposes of this article I am going to assume that you understand the risks of flashing your BIOS and have a good reason for upgrading your existing BIOS. If are not familiar with the basics of flashing the BIOS or if you are not 100 percent sure that flashing your BIOS is the right thing to do then please read the companion article Three Good Reasons for Flashing Your BIOS.

Disclaimer: Flashing the BIOS incorrectly can lead to an unusable system. Flash the BIOS at your own risk.

I have detailed ten common mistakes that are made during a BIOS upgrade listed in order from the beginning to the end of the BIOS flashing process.

This blog post is also available in the PDF format as a TechRepublic Download.

1. Misidentification of your motherboard make/model/revision number

If you built your computer then you know the brand of the motherboard that you purchased and you will also likely know the model number. The revision number may be less well known to you.

If you purchased your computer prebuilt, as most people do, then you probably don't know what is under the hood. You might be able to get the information by entering the serial number of the PC on a Web site, but when it comes to flashing your BIOS you need to be 100 percent accurate and the information on the Web site could be incorrect. The only way to know for sure your motherboard make is to pop off the side panel or open the case and take a peek. (Figure A) Look for the manufacturer, model number and a revision number. (Figure B)

Figure A

The motherboard make is printed on the motherboard. Do not get the name from the fans.

Figure B

The motherboard model can be printed on the motherboard or as in this case, on a sticker placed on the motherboard.
You can also get pertinent information from the initial POST screen. (Figure C) The first line in the upper left portion of the screen shows the BIOS maker and version. The second line shows the motherboard model, BIOS version and date. The lower left section of the screen shows the BIOS version date, motherboard model and BIOS ID.

Figure C

Initial POST screen showing motherboard model and BIOS information
eSupport.com has a BIOS scan browser plugin utility that works with IE Explorer and Firefox. (Figure D) You can use it to verify the information that you have gotten from a visual inspection of the motherboard, but not as your sole source of information.

Wim's BIOS Website claims that the plugin has no adware or spyware but use it at your own risk. Vista users will need to run IE Explorer or Firefox as an Administrator to allow it to work.

Figure D

A screenshot of the results of the free BIOS & Device Driver Update Inquiry

I could not find a revision number on my motherboard. The initial POST screen and BIOS scan makes no mention of one either. The full model name of my board is 975X7AB-8EKRS2H. There is, however, a 975X7AB-2.0-8EKRS2H version of my motherboard, which makes the correct identification of my motherboard very important when it comes to finding and downloading the correct BIOS update file.

2. Failing to research or understand the BIOS update details

Even properly researching the changes in the BIOS upgrades may not be enough to completely understand exactly what was changed. Often these BIOS upgrade notes are written by techs with little or poor knowledge of English and rarely are the details noted in full. It is not uncommon to find something similar to this.

X38-002A BIOS Upgrade

21/10/2007

Fix to E6400 S3 resume problem

There are several issues with this. You need to know what E6400 and S3 are. Even after learning that an E6400 is an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and S3 is one of four sleep functions in the PC's power settings, you then need to know if you have an E6400 CPU. If you do, are you using the S3 STR (Suspend To RAM) Sleep option in Windows and having problems with it?

You can't expect your motherboard manufacturer to explain what E6400 and S3 mean, but they should be able to explain what the problem was that was fixed. Perhaps if more people requested this, more detailed information might be included in the BIOS update notes in the future.

Most BIOS updates are cumulative. You will need to review all of the BIOS update notes after your current BIOS version in order to know all of the changes made with the latest upgrade version.

3. Flashing your BIOS for a fix that is not needed

As you can see from the example above, it is often difficult to understand exactly what fix was implemented with a BIOS upgrade. It is equally difficult for the average PC user to determine if any of the hardware in their system is included in the fix. As a rule of thumb if your computer is operating normally, leave it alone.

If you are unsure if a BIOS update will fix a problem that you are having with your PC, you can ask for more information from the manufacturer. Be 100 percent sure that the BIOS update will fix any issues that you may be having before flashing the BIOS. Hoping a BIOS update will fix a problem that you are experiencing is a poor reason to risk a BIOS flash.

4. Flashing your BIOS with the wrong BIOS file

Most BIOS updates come as a zipped file containing the binary code file, the flash utility, and sometimes a README file. Flashing the erasable memory of your BIOS with the wrong code is almost certain to cause failure the next time you try to boot. Be careful when selecting the file. Many motherboard model names are similar within a single manufacturer. Download the file for the exact make/model/revision of your motherboard.

