Why and How to Flash Your BIOS Flashing the BIOS is one of the most feared topics related

to computers. Yes, people should be very cautious because it can be dangerous. This article is going to focus on the basics and explain ways to flash the BIOS, precautions and how to recover in case of a bad flash. The Basics First of all, let's get into the basics. What is the BIOS and why should you flash it? Let me explain. It's the acronym for Basic Input/Output System. It's one of the most crucial components on a motherboard. It determines and tells your computer what it can do without accessing any other files or programs from your storage; it acts like simple software. Basically the BIOS contains all the information that's needed for your computer to POST (=Power on Self Test). This includes how to control your keyboard, communicate with your processor, send/receive video signals to/from your monitor, and recognize your components (hard drives, optical drives, USB devices, serial ports and so on). If this makes sense then you understand that without the BIOS a computer would not boot at all (no POST); neither will it boot with a defective/corrupted BIOS. Why should we flash the BIOS? It's simple. When manufacturers release a new motherboard, of course, the BIOS on the board is already flashed. Since technology advances in quantum leaps it's very important to realize that in a matter of weeks or months new products are going to be released. So computers should support them, right? That's the bottom line here. Flashing your BIOS to the latest release is crucial because it enhances your system's capabilities, helps it to detect newer devices and components (bigger hard drivers, newer processors, and so forth), and improves stability (very often in the latest BIOS flashes manufacturers apply a series of bug fixes). There is always a "change-log" included with every newer BIOS release that should be your number 1 must-read piece of information; it helps you decide whether or not it's worth it to flash that specific version. BIOS Chips and Manufacturers There are quite a few manufacturers that are producing different BIOS chips: Award, AMI, Phoenix, and IBM. Most commonly you can find AMIs, AWARDs and PHOENIXes. The BIOS is stored on a ROM chip. These ROM BIOS chips can be of different measurements and look different from each other. Check out the following two types of chips. The one on the left is an AWARD (as stated on the sticker), while the one on the right is a Phoenix chip. You may find other chips that can't be "taken out" with extractors; on older systems quite often the BIOS chip was soldered directly on the board. Understanding the Process Every manufacturer recommends that you use their BIOS flashing utility. Also, don't forget to read the information that's included and related to flashing in your motherboard's manual. Yes, dig that manual out (or if you can't find it then download it from the manufacturer's website; it's usually available) and read it! Four of the most common flashers are: AWDFLASH, AMIFLASH, UNIFLASH and AFUDOS (only for ASUS boards). Out of these the UNIFLASH (get it here) is the universal flasher that can usually flash every BIOS; it has awesome compatibility capabilities. Keep in mind that BIOS flashing can be (and is) dangerous, because in the case of a bad flash the data ends up corrupted and your computer won't POST anymore. So I'm recommending wholeheartedly that you use the BIOS flasher that's

