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HARDWARE GUIDES

Why and How to Flash Your BIOS
By: Barzan "Tony" Antal
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    2007-04-02

    Table of Contents:
  • Why and How to Flash Your BIOS
  • Understanding the Process
  • Precautions…
  • More Precautions

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    Why and How to Flash Your BIOS


    (Page 1 of 4 )

    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.

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