The flash utility included in the download should match the BIOS manufacturer information on the initial POST screen. In the example above, I have an Award BIOS from Phoenix Technologies (Phoenix Technologies and Award merged in 1998). The older version of the Award flash utility that I received in my BIOS update file was called AWDFLASH.EXE. The latest version is called AFU869.EXE. The acronym AFU stands for the Award Flash Update Utility. It also coincidentally stands for what happens if your flash goes bad.

5. Using an outdated version of the manufacturer flash utility or tool

You may be tempted to pull out the CD that came with the motherboard or computer and use the utilities on the CD to flash your BIOS. It is well worth your time to download the latest utilities from your motherboard manufacturer or computer maker. There is usually a good reason why a new version of the flash program has been made available.

You will need to go to the motherboard manufacturer or computer makers Website to download the latest version of the BIOS code anyway, so plan to download the latest flashing utilities or tools at the same time.

6. Not following or understanding the motherboard manufacturers specific directions

Most of you reading this article and considering a BIOS upgrade are probably of the male persuasion. Like me you probably don't like reading and following directions. This is one time when reading and following the motherboard manufacturer instructions are essential. Each motherboard has specific steps that must be followed to have the upgrade succeed.

One example of this is a jumper on some motherboards or a setting in some BIOSes that must be changed to enable BIOS memory writing.

Instructions for flashing your make of motherboard can usually be found on the manufacturers Website. Specific instructions are sometimes placed in a README.txt file that comes with the BIOS flash file. Look for and read the instructions in this file carefully.

If you have read all of the steps needed to flash your BIOS and there are some steps that you don't understand, get help from the manufacturer or consider having a professional do the install for you.

7. Flashing your BIOS without an UPS or at higher risk times

It is best to flash your BIOS with a UPS installed to provide backup power to your system. A power interruption or failure during the flash will cause the upgrade to fail and you will not be able to boot the computer.

Don't assume that this can't happen to you. I was converting the file system on the root drive on a PC once at 2:00 in the morning when I heard a loud pop outside. The lights blinked and the conversion failed. Apparently a transformer had blown in the neighborhood interrupting my power just long enough to ruin my day, or rather night. I had to reinstall the operating system from scratch.

If you don't have access to a UPS, flash the BIOS in the late evenings or when the risk of power outages are lower. Avoid flashing the BIOS during thunderstorms, windy days, high peak electrical usage, prime drive time or any other time when power outages are more likely.

8. Flashing the BIOS from within Windows with other applications running

Flashing your BIOS from within Windows is universally discouraged by motherboard manufacturers. If you absolutely must flash your BIOS from within Windows and are willing to accept the additional risks involved, close all running applications and unnecessary processes. Antivirus processes running in the background are notorious for causing problems.

TechRepublic has a list of services that can be disabled in XP and in Vista.

9. Flashing an overclocked system

Some information I found while researching this article recommended not flashing your PC while it is overclocked. You may be able to successfully flash your overclocked system, but why take the additional risks? I don't recommend overclocking except for the most experienced users with minimal changes and only for good reason. If you have an overclocked PC, you should be familiar enough with the BIOS to be able to reset the settings to their default values. Play it safe and throttle back.

10. Failing to have a recovery plan if the BIOS flash fails

When things go wrong it is a good idea to have a recovery plan. If your flash utility offers it, make a backup of your existing BIOS code. If this option is not available, download a copy of your current BIOS version or find a utility that will back up your current BIOS code. The original BIOS file should be on a bootable floppy with the flash utility and ready to install.

Prepare in advance for a floppy read failure by making bootable backup copies to have on hand. Mark your floppies with the BIOS version to know which are the new, and which are the original versions. It is also a good idea to copy the files to a Temp directory on the hard drive to verify that the files can be read or you can run CHKDSK to verify that there are no bad sectors on the floppy.

Research possible recovery options in advance and print them out. One example of this for some Dell PC's is the BIOS Boot Block Jumper J7D2 instructions.

If you plan for a failure you will be less likely to panic if one occurs. If a failure does happen to you, do not turn off your computer. A failed flash means that the BIOS is likely corrupted and a reboot will fail. Keep the support number for your computer written down and available.

Plan for the worst case scenario; consider keeping a backup PC handy and ready to use.

The Final Word

If you have noticed some themes in this article then you are quite perceptive, patient reader:

  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
  • Minimize the risks
  • Become educated and do your research
  • Double and triple check your work

I hope that these ten tips will aid you the next time you upgrade your BIOS. Happy flashing to you.

Additional Resources

  • TECHARP - Detailed explanations of various BIOS settings.
  • Intel - Desktop motherboards BIOS settings dictionary.
  • BIOSFLASH - Good BIOS flash how-to.

