Sometimes only after a product gets to market and is used in a lot of different situations can a vendor learn of problems or limitations. Nearly every system board and PC system on the market undergoes at least one significant revision of the BIOS after the product has been released for sale.
Most of us think nothing of seeking out the latest patches and
updates for our application software and hardware drivers in hopes of
solving a problem, gaining a feature, or boosting performance, but
rarely do we think of updating the software and internal drivers that
make our system board tick—the system BIOS.
I highly recommend visiting the web site of the manufacturer of your
PC system or system board, or even Unicore's web
site, to learn what the latest revision of BIOS is for your PC and
the issues the revision addresses. You may find one or more clues
that can help you solve problems or gain new or proper functionality
of your system for a few minutes of browsing and downloading time.
Do not bother visiting the BIOS makers' web sites
looking for BIOS updates. AMI and Award/Phoenix supply only the tools
and services for system-board and PC-system makers to create their
own BIOS code specific to each individual system board.
You wouldn't think of calling Microsoft, makers of
the Visual Studio program development tools, about support or
upgrades for software made by Adobe, Intuit, Symantec, or other
software makers who use the Visual Studio tools. Nor would you call
Sears about problems with your house built with a Craftsman hammer.
And so it is with the BIOS companies.
A good resource for identifying your system board is the http://www.motherboards.org web site.
In most cases, except getting a BIOS upgrade from Unicore, getting a
BIOS update and the software program to load the update into your PC
are free from every system board and PC maker's web
site. Since many of the devices you add to a system after the initial
purchase are too new to be known to or supported by system board
vendors, BIOS upgrades are issued to fix anything from an all-out
serious bug that prevents some aspect of the system board from
working, to enhancing the detection or size of certain types of disk
drives, to adding extra support for Plug and Play or power management
functions. These items should be spelled out in a
readme or BIOS revision description file
associated with the particular BIOS version you download.
Updating the system BIOS involves overwriting the BIOS code currently
stored on the system board and replacing it with new code. This
process has the potential to render your system board useless if
there is an error or interruption while the update is occurring. If
the BIOS file you download is incomplete or corrupt in any way, you
will not be able to properly load the BIOS into the system board.
Part of the overall BIOS upgrade process should include backing up
the current BIOS onto disk. If your system does not behave correctly
after the upgrade, you can flash it with a new good BIOS file or use
the original backed-up BIOS file to go back to a known good state.
Depending on your motherboard's capabilities, you
may or may not be able to recover from a flashing accident. Intel
provides a downloadable recovery BIOS, which can recover certain
Intel motherboards after a failed BIOS upgrade. You can locate your
recovery BIOS by visiting http://downloadfinder.intel.com, navigating
to your motherboard, and selecting the recovery BIOS, if one is
A typical BIOS file is either 128 or 256 KB in size, though some may
be as large as 2 MB, depending on features. The typical BIOS file,
along with the program for updating your system board, both fit on a
single 1.44 MB DOS-bootable formatted diskette. If you
lack a diskette drive for your system, as may be the case for a
laptop PC, you can also use a bootable CD containing the BIOS file
and update program.
Some BIOS upgrade programs are available for use under
Windows, which, although
convenient and more user-friendly, has the risk of failing due to a
crash, conflict, or other instability within Windows. I recommend
using a DOS-based BIOS upgrade program if it is available.
Some BIOS update programs create their own bootable diskettes and
execute the upgrade process automatically so you need only supply the
diskette. Once you have downloaded the BIOS file (usually a
.BIN file extension type) and BIOS update
program to your hard drive, follow the instructions provided with the
upgrade (likely proceeding from Step 8 below) or all of the following
steps to update your system's BIOS.
Be sure your computer is plugged into a UPS
(Uninterruptible Power Supply). All it takes is a power outage during
a BIOS upgrade to render your motherboard useless.
Prepare a formatted DOS boot diskette. Any version of DOS should
do, but making a DOS 6.22, Windows 95, 98, or Me startup
diskette would be most common. You can also make an
MS-DOS startup disk using
the format program in Windows XP, downloading boot diskette
images from http://www.bootdisk.com.
If in Windows, double-click My Computer, then double-click the A:
In DOS or Windows, delete the following files from the diskette to
make room for the BIOS files:
All ASPIxxxx.SYS files
All BTxxxxxx.SYS files
Copy the specific BIOS (.BIN) file to the
Copy the BIOS upgrade program to the diskette.
Restart the PC with the diskette in the drive so the system boots from the floppy. You may need to change the boot device order [Hack#6] first.
At the DOS prompt type in the name of the BIOS upgrade program and
press the Enter key to run it. You should be presented with a text
menu of options.
One of the options should be to copy the existing FLASH ROM BIOS to
disk as a backup—do this. (Often the upgrade process will
automatically prompt to copy a backup of the BIOS to disk.)
Select the option to program the new BIOS file into the FLASH ROM. If
you are presented with the option, and you did not already make a
backup of the existing BIOS, do so now.
Follow the prompts to upgrade your BIOS. In some cases, you will need
to provide the name of the new BIOS file and let the program copy the
file into the FLASH ROM.
When the programming process completes, remove the diskette from the
drive and then restart the
PC. If your computer displays the BIOS version at boot time, you
should notice the new BIOS version appear on screen.
Go into the BIOS setup program. Verify or set the date, time, and
other parameters you're familiar with and then
restart the PC. You're done with the BIOS
Do not forget to check the web site of your video card, disk drive, printer,
and USB-connected product vendors for any BIOS or firmware updates
for these devices.