explained in the manual and provided by the manufacturer of your board. Read the manual, do your research and when you're ready, then and only then proceed to follow the instructions. After you get your flasher you need the latest BIOS flash file. First find out your motherboard manufacturer's name and your board's exact name and specifications. Visit your manufacturer's website and download the latest non-beta version (betas can be risky and I don't suggest you experiment if you can't fix it if a bad flash happens; we'll discuss that a bit later). These files usually have ".ROM" or ".BIN" extensions. Later on I'm going to call the "latest BIOS file" "newbios.bin." I'm going to give you examples of how to use UNIFLASH, AWDFLASH, AMIFLASH and AFUDOS. Read them strictly as examples and do not proceed to flash your latest BIOS version before you understand what each option gives and how to use these flashers. Flashing with UNIFLASH: A:uniflash.exe newbios.bin Flashing with AWDFLASH: A:awdflash.exe newbios.bin /py /sn /cc Flashing with AMIFLASH: A:amiflash.exe newbios.bin /A+ /-B /-C /-D /E /-G /I /L /N /R /V Flashing with AFUDOS: A:afudos.exe /inewbios.bin Even though the above commands do work it's always crucial that you read what every command does and understand them. First of all, once you're booted into MSDOS, execute the flashers without commands and options. Just use a simple "awdflash.exe" or "amiflash.exe"-- then a help screen (which explains all of the available commands and options) will appear. Read that thoroughly before proceeding and follow the instructions. On a side note, UNIFLASH has a UI (user interface) so it definitely helps beginners. Execute the "uniflash.exe" and the UI will appear and guide you through. Precautions� I can't stress enough that flashing the BIOS can be dangerous if the flashing process isn't finished successfully or if the newly flashed file doesn't match your system or is incorrect. First of all, be aware of electricity and the chances of a power outage. Never flash if there is bad weather outside; losing electricity while in the middle of flashing can have disastrous effects. It's always advisable to have a USP too. Flashing the BIOS doesn't takes longer than one minute so it's very important to be "safe" while flashing; if you must, borrow a USP from your next door neighbor, if possible. Before proceeding to flash don't forget to go into your BIOS and write down (or take a photo if you' have a camera) all of your settings. This is crucial because

the "default" settings may not be the best option for your system, especially if you've tweaked BIOS and you do not remember anymore what tweaks you've applied. Do NOT reboot and/or shut down your system while flashing; the reason for that should be self-explanatory. It's also recommended that you set your BIOS options to "default": reboot, go into BIOS and select the option "Load Fail-safe defaults" or something similar. Now all you need to do is to make backup bootable system disk(s), which can save you in case of a bad flash. Let me explain why. I'm going to introduce and explain a new term in my article: the "boot-block." A boot-block is a small part of the BIOS that helps in case of a bad flash. Let me explain how and why. When flashing the BIOS usually (if you don't use additional commands) the boot-block remains intact, meaning that the "original" boot-block remains safe. The boot-block only contains the data that lets it know how to boot and flash the BIOS from a floppy disk or CD. Suppose the data on the BIOS is screwed up; no POST will happen, nothing will appear on your monitor but your FDD and optical drives are going to blink like hell. This means that you have a bad flash. Either the wrong version of BIOS was flashed onto the ROM or there was a power outage and the flashing stopped right in the middle of the process. You can save your computer by inserting a bootable MSDOS floppy disk (or CD) that is going to have following files on it: your flasher, a new BIOS flash file and "autoexec.bat." Autoexec.bat is executed as soon as your system boots up in MS-DOS. You need to include a command to run the flashing utility. Check out the following two examples; the first one is for AMI and the second one for Award. amiflash.exe newbios.bin /A+ /-B /-C /-D /E /-G /I /L /N /R /V awdflash.exe newbios.bin /py /sn The above examples work only for AMI/AWARD chips, obviously. Replace the example with the correct commands, the name of the new flash file and use the appropriate flasher. After you've put everything on the floppy, insert it and reboot. There is another way to flash AMI BIOS without the need for a bootable floppy disk. Rename your new BIOS flash file to "AMIBOOT.ROM" then copy it to a floppy disk (that will contain only this file). Insert it into your FDD and reboot. Hold down "CTRL"+ "HOME" to launch the flashing process. You'll notice that the floppy LED (or the light on the optical device) is going to report that it's reading. Your system will boot up in MS-DOS and then the flashing process will start. Don't expect anything to appear on your screen; you need to wait until you figure out yourself that the LED isn't blinking anymore and it completed its task; you can wait up to a few minutes maximum to be sure that the process is finished. Eject the CD or get the floppy disk out and reboot your system. If everything goes all right it is going to POST correctly and work as usual; what a relief. You've just saved your system from a bad flash. But what if this doesn't help? Or what if you've flashed corrupt data also on the boot-block? What can you do then? Well, there are a few ways to flash a new and correct version of BIOS onto the chip. The most popular technique is "hotswapping." You are going to need another ROM chip that is flashed with the correct BIOS, meaning that it's taken out of a working motherboard which is exactly like yours.