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

65 comments
jamilaiub
jamilaiub

Once I was having ASUS P5-PEVM mobo. I bought a 1TB Hitachi HDD (SATA v2) and connected to its SATA port. Not recognized in BIOS. After fair amount of research, I found nothing at all. Then upgraded the BIOS (though BIOS upgrade page of the manufacturer said nothing about this kind of fix & even support team replied that the HDD should work without update). Guess what? Problem solved. The common wisdom "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" did NO good to me.

ricardobaggins
ricardobaggins

Great article! but i only read Post flashing my BIOS, and having read the article, i now find myself slightly lucky to be able to type this out for you! I have an emachines G640 laptop, and a consistent problem i've had is that when in use, for no reason than to seemingly p!ss me off, whatever program i'm running (firefox, a game, watching a movie), it just 'non-responds'. It has done this pretty much since i got it, 30/12/2010, and i found myself at the end of my tether not being able to fix it. So, looking for a solution, i found the laptop manufacturers website, and d/loaded some fresh drivers and such and saw a BIOS d/load, so looking at my laptop's make, downloaded the appropriate one. it was only after the flash i wondered what it had actually done and found myself here. Lucky me i guess for following the manufacturers guidelines i suppose!

nikitac
nikitac

I just reinstalled, formatted, downloaded all the MS updates etc etc. I updated my bios at MB website. Next boot was ok but the one after that.........OMG. I've done it many times but, I will probably never update again. Well, maybe but I'll have to have a damn good reason to do it.

Zenith545
Zenith545

Shame on you for your plug of ebios.com (which is actually BiosAgentPlus.com). Shame for you not divulging the subscription requirements and their current fee. Shame on you for not researching this site further before you give a plug for them. IMHO - this is a totally misleading site. Their tool marked several of my drivers "BAD", when in fact they are NOT bad, they are just older versions. See #3 of your article for why they are not BAD and why I should not update them. This site will get more computer savvy people in huge trouble. ...AND they infer there is a BIOS update for my system when I know in fact there IS NOT. Shame, SHAME, SHAME! on you. Oh! I'm sorry - didn't notice they were one of your advertisers - not much objectivity in that, is there?

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

I have built computers for the past 10 years, for myself and others. At times, when the OS is upgraded or when a new piece of hardware is installed, the computer will mysteriously start behaving erratically. That is when a new BIOS update is needed. Like the article says, do your research. Make sure you are getting an update to the correct version and make of your BIOS. If you don't, most BIOS flashing software has checks that can insure that you are using the correct version. As for me, I have flashed a few BIOSes, without a battery backup. The entire process takes about 30-60 seconds, albeit intense, as you are taking the risk of FUBARing your computer. Fortunately, I haven't messed up any motherboards in the process, and more often than not the computer runs better after the BIOS has been flashed.

jxu68
jxu68

This is a good direction. I met a problem with my bios updating. Hope someone can help me. The motherboard is Asus A8N-E AMD, 2005. After three years the chipset fan has big noise and always got wrong time when turn on the pc. I changed motherboard battery and replace chipset fan with a heatsink. But the time is still wrong. Contacted Asus support, but they never pay any attention. I have to try to update bios. Now updated bios from v1005 to v1013. But it still shows wrong clock when pc get up. After made some change on the bios, save that, it still gets 14/04/2006 wrong time. Other changes also can???t be kept. Is bios chipset or bios flash problem? The XP system info shows the bios is v1013. Thanks for any help Peter Jxu68@iinet.net.au

jxu68
jxu68

This is a good direction. I met a problem with my bios updating. Hope someone can help me. The motherboard is Asus A8N-E AMD, 2005. After three years the chipset fan has big noise and always got wrong time when turn on the pc. I changed motherboard battery and replace chipset fan with a heatsink. But the time is still wrong. Contacted Asus support, but they never pay any attention. I have to try to update bios. Now updated bios from v1005 to v1013. But it still shows wrong clock when pc get up. After made some change on the bios, save that, it still gets 14/04/2006 wrong time. Other changes also can't be kept. Is bios chipset or bios flash problem? The XP system info shows the bios is v1013. Thanks for any help Peter Jxu68@iinet.net.au

hugh
hugh

I never throw away BIOS chips ... might come in handy one day !!!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

First tip: If the BIOS manufacturer provides an image for a bootable flash disk, [b]use it[/b]. You shouldn't be flashing the BIOS from inside the OS anyway and the image will create a bootable disk with the sole purpose of flashing the BIOS. Boot to the disk, confirm the flash, and go. Yes, you might need to purchase a USB floppy drive. Second tip: If you are having hardware issues after an OS upgrade and you have installed all the drivers, check your BIOS version. You may need to upgrade the BIOS to work with the new OS. The tales: I used to work with a tech we called "Flash" because that was his first response to almost any problem with a PC: flash the BIOS. Printer not working? Flash the BIOS. Mouse issues? Flash the BIOS. Keyboard broken? Monitor problems? No sound? Flash the BIOS. Only then would he proceed to the actually fault isolation and correction. We finally cured him of this habit when he flashed the BIOS in a laptop and hosed it; the laptop would POST, display the XP splash screen, then bluescreen and hang. We flashed the laptop with the original BIOS version and it recovered. Seems the newer BIOS had compatibility issues with WinXP...or vice versa. My worst nightmare occurred when a truck hit a pole outside as I was flashing an IBM 350. Power went down just after "Erasing" appeared on the screen. Thankfully, the PC rebooted to the flash diskette with no problems.

