The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is critical to the proper functioning of your computer. It is the first code that runs at startup and defines how your motherboard communicates with the hardware components of the system.
The decision to update your BIOS should not be taken lightly. It is important to do this correctly if you want to continue using your computer.
For the purposes of this article, I will assume that you understand the risks of updating your BIOS and have a good reason to update your existing BIOS. If you are not familiar with the basics of updating the BIOS or are not 100% sure that updating your BIOS is the right thing to do, please refer to the attached articleThree good reasons to update your BIOS.
Disclaimer:Updating the BIOS incorrectly can result in an unusable system. Update the BIOS at your own risk.
I have listed ten common mistakes made during a BIOS update in order from the beginning to the end of the BIOS update process.
1. Incorrect identification of the manufacturer/model/revision number of your motherboard
If you built your computer yourself, you know the brand of motherboard you bought, and you probably know the model number as well. You may not be familiar with the revision number.
If you bought your computer pre-built, as most people do, then you probably don't know what's under the hood. You may be able to get the information by entering the PC's serial number on a website, but when updating your BIOS, it must be 100 percent accurate, and the information on the website may be incorrect. The only way to make sure your motherboard is built is to open the side panel or open the case and take a look. Look up the manufacturer, model number, and a revision number.
The motherboard model may be printed on the motherboard or, as in this case, on a sticker on the motherboard.
You can also get relevant information from the first POST screen. The first line at the top left of the screen displays the manufacturer and BIOS version. The second line displays the motherboard model, BIOS version, and date. The lower left section of the screen displays the BIOS version date, motherboard model, and BIOS ID.
eSupport.com has a BIOS Scan Plugin utility that works with IE Explorer and Firefox. You can use it to verify the information you got from a visual inspection of the motherboard, but not as your only source of information.
Wims BIOS-websitestates that the plugin does not contain adware or spyware, but use it at your own risk. Vista users must be running IE Explorer or Firefox as administrator for it to work.
I couldn't find a revision number on my motherboard. The initial POST screen and BIOS scan don't mention it either. The full model name of my board is 975X7AB-8EKRS2H. However, there is a 975X7AB-2.0-8EKRS2H version of my motherboard, so correctly identifying my motherboard is very important when it comes to finding and downloading the correct BIOS update file.
2. Lack of research or understanding of BIOS update details
Even a thorough study of BIOS update changes may not be enough to fully understand them.Erahas been changed. Often these BIOS update notes are written by technicians with little or no knowledge of English, and the details are rarely written out in their entirety. It is not uncommon to find something similar.
Updated on 10/21/2007
Fixed E6400 S3 resume issue
There are several problems with this. You need to know what are E6400 and S3. Also, after learning that an E6400 is an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and S3 is one of the four sleep functions in the PC's power settings, then you need to know if you have an E6400 CPU. If so, are you using the S3 STR (suspend to RAM) suspend option in Windows and having problems with it?
You can't expect your motherboard manufacturer to explain what the E6400 and S3 mean, but they should be able to explain what problem they've fixed. As more people request this, more detailed information may be included in future BIOS update notes.
Most BIOS updates arecumulative. You must read all the BIOS update instructionsafterYour current BIOS version to find out all the changes made with the latest update version.
3. Update your BIOS for a fix that is not needed
As you can see in the example above, it is often difficult to understand what exactly isArrangeit was implemented with a BIOS update. It's just as difficult for the average PC user to determine if their system's hardware is included in the fix. As a general rule, if your computer is working normally, leave it alone.
If you're not sure whether a BIOS update will fix a problem you're having with your PC, you can ask the manufacturer for more information. Be 100 percent sure that updating the BIOS will fix any problems you may have before updating the BIOS. Hoping that a BIOS update will fix a problem is a bad reason to risk a BIOS update.
4. Update your BIOS with the wrong BIOS file
Most BIOS updates come as a zip file containing the binary code file, the flash utility, and sometimes a README file. Updating your BIOS's erasable memory with the wrong code will almost certainly result in an error on the next boot attempt. Be careful when choosing 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 must match the BIOS manufacturer's 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 previous 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 initials AFUsignifica Award Flash Update Utility. also happens to bemeans what happens if your flash breaks.
