Processors

Video: 10 common mistakes you should avoid when flashing your BIOS

Flashing the BIOS is not for the faint of heart, but by taking the proper precautions and planning for the worst-case scenario; your chances of success are greatly improved. In this IT Dojo video, Bill Detwiler shows you how to safely flash your BIOS and covers 10 mistakes to avoid.

The BIOS is critical to your computer's proper operation. It's the first code executed at start-up, and it defines how your motherboard will communicate with the system's hardware. Flashing the BIOS is not for the faint of heart, but by taking the proper precautions and planning for the worst-case scenario; your chances of a successful upgrade are greatly improved.

In this IT Dojo video, I show you how to safely flash your BIOS and point out the following 10 mistakes to avoid:

  1. Misidentification of your motherboard make/model/revision number
  2. Failing to research or understand the BIOS update details
  3. Flashing your BIOS for a fix that is not needed
  4. Flashing your BIOS with the wrong BIOS file
  5. Using an outdated version of the manufacturer flash utility or tool
  6. Not following or understanding the motherboard manufacturers specific directions
  7. Flashing your BIOS without an UPS or at higher risk times
  8. Flashing the BIOS from within Windows with other applications running
  9. Flashing an overclocked system
  10. Failing to have a recovery plan if the BIOS flash fails

After watching the video, you can learn more about the safe way to flash your BIOS by reading Alan Norton 's article, "10 common mistakes you should avoid when flashing your BIOS"--the basis for this video.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

47 comments
tkress
tkress

Does anyone know of a BIOS management tool, other than the Altiris (Symantec) Dell Client Manager? In particular, are these tools OEM specific or might there be a tool which will work with multiple vendors? Thanks.

jeff56_sonn
jeff56_sonn

Remember on some Mother boards, have a recovery system if something would go wrong you can boot with a floppy and reprogram the BIOS

pofarrel
pofarrel

Number 1 common mistake from my perspective - RECORD ALL CURRENT BIOS SETTINGS. Particularly if you are using something like a motherboard based RAID setting. It is virtually 100% true that a BIOS upgrade will reset all settings to default and things like RAID enablement will be lost. Suddenly you will wonder why your system does not boot.

DickCaro
DickCaro

Most computers for the past 5 years do not come with a floppy disk drive. My laptop does not have one, and my desktop can no longer read or write to floppy. What do I do now?

goaney88
goaney88

I have a Asus P5K and have recently update my BIOS. With the P5K there is a utility to update the BIOS I was successfully able to update the BIOS but had to go into the BIOS to enable or disable some features. Also I had to reset my BIOS password after the Update. Regards John MacGougan

Ralph39
Ralph39

The info was good, mostly common sense. Could you do anything about the streaming? It is really jerky and distracting. Thanks, Ralph

dbecker
dbecker

11. Make sure your floppy disk doesn't flaky. Good stuff, Bill, thanks. Wish I'd had this over a decade ago before having to get a new motherboard -- not a complete waste, since I changed manufacturers to a much better board. Mostly, unless it's necessary [as is sometimes the case], don't.

rhkramer
rhkramer

Thank you for the written summary on this page (and the reference to the original article)--I hate watching videos (plus, most of the times they don't work for me on my Mandriva2006 installation (probably a configuration mistake somewhere, but not worth tracking down)). PS: My sig: -- "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I created a video instead."--with apologies to Cicero, et.al.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But I have always taken precautions and a lot of the work that is [b]Emergency Work[/b] is where someone has failed to follow the necessary Steps to safely Flash the BIOS. But having said that there are a few more steps that should be added The main one is with Servers I never Flash the BIOS I change the BIOS Chips to save time and any potential problems with Down Time. I buy in BIOS Chips prior to Flashing Servers as it's far cheaper and faster to change the IC than try to recover after the event. When Flashing the BIOS it's not sufficient to just use a UPS you need to make sure that the Battery/s are in good condition as these do wear out over time. I've seen numerous examples where a UPS with a few years on it have failed to work for long enough because the battery/s are now beyond help. Because they work OK now doesn't mean the the Batteries are OK and in good condition. With NB's make sure that the Battery is working correctly and is in good condition and fully charged. Perform the Flash on Battery Power not mains Power. With several M'Boards that I have used in the past they required their BIOS Flashed to prevent Warning Sounds from occurring and several need to be Flashed to accept Bigger CPU's of HDD's. Col

stephen.elmore
stephen.elmore

Would really like to see text transcripts of these videos. Then I can get the information when sitting in a crowded room with my LapTop, or in an open office without disturbing my co-workers. As a plus, I could actually print them (trees, I know) and carry them with me where my LT has yet to go.