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

But since I only re-boot about once a week my errant BIOS is not that much of a problem. A replacement motherboard resulted in the BIOS not recognising my E6850 CPU, and the BIOS is reporting the need to Flash it itself. A simple BIOS setup entry to set the multiplier to 24, once a week, has been my excuse for NOT flashing as yet. My BIOS apparently flashes from a USB thumbdrive on bootup. But after a month, I have yet to steel myself.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Or if you have a totally dead computer.Try the BIOS CMOS reset jumper.Power Off and disconnected,then reset the jumper for a minute then return the jumper to its original location.There's metal oxide in the BIOS chip.Various BIOS parameter settings can be saved in the Chipset.In the BIOS the clock speed that the magnetic bits are read or written at can be adjusted or tweaked.Times 10,100,1000 and so on.You would increase the clock speed to record ten gigs of information onto a floppy.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Your DVD writer has firmware with software and DVD parameter settings recorded in it.It too also has a BIOS.I see the Chipset as holding software programs.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

I think a very high voltage is used to record this BIOS file.Possibly trillions of volts.The BIOS pages could never be erased.It's like your credit card magnetic strip.The BIOS flash is just BIOS switch settings.I'm staying away from BIOS flashing and concentrating on virus removal.I reboot to Safe Mode>Administrator then I click out the Hide stuff.I then delete files in all the Temp folders and Internet Temporary files.I also remove the files in the Windows Installer folder before I surf for porn.This is so virus exe's don't start.Porn is hacker and FCC scan.(I think iPorn is supposed to be Hospitals.)

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I was a developer for years and never learned how to flash a BIOS. To be honest, just the thought of having my computer unavailable due to a bad flash was more than enough of an excuse to avoid the issue altogether. Which makes me wonder just how many other IT pros out there, excluding the hardcore hardware types, quake in their boots at the mere thought of flashing their BIOS. I would like to hear any BIOS flashing stories you might have - good or bad. I will be hanging around to answer any questions that you might have and participate in this forum. Any and all feedback welcome.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I ran across this tool at Wim's BIOS Website while doing research for the article. It was a helpful tool for displaying in Windows some of the BIOS information pertinent to this article. It's news to me that they are an advertiser here at Tech Republic, if indeed that is true. I can assure you that it had no influence whatsoever in my decision to include it in the article. If you want to give me grief for not doing my homework as to eSupport.com or BiosAgentPlus.com, then guilty as charged. I was primarily concerned that the plug-in was not malware and stated what I discovered - Wim's BIOS claims that there is no adware or spyware. I also stated that it is a 'use at your own risk' plugin. I have a strict policy of NOT 'plugging' any hardware, software or service. I do like to offer to my readers tools that are low cost or no cost that they may find useful. Thank you for the feedback but you are misinformed as to my intentions or alleged intentions.

blotto5
blotto5

I had this old computer that had an intel celeron 2.7 in it and i was using it as a bridge until i got up enough money to finish building my computer. Turns out i had a whole lot of problems building my computer, it started with an inadequate PS then it was the MB not supplying enough power for the power hungry AMD phenom 9850 quad, then to a u need a bios update to run the phenom 9850. My problem was that i had no way of flashing the bios without a processor, so i had a friend who works in IT do it for me with a processor that worked in it. Gettin bac to the old computer, i wanted to upgrade to a 2.8 P4 instead of my celeron to get the boost in performance for the while i was running it and also because im giving it to my sister. i checked for the MB model number and version and found a string of letters and numbers that i thought was it so i searched it and it wasnt exactly the model number but it was printed on a certain kind of MB that i was given the model number for on this support website so i did all the research and got the bios flash file and the file to run it when i go to boot. So i booted it up then had the file to flash the bios start then i looked at the info at the bottom left and it said the mb i was running was different than the one the file was compatible with, so it turned out i wouldve flashed with the wrong bios version and had a big paperweight because of my inexperiance in not looking for the model number throughly enough. Went to HPs website with the new model number got the file and the exe file to run it and it was windows based and i had no trouble at all running it.