5. Using an outdated version of the manufacturer's flash utility or tools
You may be tempted to pull out the CD that came with your motherboard or computer and use the utilities on the CD to update your BIOS. It is worth downloading the latest utilities from the motherboard or from the computer manufacturer. There is usually a good reason why a new version of the Flash program is made available.
You'll need to go to your motherboard or computer manufacturer's website to download the latest version of the BIOS code anyway. So plan to download the latest flash utilities or tools at the same time.
6. Failure to follow or understand the specific instructions of the motherboard manufacturer
Most of those reading this article who are considering a BIOS update are probably men. Like me, you probably don't like to read and follow instructions. This is a time when it is essential to read and follow the motherboard manufacturer's instructions. Each motherboard has specific steps that must be followed for the update to be successful.
An example of this is a jumper on some motherboards or a setting in some BIOS that must be changed to allow writing to BIOS memory.
Instructions for upgrading the motherboard can usually be found on the manufacturer's website. Specific instructions are sometimes placed in a README.txt file that comes with the BIOS flash file. Find and carefully read the instructions in this file.
If you have read all the steps required to update your BIOS and some steps you do not understand, get help from the manufacturer or consider having a professional do the installation.
7. Update your BIOS without UPS or at times of increased risk
It is best to update your BIOS with a UPS installed to provide backup power to your system. An interruption or loss of power during the flash will cause the update to fail and you will not be able to start the computer.
Don't assume this can't happen to you. I was converting the file system on the root drive on a PC once at 2:00 am when I heard a loud bang outside. The lights flickered and the conversion failed. Apparently, a transformer in the neighborhood had blown, knocking out my power long enough to ruin my day, or rather, my night. I had to reinstall the OS from scratch.
If you do not have access to a UPS, update the BIOS late at night or when there is less risk of power outages. Avoid updating the BIOS during lightning storms, windy days, high power consumption, peak hours of operation, or other times when power outages are more likely.
8. BIOS update from Windows while other applications are running
Motherboard manufacturers generally do not recommend updating your BIOS from within Windows. If it is absolutely necessary to update your BIOS from within Windows and you are willing to accept the additional risks involved, close all running applications and unnecessary processes. Antivirus processes running in the background are known to cause problems.
TechRepublic has a list of services that can be disabledPEand inVista.
9. Flash an overclocked system
Some information I found while researching this article recommends against upgrading your PC while it is overclocked. You may be able to successfully upgrade your overclocked system, but why take the extra risk? I only recommend overclocking 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 reset the settings to their defaults. Play it safe and step on the accelerator.
10. Recovery plan is missing when BIOS update fails
If something goes wrong, it's a good idea to have a recovery plan. If your flash utility offers it, make a backup copy 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 disk with the flash utility ready to install.
Prepare in advance for a floppy read error by making bootable backups that you always have on hand. Label your drives with the BIOS version so you know which ones are new and which ones are genuine. It's also a good idea to copy the files to a temporary directory on the drive to check if the files are readable, or you can run CHKDSK to check the drive for bad sectors.
Research possible recovery options beforehand and print them out. An example of this for some Dell PCs is theJ7D2 BIOS Boot Block Jumper Instructions.
If you plan for a power outage, you are less likely to panic when it happens. If failure happens to you, do it.noTurn off your computer. A failed flash means that the BIOS is likely corrupted and a reboot will fail. Keep your computer support number written down and available.
Plan for the worst case; Consider having a backup PC on hand and ready to go.
The last word
If you noticed some themes in this article, please pay close attention, patient reader:
- Get ready, get ready, get ready!
- Minimize risks
- Get informed and do your research
- Double and triple check your work
I hope these ten tips help you with your next BIOS update. Have fun blinking.
- TECHARP- Detailed explanations of various BIOS settings.
- Intel- BIOS setup directory for desktop motherboards.
- FLASH BIOS- Good BIOS flash guide.
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