I have received numerous emails stating, "You keep
telling me about 'flashing the Bios', but how do you do
Excellent question. It seems I progressed a bit too
rapidly and now we need to take a moment to catch everyone up.
Sometimes we all begin to make assumptions, forgetting that some
things are not always known. So... let us jump
BIOS (basic input/output system) is the program a personal
computer's CPU uses to get the computer system started when
you turn it on. It also manages data flow between the
computer's operating system and attached devices such as the
hard disk, video adapter, keyboard, mouse, and printer.
BIOS is an integral part of your computer and comes with it
when you bring it home. In contrast, the operating
system can either be preinstalled by the manufacturer or
vendor or installed by a user. BIOS is a program that is
made accessible to the CPU on an erasable programmable
read-only memory (EPROM) chip. When you turn on your computer,
the CPU passes control to the BIOS program, which is always
located at the same place on EPROM. This is the POST
process or "Power On Self Test."
When BIOS starts the POST process starting your computer, it
first determines whether all of the attachments are in place
and operational and then it loads the operating system
into your computer's random access memory RAM from your hard
disk or a floppy disk.
With BIOS, your operating system and its applications are
freed from having to understand exact details, such as
hardware addresses, about the attached input/output devices.
When device details change, only the BIOS program needs to be
changed. Sometimes this change can be made during your system
setup. In any case, neither your operating system or any
applications you use need to be changed.
Although BIOS is theoretically always the intermediary between
the CPU and I/O device control information and data flow, in
some cases, BIOS can arrange for data to flow directly to
memory from devices, such as video cards, that require faster
data flow to be effective.
Originally, the EPROM chips used in a PC were printed
circuits that were pressed into the slot on the motherboard or
soldered on. Then a few years back, the Bios
manufacturers begin to use erasable programmable EPROM chips
for the Bios. The reasoning was to allow for easier
updates to the central core BIOS. Why is this important.
In the past, you would either replace the motherboard or at
least the BIOS chip if you needed to upgrade the basic
system programming. Now, it can be done with a
simple software upgrade that erases the existing BIOS code and
then writes a new code to the BIOS EPROM chip. This
process of erasing and writing new code is called
"FLASHING." The Flash Bios often allows
a motherboard manufacturer to add features to a BIOS for
hardware and settings they did not consider when the
motherboard was manufactured, such as larger hard drives,
faster CPUs, even specialty devices like ZIP drives.
A Flash Bios can even be offered to correct errors in the code
of the original BIOS, called BUGS.
We have an excellent explanation of all the basics of the
BIOS and CMOS:
& CMOS BASICS
to get a Bios Flash Upgrade
Today, we have three major companies who build BIOS chips
and program them: AWARD, AMI and PHOENIX. You
should also know that AWARD was recently purchased by PHOENIX
and they no longer sell BIOS chips to motherboard
manufacturers. There are some other off brand
manufacturers, but you rarely see their product on a
motherboard. There also are companies that sell
replacement BIOS chips, such as Mr. Bios, though the need for
these replacement chips has dropped to nothing with the advent
of FLASH BIOS.
The first thing you need before you begin is the FLASH
upgrade software for your motherboard. An upgrade is not
found at AWARD Bios, AMI
Bios or Phoenix Bios'
web site. They are in the business of selling to
motherboard manufacturer's and not the general public.
The Flash Upgrade for your motherboard is always supplied by
the motherboard manufacturer. You can nearly always
download these upgrades from their web or FTP site. We
maintain a list of
motherboard manufacturer's web sites for this purpose. If
you computer was built by a company such as Micron, Gateway,
IBM, Packard Bell and others... often you can find the
BIOS Upgrade file on their web site.
Simply write down the version number of your Bios, this can
be read above the memory test during the beginning of the POST
process when you start your computer. Also, determine
the model of the motherboard you are using. These
two items are all you will need to find the upgrade for your
motherboard on the manufacturer's web site.
The FLASH UTILITY is nearly always included in the
Flash upgrade file you will download. So, download it
first and examine the contents of this file before you begin
searching for a Flash Utility file.
- the process -
Okay... you have downloaded the file, unzipped it and
discovered it contains three files: the Flash Utility
file, the upgrade data file and an instructions README
READ the instructions file and follow it in detail. I
have seen a couple of people take for granted they know how to
flash a BIOS only to find a new requirement and they are stuck
with a mess. READ the INSTRUCTIONS.
Typically, you will need two floppy disks. One disk
is your Boot disk with an operating system and the other
contains your Flash Utility and the Upgrade file. You
might be able to put all this on one floppy, but I recommend
against it. When you Flash upgrade your BIOS, one
option is to make a backup copy of your existing BIOS code.
You will want to do this and need room for the Flash Utility
file to store your old Bios code.
Next, start your computer and enter the CMOS, the area in
the BIOS that contains settings you can modify. Now look
through all the settings and become comfortable with them and
even write down any you may need to remember, such as the
settings for your hard drive and maybe any Com ports you have
turned off to allow a modem to function.
Now, boot your computer with the boot floppy disk, I always
use a simple operating system like MS Dos v6. You can
use any that you have on hand: MS Dos, OS/2, Win95/98/NT...
it is not important. The system only needs the command
operator in order to run the Flash Utility file.
Then, insert your Flash floppy disk. The first thing you
should do is read and write down the EXACT name of the Flash
Upgrade file, this is usually something like: be6_mu.bin
(this is the name of the one for my ABIT BE6
motherboard). You will be required to type this in
during the upgrade process and you will need it.
Just execute the Flash Utility and follow the instructions
on the screen. Be sure to make a backup of your existing
BIOS when prompted. The name of this backup is not
important to anyone but you, so use a name that is easy for
I highly recommend that even if you have read the
instructions for flashing your Bios that were included, you
should also print them out so you have them handy for
After you have finished this process, hopefully with
success, all that is need to do is remove your boot disk and
reboot the computer. You will need to enter the CMOS
during the POST phase and make all the changes your CMOS
requires in order to use the hardware on your system, such as
identify your hard drive or turn off a Com port so your modem
does not conflict with it.
Now, you should be done and all set.
Some final notes:
This process sounds simple, but should it fail during
the process, you could have some extreme problems. You
could be left with a BIOS chip with no programming and in that
case it will not be able to start the computer again.
This will require either replacing the BIOS chip or the
motherboard. This is not always a safe and simple
operation. Be sure you are comfortable with this level
of upgrading. It maybe something you wish to have a
professional do for you. But, once you have done this
procedure, you will understand and feel more confident should
the need arise to Flash Upgrade another computer. Just
never become to complacent with this procedure... it can
be ruinous to your motherboard.
When you are in the middle of Flash upgrading your BIOS the
last thing you need is a power outage. Imagine the power
goes out right as you are writing in the new BIOS code.
The system is left without a BIOS, you are then either replacing
the BIOS chip or the motherboard.
One of the most important things you can do during this
process is to have the computer connected to a strong UPS.
You will want a UPS that can support the computer for at least
15 minutes should the power suddenly go out. Most people
do not consider this and get away with it... just know that it
is a risk. I always use a strong UPS and I never worry
about the power going out.
Which Bios version to download?
Okay, you went to the website and found that
there are 2 or more versions of upgrades for your Bios. Do
you download all of them, using them one at a time?
download the latest one, it has all the previous upgrades
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