harryxebec
harryxebec

More flash crap. Tech Republic sucks.

jtarchi
jtarchi

"4. Flashing your BIOS with the wrong BIOS file" Jeebus I hope this isn't actually a _common_ reason for failed flashes. Innocent mistakes are one thing; stupid ones another. Seriously.

reisen55
reisen55

Many years ago, in 1998, my IT team was flashing BIOS on several ancient Compaq Systems as part of a system inventory project. When I entered an office, my colleague turned around - and I asked HOW IS IT GOING? To which he replied JUST GREAT and turned the Compaq off ..... mid flash. OH Well, that computer was turned into a piece of junk

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Just like digital files work in your RAM so do they work in the CMOS of the BIOS.The ROM BIOS containes all of the digital circuits necessary to detect and control the various components of the computer.The BIOS flash file is like a text file that places values or switch positions in the ROM modules.When you flash your BIOS you are recording these settings into the BIOS CMOS.There is also something that is pre BIOS that is the inner workings of the chip itself.The ROM BIOS is really big!It is the virtual transistors that make it possible for DC digital control.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In an IT Dojo video and blog post, I discuss 10 common mistakes to avoid when flashing your motherboard's BIOS. Original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=168 I'd like to know if you've every experienced a BIOS flashing disaster. If so, where you able to recover and how?

MrRich
MrRich

Definitely agree on RECORDING current settings - and the warning - RAID on desktop machines is troublesome.

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

I use a USB floppy drive for mobo's that require a floppy disk to flash the BIOS. They are extremely cheap these days. Most motherboards that require floppy disk updates also provide the ability to set the boot order to allow booting from USB devices. The easiest media to make bootable is still the floppy. However, many apps will make bootable CDs fairly easy, too.

cmatthews
cmatthews

It's possible flash utils exist that don't pre-load to memory and calculate/compare the CRC at the end of the BIOS code. However, this tech hasn't seen it (I've flashed 100+ machines since the end of the 486 era). So then, flaky floppy = frustrated tech. If you get read errors, try re-formatting the floppy to ensure that fresh data is written on the outer tracks (floppies get higher error-rates on inside final tracks). Also, if you don't have a boot floppy for flash functions, try bootdisk dot com.

skipper747
skipper747

Some things need video to explain them but most of these are just an ego trip for the presenter.

jeff.mott
jeff.mott

Thanks for taking the time to put the article online. Sometimes video isn't always the best medium for communicating.

Greg Mix
Greg Mix

Why not just have the BIOS chip handy as a backup for the extremely rare occurrence of a flash failure? Changing the chips each time in place of flashing is pretty extreme. There is a reason they make re-writable CMOS chips.

support
support

Change the channel if you dont like the program

hamads
hamads

What the heck are you doing on the internet from Afghanistan? Go grab your klashnikov and shoot your PC. No need to burden your brain with reading computer stuff.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

This is too funny. Not "Flash" as in Flash media player or browser plugin...but "Flash" as in "update". It's a term meaning to update embedded software. Gee I really hate flash videos they are sooo hard to copy from the Internet.

normljones
normljones

You don't like Tech Republic? Solution: Don't read it.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

I think that happens more if you are using modified BIOS files... I Believe that most Flash Utilities try to catch such problems. (I could be wrong, been a while since I last flashed a BIOS)

chir
chir

After flashing your new bios ensure you flush the CMOS settings on the board and load the defaults. If you find yourself having a "brown trousers" moment because you system doesn't start this is most likely because the new bois settings are so vastly different from the old ones and no longer match. The system won't start until you have clear the CMOS. Use the special jumper on the system board to do this or just remove the battery for a few seconds. Consult your manual for the jumper location, although often it is colored green. Good luck flashers! ;-) Rich.

