How Do I Update the BIOS?
Before you do anything to your BIOS, it’s always a good idea to record the settings on a sheet of paper that can be kept in a safe place. The process of updating the BIOS can be summarized in the following steps:
- Determine your BIOS version.
- Obtain the appropriate BIOS update.
- Prepare a BIOS flash disk.
- Flash the motherboard BIOS.
Determining the BIOS Version
Before you update your BIOS, it’s best to find out what version of BIOS you are currently using. If you already have the latest version, then there’s no point in going through the process.
The display of the BIOS version number or ID varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, it is most commonly the last two or four digits or letters at the end of the string that appears when you boot up the computer. If the BIOS ID does not appear as it does in the example, please check the manual that came with your motherboard. Your motherboard manufacturer may have chosen to show the BIOS ID somewhere else.
Obtaining the BIOS Update
BIOS updates are best obtained directly from the manufacturer’s website instead of other distribution points like hardware sites and unofficial mirrors. This ensures that you have the very latest BIOS update available and reduces the risk of downloading a virus-infected copy.
So, head over to your motherboard manufacturer’s website. The BIOS updates are usually listed in the Downloads or Support section of the website. Please note that while different motherboard models may appear to have the same BIOS ID, you must download only the BIOS that was specifically meant for your motherboard. Flashing a BIOS update that was meant for another motherboard will likely cause your motherboard to fail.
Preparing a BIOS Flash Disk
Once downloaded to your hard drive, run the update program and you may be prompted to create a floppy disk, which can then be used to update the BIOS. You can easily create a clean boot disk in Windows. Even Windows XP, which does not support DOS, comes with a utility that allows you to create your own DOS boot disk. In Windows XP, all you need to do is bring up the floppy format utility. Just right-click on your floppy drive in Windows Explorer and click on Format. The Format 31/2 screen appears.
Among the format options, there is an option called Create an MS-DOS startup disk. Check this option and click Start to format the floppy disk. Windows XP will then format your floppy disk, make it bootable and copy all the necessary files for it to boot up into real mode DOS.
After you have a clean DOS boot disk, all you need to do is extract the BIOS update file and the flash utility and copy them into the boot disk. The BIOS update file or image usually has a .bin extension. Some come with a .rom extension. However, they are all the same; they are just BIOS image files. Write down the name of the BIOS image file. It will come in handy later.
Flashing the Motherboard BIOS
There are actually a few ways you can flash your BIOS. The traditional way is by a DOS boot disk. However these days, manufacturers are implementing newer methods.
The AwardFlash software is probably the most common flash utility around. It is used to flash the BIOS of motherboards using the AwardBIOS. Please note that the AwardFlash utility is DOS-based. It cannot be used in a Windows-based environment. You must boot up using a DOS boot disk before using this utility.
This essentially tells the AwardFlash utility to do the following:
- Skip back up of original BIOS image.
- Show the bios.bin BIOS image file’s checksum.
- Program the Flash BIOS with the bios.bin BIOS image file.
- Clear CMOS data after programming the Flash BIOS.
- Clear DMI data after programming the Flash BIOS.
- Clear PnP (ESCD) data after programming the Flash BIOS.
- Automatically reset the computer after programming is complete.
Please consult your motherboard manufacturer for its recommended parameters. Different manufacturers may recommend different parameters even if they are all using the same AwardFlash utility.
If you run this command after booting up in DOS, the AwardFlash utility automatically updates the motherboard’s Flash BIOS with the new BIOS image and clears the CMOS, DMI, and ESCD data before resetting the computer for the changes to take effect.
After the computer is rebooted, the new BIOS takes effect. Remember, because the CMOS data has been cleared during the flash process, the BIOS reverts to default settings. You should access the BIOS setup utility to set up the various parameters as well as optimize it.