You borrow that chip for a half an hour (from a friend, neighbor, etc), install it in your motherboard and boot up; your system will POST if the data on the new chip is correct. As soon as you've booted up into MS-DOS, you take out the BIOS ROM chip on-the-fly and replace it with your chip (which has corrupt data on it). Then you proceed to flash. On a side note, please be very cautious and aware that fiddling with components without turning the PC off is very dangerous; you can do more harm than good. Then again, this technique is tried and tested; it works but it's recommended only as a last resort when everything else fails. Basically you're taking out a chip that is powered on, so there is a slight chance of screwing up the entire motherboard's circuitry along with the chip. Final Words Great, we've come to the end of this article. You should have understood by now what the whole "bios flashing" process is. I'm also sure that you've already decided whether you're going to flash your BIOS or not with the latest update that's available. That choice is definitely yours. Although you should keep in mind the consequences too. If there are no serious reasons (unsupported hardware components) and you aren't familiar with flashing, also you're afraid, then don't do it. If you do need to flash your BIOS then read and research before proceeding -- do your homework; when you're ready you'll feel ready. Always check the manufacturers website for detailed instructions and suggestions before diving into anything dealing with either the motherboard, onboard circuit chips, BIOS chips, ROM chips, etc. UPDATING YOUR BIOS This sections will discuss when it is a good time to update your BIOS software and how to do it. If your BIOS is outdated, your computer may not be able to use certain features of your hardware. This will, in turn,cause your PC to run inefficient and eventually fail to run some devices at all. To update your BIOS is to increase your computer's speed and compatibility with newer hardware. Your BIOS can be updated by downloading a small software patch and "Flashing" the software onto the BIOS memory chip located on the motherboard. This software should be downloaded onto a floppy disk for fast installation. As with all software you update on your computer, stop and take the time to copy or backup your bios. Should something go wrong while you are updating your current bios,you will have a backup copy on hand. Use a backup utility such as cmos.zip to backup a copy of your bios or use print screen to have a written copy of your bios. You can find the latest update for your BIOS by first knowing the latest version of BIOS installed on your computer. To find out the type and version of BIOS you have,check your documentation for this data. Or you can contact the manufacturer by phone, email, or visit their website to gather this information. Other ways to know the type of BIOS you have is to select Start>Programs>Accessories>System>and System Information. Then select Windows Report Tool from the tools menu. Then select Collected Information from the options menu and scroll down to the BIOS.

The bios will be found in the "System Settings To Copy" section. Write the manufacturer and date of your bios.You can now perform a search on the Internet to locate the bios web site and download any updates that may be available. This procedure is to be followed if you have Windows 98. For Windows Me and Windows XP,select Start, Programs in Windows Me and All Programs in Windows XP. Then select Accessories>System Tools>System Information>System Summary Section> section and BIOS. Once you know the version of BIOS you have,go to their website and download the latest version onto a floppy disk..Once the download is complete, leave the diskette in the floppy drive,and close your Internet connection. Now you re-boot your computer and if the computer reads the floppy,it will erase the old BIOS from the Flash Memory and install the new software. This same procedure is used regardless of what operating system is installed on your computer.. The Bios is quick to install but you must take great care in not allow power lose in the middle of flashing or stalling the new software. If power is lost by such lighting during a storm or your 6 year old pulling the surge protector from the wall outlet, you will have to use your bios backup to replace the old bios. If you don't have a backup,you may have to take the PC to the manufacturer to have the bios installed. It will well worth updating your bios if you simply ensure there are no senseless means of power lose. You may consider upgrading your BIOS to risky but its really easy, fast, and well worth the time. Your PC should perform much better and provide you with the standards to support the most up to date software and hardware created by BobbyR1234 on 4/8/08 and uploade to http://www.scribd.com