swheeler
swheeler

Last time I built a set of computers for the law firm I worked for I had to flash the BIOS to bring the mobos up to spec. The hardest part was (un)installing a floppy drive to each box to do the flash. (I purposely left floppies off these boxes to make the staff use the approved document templates.) How did I survive it? I did my research, followed directions, and took a deep breath before each flash. I have no illusions on the possible outcomes from playing with the BIOS. Overall, I'd have to say I feel safer flashing a BIOS than I do driving. :)

dryd
dryd

Hi Peter, When I had a A7N266-VM board, I found the Asus newsgroup alt.comp.periphs.mainboard.asus on usenet was a very good and friendly place for all sorts of Asus advice. PS to Alan: alt.comp.hardware does look very good. I should have thought of this myself. It's quite a famous newsgroup. Thanks for the reminder. I think I just felt like chatting with someone about flashing bios's. No one I know is at all interested in the subject! I wonder why? (-:

Zenith545
Zenith545

Could be the motherboard is just faulty - not providing the proper power to keep the BIOS settings, even though you have a new CMOS battery.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

You can make some tech friends that way too -once they find out you have some spares. :-) For super critical PC's/servers requiring a BIOS update it might be a really good idea to have a spare BIOS chip handy. May be a business opportunity there. Order a BIOS chip as a spare in advance for a nominal fee and return it when the flash goes well or buy it if it goes bad. I've seen lots of sites that sell BIOS chips but haven't seen any that rent/loan them.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Thanks for those two great stories. I wondered if anybody HAD actually experienced a power outage exactly like you described when remembering my unlucky File System conversion experience. You think something like that can never happen to you and then reality smacks you up side of the head. What do you figure the odds were of that truck hitting a power pole at the exact same time 'Erasing' appeared on the screen? They have to be pretty low.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I can relate to your story. I bought a 30 GB hard drive rather than risk a BIOS flash. The PC's BIOS supported up to 32 GB drives. It's sort of a 'lose - lose' situation. If you do the BIOS flash and it fails you will wonder why you messed with it. Don't do it and every week you will have to spend time with the workaround and wonder whether you should do the flash. I had to feel real comfortable that I was prepared and had done my homework before I attempted my first flash.

ScarF
ScarF

No really, man. Why don't you start studying some good tech books before even thinking to write something in any tech forum? You really lack tech info, man. Simply reading what some guys write in the forums or blogs doesn't make you a pro IT guy. Buy some books, read them, learn them. Then, we may talk again.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

And then he got a clue, he didn't realize it because the clue was lost in the fog but it was there all the same. Unfortunately it was gone as quickly as it came, a passing clue perhaps, one that will be lost forever.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I ran across a story while researching the article (which of course I can't find now) about a certain make and model of video card that could be 'unlocked' with new firmware to add additional pipelines. The story went on to say that several models of the card were manufactured with the same parts on the same assembly line and then some were 'dumbed down' in the firmware and sold as lower end models. A firmware flash could unlock the additional capabilities. The PC's BIOS is not the only chip in most computers that can be updated with firmware.

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

Why not read up on the technology instead of spewing garbage out of your keyboard?

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I was taking a closer look at the picture showing the motherboard model and discovered for the first time the model name printed right there on the PCB. Can you find it?

GSG
GSG

I last had to flash the bios in 1999 as I was preparing for Y2K. I've not had to do it since, so, like Elvis, that skill has left the building. We used to have to do this, if not often, at least it wasn't unusual to have to flash the bios. What's changed that we've not had to do this as often? Edited to add: I guess it could be that I'm just not as aware of it since I'm not doing direct HW support anymore.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

With my IBM Thinkpad, I always feared teh BIOS FLASH, it was a rock solid notebook and I didn't want to play at first. After a few BIOS updates, the fear went away and after a while I didn't even bother with backups before FLASHing the BIOS. The new notebook is an office-owned HP, I'll stick anything on it without a care in the world, if it dies, they'll have to buy me a new one. I really couldn't give a toss what happens now, cheap notebook, cheap hardware etc. FLASHING the BIOS isn't a bad thing though, in most cases. Just make sure our battery is charged and it is plugged in (if a notebook) and you should be fine. They usually don't offer a BIOS update without some good groundwork first.

ozchorlton
ozchorlton

I once had a motherboard, that had the BIOS overwritten by a virus. I ended up fixing it by booting it, using the BIOS chip from an identical motherboard, then 'Hot Swapping' the BIOS chips, back the the 'overwritten' one, and then flashing the BIOS. It actually worked!

