Updating Your BIOS
I need to upgrade my BIOS to run some new hardware. How do I do it?
The short answer: Very carefully. The BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) is a small program stored in a read-only memory (ROM) chip on your motherboard. The BIOS controls all your computer's most basic interactions between hardware and software. All modern computers have the BIOS written in reprogrammable ROM, such as Flash ROM or (less commonly) EEPROM. Computer makers provide updated versions of the BIOS so users can download them as they are needed.
The key phrase here is as they are needed. Upgrading (also called flashing) a BIOS is normally a relatively easy task, but if you mess it up, you can render your computer completely inoperable and there is no easy fix. The rule is, don't upgrade your BIOS unless you really have to. You'll know that if you have software that won't load or peripherals that don't operate correctly, if at all.
All that said, the actual process is not much different from installing any other piece of software. However, almost every motherboard manufacturer does the task somewhat differently. The instructions will be posted on the motherboard maker's home page. Read those instructions, understand them and follow them precisely. When it comes to your system BIOS, there are no shortcuts.
Typically, the process of upgrading your BIOS goes something like this:
- Reboot your computer and go into the startup utility by pressing F6 when prompted. (Watch closely, it goes by fast.)
- Turn off "Flash Protection" if your system has that option.
- Determine the model number of your BIOS. This is usually taken from the information available in the system configuration utility If it isn't there you can usually get it off the flash chip on the motherboard, or check the manufacturer's site for alternate locations. Another way of getting this information is watching the very first screen that comes up when the system boots. It normally has the BIOS information in the lower left corner of the screen.
- Write down the number of your current BIOS and carefully record all the settings in the startup utility.
- Make sure you have a bootable floppy, or in the case of Windows XP, an MS-DOS startup disk. (Your system's help files will tell you how to make the appropriate disk.)
- Go to the manufacturer's site and download the new BIOS version onto a floppy. Make sure you get exactly the right version. Don't guess and accept no substitutes. There will likely be several versions available. Sometimes the manufacturer will include an installation program, which makes life a lot easier.
- Extract the files onto the floppy if they are compressed.
- Reboot the computer with a bootable floppy or, in the case of Windows XP an MS-DOS startup disk.
- Replace the bootable disk with the disk containing the BIOS upgrade.
- Run the upgrade according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Don't shut the computer off or reboot the system until the upgrade has finished.
- Once the upgrade is completed, reboot your computer.
Once the system reboots, you'll be running on your new BIOS.