rmjivaro
rmjivaro

When a computer is started the cpu has no idea what to do and so the hardware is made in such a way that upon 'waking up' it looks to a particular memory address for what it expects to be an instruction that tells it what to do. The computers' BIOS occupies this memory space and the instruction at that address tells the CPU to go to yet another memory address where it finds the instructions that find and configure the hardware, then sending the cpu to the boot devices listed, in order, so that an operating system can boot, if present.

lucien86
lucien86

The CMOS Bios RAM is quite different from the flash, which is a rewritable ROM memory. The most important thing that the actual bios does is act as the bootstrap -which initializes the hardware after reset and loads and starts the operating system- kernel and so on. The second function of the bios is to test critical hardware like the system RAM , disk drives, io and stuff like the keyboard - all in the POST test. It also used to deal with many of the interfaces between hardware and software but today that is mostly done by the OS device drivers. The other critical thing it does is run the bios utility (s) which let you easily adjust the cmos settings without needing advanced knowledge of the motherboard. =============================== - All very dry but thats bios for you. - Robert Lucien

sebas8194
sebas8194

Hi everyone, i know that this reply doesn't belong to a BIOS flashing disaster, i luckily didn't have any, but i want to share this interesting expierence, i think that the latest BIOS update that i had to do was because a virus manage to write a copy of itself on the BIOS ROM, i suspect that because i formatted the hard disk and install a clean copy of Windows XP SP3 and the antivirus continued to gave me warnings of a suspicious trojan application called "winamp.exe". And no, it's not the media player since i never install it after the formatting and it was located in the system32 folder (a common place for the viruses), i sweep the entire hard disk and operating memory with several reliable antivirus software and they found and killed the damn virus but it appear again after each reboot!, so i flash the BIOS with the latest update and the virus is gone!!!!! that's my story, i like to know if any of you guys had a similar situation, and sorry for any grammar mistakes, my english is a little rusty.

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

If you have problems flashing the BIOS the number 1 cause is most likely you are using the wrong BIOS flash and somehow to flash got corrupted during the download. I always flash system and have yet to have one not flash correctly (knock on wood). I think if you have a no name type brand computer than I would probably not flash the system. Now a days Dell, Lenovo, HP, and other big name manufactures make it easy to auto detect your system by installing an active X control or something similar and will point you to the correct BIOS for your system. You really have to mess things up to get it wrong.

marvin.novello
marvin.novello

Have flashed BIOS on many PCs many times. Never had a problem before so I guess I got a bit complacent. Flashed Fujitsu Amilo notebook and foolishly did it from within Windows. Got to 99% then error. Flash app said to retry. Repeat X 10. In the end I rebooted hoping that the original BIOS would recover or maybe use "boot-block" mode. No joy. No boot! Dead PC. Googled for recovery sequence (Boot holding down F2 key was suggested a few times). Fujitsu helpdesk said no recover procedure available. Arg! To make things worse the BISO chip was a soldered-on job - not removable/replaceable. Did some further Googling and found a company that offered to de-solder old BIOS chip and replace with socket and in-socket BIOS. Payed them ?39.99GBP and got the laptop back within 5 working days. A cautionary tale - DO NOT FLASH FROM WITHIN WINDOWS - but happy ending - and far cheaper than replacing laptop.

hamads
hamads

HI Bill, one of our IBM laptops died after a BIOS update. The simple fix from IBM was to send another replacement motherboard. Another way to backup (if you have the apparatus) is to make a BIOS chip clone.

Cisco-SA
Cisco-SA

The real question is WHY you would want to re-flash the Boot0 code that starts you PC. The BIOS Flash is not just some software that runs in the start up of you PC, it is THE 1st software that runs. Mess with the BIOS, the Bootloader, and GRUB/LILO/WindowsBoot will not get to run. Corrupt the BIOS/Boot0 code and your PC/Laptop will do nothing but burn power. Even the Power Button on your laptop will not work. Granted, a Laptop usually has a 2ndary processor of the Hitachi flavor that is Always running (Hitachi is _very_ low power). In a Laptop the Hitachi processor does the power management for all of the Laptop peripherals. The only two real reasons I have ever encountered that would warrant a new BIOS: __1) Laptop BIOS too power hungry or some other fatal flaw. In this case re-flashing a Laptop BIOS is much safer since it has a built-in USP (the battery) __2) PC fails to recognize or use critical hardware required for booting; like new SATA drive, USB drive, new network interface. Otherwise, let the next level bootloader or the OS do the heavy lifting. Many of the Gamers will try to over-clock using the BIOS and sometimes need new BIOS to give finer details to the performance enhancements. But this is not a need it is a want; as in "I want to upgrade the BIOS." If you encounter #2, remove un-recognized hardware, re-assign the PC as you new linux box and get new PC to handle new hardware.