lastchip
lastchip

When ever I build a new machine, the first thing I do is make sure the BIOS code is the latest available. That's personal machines and clients also. Once I had an Abit board that kept crashing and it was driving me insane. Finally, Abit released a new BIOS code and hey presto, all was well! Ever since then, it's been my policy to flash the latest code on all new machines. Why should clients be inconvenienced for something so trivial?

pgit
pgit

Gosh, I've had such a good experience with flashing BIOS I do it as a regular service for all machines that come through. I have had only one machine ever go dead on me, and though I was thankful it was my own, I was also understandably bummed out that it was my own... I believe the reason that one failed was wrong version number. It said it identified my existing BIOS correctly and offered to continue with the upgrade. After which I had a P-4 1.2GHz boat anchor with 1 GB RAM and a 250GB HD... But you have me thinking I ought to be rethinking my policy. My luck might be due the fact 99% of the machines that come through are Gateway, Dell or others that have very specific drivers and BIOS updates that are easy to find. Just stick a service tag in the browser and badda-bing, drivers.

dclaxon
dclaxon

I had an old PIII motherboard that quit booting from the floppy drive, and I tried to fix it with a BIOS flash. The Manufacturer's support site had 2 BIOS utilities, one to make a boot floppy, and one to use from Windows. The boot floppy wouldn't work because it just ignored any disk in the floppy drive on bootup, (even though I had gone into setup and double, triple and quadruple checked that it was set to boot from the floppy drive first.)I tried the Windows utility, but even it wanted to see the new file on a floppy as it rebooted. A few years later when I started actually trying to learn IT and networking at a local junior college, one of the intro courses was PC maintenance, and I talked to the instructor about it. He advised using the jumper that erases the old BIOS, then the new one will flash. Well, it erased the old one alright, but it still won't flash the new one until I can get it to read the floppy disk on bootup. And it won't read the floppy disk on bootup until I get the BIOS flashed. I think that motherboard is still laying over in the corner behind the desk. That was my excuse to upgrade to a P4.

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

I have never had a flash go bad yet. My motherboard supports recovery from a bad flash. All I need to do is place a jumper on a pin set and insert a floppy disk with the version I want and it will perform the update without any GUI; it just beeps as it is flashing and then does a long beep when it is done. I have seen a BIOS become corrupted for some unknown reason (probably ESD, it was sitting on a carpet, under a desk.) It was reporting in the BIOS that the machine had 64MB of memory, but when you loaded Windows NT4, it only reported 24MB. Flashing the BIOS fixed the issue. Edit: Clarity and grammar.

occultrush
occultrush

DonaldJ posted: I suspect someone was flashing my PC's Bios over the Internet, as a vengeance for my publishing anti-christian posts in blogs... My first freebie email was Yahoo. As "Cosmicbrat" my handle, I did a lot of bitching about the Culture's negatives, in comparing 50-years ago to now.. in how we are damaging the planet like with a vengeance against all Life, like we are at war with all Life, and suggesting ways to stop our prolific progressive destruction of the planet and ourselves... In this project I bumped into many crazies who defended the global craziness... I received death threats, and people somehow destroying my PC's operating systems way too easily when I was logged into the Yahoo email account... Seems a few Yahoo employees run a tight over the line Christian forum. Every time I was keying a controversial post that made serious complaint of the Christian system, messing up the world by preventing people from using their minds, a nasty would come out of the Yahoo connection, and destroy my post, and damage my PC's OS, so that I had to format-C. Four times, the screen flashed bright, then the OS died, and I couldn't get the PC to work no matter what I did. Seems that someone destroyed four of my computers for god... At an income of a couple hundred dollars per week when lucky, that was a toughy for me... I had to find replacement towers in the trash, or at garage sales.. both pretty much just garbage.. I complained to Yahoo corporate, then eventually dumped Yahoo email when I found Fastmail.. At least they don't kill my PC's for god... I demanded that Yahoo replace the computer equipment their employee destroyed... They ignored me, but at least the bullying stopped... Now I don't compose in a Yahoo account, ever!.. The spammers are still sending to that account...

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Thank you for taking the time to post your 'almost' bad BIOS flashing story. I'm glad that you found the error before flashing the wrong BIOS file. That would have been an expensive learning experience. I've had a few of those expensive learning experiences myself! The BIOS flashing procedures are complicated enough that I suspect more failed BIOS flashes occur than people are willing to admit.

ProperName
ProperName

I have successfully flashed the bios on three separate machines over the last ten years or so. Each time it was to unlock new features or capabilities on the machine I was working on. For example, I once had a DFI board that required a bios flash to gain compatibility for AGP 4x. Even my latest rig needed a flash to unlock AM2+ CPU option. But I have never flashed the bios just for kicks. Back in the college lab where I had my first experience with flashing the bios, I killed the system (unrecoverable). Since then, I have only made the attempt when the flash offers me something tangible from the system.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

is that the erase routine displayed "Erasing" then started the erase procedure. I strongly suspect that if the power had gone down a few milliseconds later, I would have been left with a very large paperweight. The odds on that happening the way it did are probably less than one in 10^(very high number). edit: then/than

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

That's trillions of volts you are dealing with!

dryd
dryd

Nice article Alan. Reminds me of a PCI video card I still have floating around some place. Trident I think it was. They released a bios update for it that, rather than risk flashing the chip, was loaded at start up each time. I've done three bios flashes in my time. Two went swimmingly (extra multipliers and faster USB!), the other one hosed the system. )-: I thought I did all my homework, but apparently it was the wrong .bin file. Not really a problem though, as I am one of those people that gets given lots of old computers. Luckily it was one of those. (-: I never thought of throwing another bios chip in it. Probably even had one kicking around. One of my current systems is a foxconn 600A01-6LRS (DDR400 Ram, 1.66 gig AMD CPU, VIA chipset X4/X8 AGP slot) with the backup bios. Apparently it keeps cooking graphics cards. I put another old video card in it and away it went. I can't find any bad blue caps, resisters or diodes on the mobo, so I'm wondering if maybe a bios update (if one is available), may cure this problem.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

It makes for a good read and a test of personal sanity. If you could ever figure out what Balthor meant, you'd best go see a neurologist and get the old noggin checked out. 'Occupation: Other' Well how about you get my bloody order right next time, when I say no onions and no pickles that does not mean extra onions and no cheese!

seanferd
seanferd

Trillions of volts? Hospitals? Call in the silent, black UN helicopters?

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I'm sure that you could do a BIOS flash if needed. The actual flash process is fairly simple. It's all of the prep work that makes it a real task. I was recently pleasantly surprised how easy it was to pick up some of my programming skills after many years of neglect.

pgit
pgit

I never would have tried pulling a BIOS chip off a running motherboard. That's a bold move! Nice to know you can do it, though. If someone had asked I'd have said it would be a recipe for certain disaster. Learn something every day. I think I will cease flashing every BIOS and only do it if there appears to be a problem. Most often I find an update is needed in order to get Linux running properly on a machine. For instance my own Dell Vostro wouldn't run Linux to save it's life until I flashed. And not having a floppy I had to do it from inside XP. Thank God it worked. BTW I have tried but never succeeded in getting a win98 boot image I can burn on CD. If I had a bootable system the equivalent of the win98 floppy system, I could unpack the iso, add whatever flash program, repack and burn. (to RW even) Anyone know if such an animal exists? I tried making a bootable CD out of the floppy image but it didn't work...

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Hello pgit, Thank you for your feedback. That's definitely a good news/bad news situation having your own PC BIOS flash fail. Far be it from me to tell you how to do your job. If you feel comfortable with and are willing to accept the risks of an 'always flash procedure' then that's OK - for you. Rethinking your policy can't hurt though. :-) Beside the risks of a flash failure, there are situations where a BIOS upgrade will gain the user nothing for their existing components and can introduce new problems.

Zenith545
Zenith545

If the computer was previously able to acces the floppy, why do you think the BIOS is "bad" and needs updating? Could be, the drive itself, the data or power cable, or the motherboard. NOW that you are IT savvy......

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

You might still be able to rescue that motherboard. Do some Googling for 'BIOS flash CD-ROM'. You should be able to make a bootable CD-ROM with the flash utility and flash file on the CD-ROM. It isn't the preferred option for flashing by manufacturers, but you don't really have much to lose if it doesn't work out. The motherboard is just collecting dust now. You will have to remember to set the Boot Sequence to boot from the CD-ROM first of course.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I see that you are PC Tech Support person. That has to help your luck quite a bit. :-) You are way ahead of the game if you know how to recover from a bad flash. Most PC owners have no idea if their BIOS will support the type of recovery option you discuss.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Ammeter instead of voltmeter. Thanks for the clarification Nick. I always teamed up with the smartest guy in the class so I never personally killed one of the expensive meters, but others did - much to the chagrin of our teacher. :-)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Sounds more like you had power applied when you tried to connect an ammeter in parallel with the power source. :0 Arc-welding, anyone?