cabanossi-21666366011136960807907799337173
cabanossi-21666366011136960807907799337173

The flash is not just BIOS but also a rump OS which pops up some menu and enables you to change settings and set the password(s) to the rump OS. (why is the default a blank password with no user name?) flashing is not just for PCs, other devices need flash updates too. However, it is usually easier with any but x86 motherboards. Nowadays most multifunction vpn wireless firewall router *dsl (cable) gateway devices have tftp flash. You set up a tftp server on a workstation hardwired to the device to be flashed with the (flash) file you want in the same directory as the tftp executable, start the tftp server and press various buttons on the target device until some light starts flashing, after which the device sucks in the new 'bios'. You can thus always somehow try again if the flash went bad (e.g. because the power went out). These devices also have a configuration save/load facility so you do not need to reset everything after the flash - you just log on once using default settings and suck in the old config. (most PCs I know do not have a bios settings load/save) It appears that this method is not known to makers of workstation and server machines. Maybe i am too dumb to understand the complexities of the thought processes of motherboard makers! p.s. you missed a point of hooking the PC to be flashed up to a UPS (unless it is a laptop with a well-charged battery like the one in the picture)

fjdumagat
fjdumagat

We still can use them for charity purposes, especially for public libraries and public schools who doesn't even heard of what computer is:)

Olivier-
Olivier-

In fact I believe that there are 2 formats for USB boot drives: one emulates a floppy disk and the other a CD. Some BIOSes will load only from floppy (is that the older BIOSes?)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Thew customer pays for the Chip so I exchange it and leave the old one in an Anti-static Bag inside the server. So if worst comes to worst and something nasty happens I can return the Server to it's original Configuration in a few minutes. And in all honestly changing a BIOS IC is no real problem. But as I say I only do this on Servers and some Desktop M'Boards that come in with the wrong BIOS written to them. The cost of a PROM Writer is really horrendous and if the only reason to make these IC's rewritable is to sell IC Readers/Writers I'll spend a few $ of my customers money rather than shell out for a Prom Writer that I may only use once a year. :D Just economic sense there. Col

griff.computerservices@ve
griff.computerservices@ve

Better yet, if the Tech Republic offends you so much, do the right thing and STOP visiting, STOP commenting, and by all means, STOP with the juvenile comments. What are you 12 years old?

support
support

Make sure you go to the CMOS menu (hit del or sometimes F2 or F12) depends on machine but go to startup and hit restore all defaults to original settings and save and exit. Then reboot again go to your setup screen and have fun with your updated BIOS. Deffinatly use a backup power supply in case you get a power glitch especially during the bios update process. Once its in though, it's in,

fredsc
fredsc

Every time I start up I get a message 1sdlete not found by auto check, Is this serous can I leave it alone? Hoping for an answer thanks Fred

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

That is quite effective in trashing the Programing of a PROM. I've seen quite a few where the user does something wrong so they hit the Reset switch to stop it from doing something unwanted. :D Hey it works for Windows why doesn't it work when you are flashing the BIOS? :^0 Col

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

Not a bad idea... IF 1. You can obtain a compatible BIOS memory chip 2. Your BIOS is socketed. It can get downright funky if you try to solder in a new BIOS on a multilayer board.

support
support

I've been a tech subcontractor for the local school district along with a lot of custom serve configs I have to build. Many motherboards I buy have been on the shelf for a while and will not work properly or at all with the latest chips. If you cant even boot up on the chip, get the cheapest CPU compatible with the board usually around $50-80 if you shop, then upgrade to the latest bios. It should then support the chip you want as long as its on their compatibility list. There are many sites to help you flash your bios giving great advice.

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