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I hope you still got a passing grade. ;-) It is a lesson well learned though. Your story reminds me of the voltmeter 'flashing' that went on not by choice but by accident in my high school Physics class! Let's see now - was that supposed to be in series or in parallel....

dryd
dryd

Thanks for your google time and reply Alan. Yes, but AFAI can find, there was no bios update for the 600A01-6LRS ever released. There was however a chipset combo driver bundle, but whether this would be any help either is also debatable. They may even be the drivers already installed. I hadn't really considered the OS side being the problem, as no on-board VGA card is present. I did do an extensive windows update (SP1 to SP3), which included some hardware drivers, but the only noticeable effect was to make windows run a little slower; (smiles and shakes head). Wow, what a surprise that was. There is some slight possibility that the problem is now fixed :-\ so I may have to just let the system run for a few days, and hopefully, not find out the hard way. Cheers m8. Keep up the good work.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Thanks for the kind words. You might try posting the issue on alt.comp.hardware if you are familiar with Usenet. They are helpful over there and can probably point you in the right direction. I did a quick Google search on your board and didn't see any video card issues like you are having. That leads me to think that a BIOS update probably won't help. Have you checked the BIOS update notes at the Foxconn site?

seanferd
seanferd

Extra obfuscation and no sense. Dou-ble cheese bur-ger. Onion rings. And a large or-ange drink. Say it!

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Thanks for the 'answer'. ;-) I found that it is a lot easier to take some pictures of the motherboard with a digital camera and scan them for the Make/Model/Revision information. You can do it at your leisure and it is a lot easier on the eyes for us older guys. You can zoom in to get the 'answer'.

darrylsmith
darrylsmith

You can download a bootdisk executable which is optimized for bios flashing (driverless). Any CD burning program nowadays can transfer the bootsector to your blank CD. Just remember to download the bios flash program + file prior to burning. You will be placing them on the disk using your burning software. Hope this helps.

rbrown3012
rbrown3012

Just a thought, even the old hardly ever used any more floppy drive can go belly up. Borrow one from another machine and try it.

DanLM
DanLM

Thanks for the info. Dan

dclaxon
dclaxon

It's been several years ago now, and I don't remember all the details. I don't know whether the BIOS is actually erased, or just set back to its defaults, or what. There must be something there, because as I recall, I think it would boot, but it wouldn't let me into the setup. And it would read the floppy disk OK, it just wouldn't boot from it, even though it had been set to boot from the floppy. (That was the behavior I was trying to fix in the first place, that started the problem.) At any rate, since this motherboard's replacement has been replaced, and I don't have a spare case/PS laying around at the moment, it's probably not worth worrying about. But the next time I have a motherboard die, I may use this one to replace it temporarily, just for experimenting with, to see what I can learn from some of these ideas.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I read it as the 'clear CMOS jumper' that his instructor was talking about. That would reset the BIOS configuration (erase?) to its default values. It sounded to me like nothing else had changed but I could be wrong. Case closed unless dclaxon can come back here and set us all straight! :-)

lastchip
lastchip

It's a question of interpretation. He tried to flash the BIOS originally without success and then: "He advised using the jumper that erases the old BIOS, then the new one will flash. Well, it erased the old one alright, but it still won't flash the new one until I can get it to read the floppy disk on bootup. And it won't read the floppy disk on bootup until I get the BIOS flashed. I think that motherboard is still laying over in the corner behind the desk. That was my excuse to upgrade to a P4." I'm a bit suspicious of the whole episode, as I've never come across a jumper that "erases the old BIOS" - (clears user configurable data?); perhaps that's what he meant. Now I took his post to mean, he couldn't access the floppy drive, but perhaps I misinterpreted that. Maybe he simply couldn't access the floppy disc, in which case you are correct and I apologise. It depends on how you interpret: "it erased the old one alright".

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Read dclaxon's post again. He said he was able to get into the BIOS configuration and start up Windows. He was trying to flash the BIOS to fix the problem of his system not booting from the floppy. So exactly what did I miss here?

lastchip
lastchip

While the comments in your article are sound, do you really understand what you're talking about? The guys said, the BIOS is screwed; he can't get into the BIOS to change anything. If you get a bad flash, then most commonly, you can't access anything. How is he supposed to set the boot sequence to CD-ROM? There are probably only two options for him in this scenario. The first is a blind flash from a floppy and you have to understand explicitly the particular sequence the flash utility takes, or second, buying a new chip from one of the many companies that specialise in this service. Frankly, motherboards are so reasonably priced now, the second option probably wont be cost effective.

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

Some boards do not support the recovery I mentioned. But you are absolutely right. Joe User is not going to know what to do, other than call the help desk when and if they have an issue. Flashing the BIOS is a big step and usually should only be done if absolutely needed. I tend to only flash when I first am building/imaging the PC to bring it current, and once deployed, only when a PC needs a "spring cleaning" and software update. But the biggest thing is to make sure that you have uninterrupted power. A small $60 UPS that you can get at just about any electronics store will do the trick. Most flashes only take a minute or two, so battery capacity does not need to be huge.

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