Help with computer BIOS updates

Updated: 10/30/2017 by Computer Hope

Unlike earlier computers that date before 1996, new computers have a Flash BIOS that enables users to update the BIOS chip or flash the BIOS on the motherboard using a software program. BIOS updates have the capability of correcting problems that may be occurring with your computer hardware that cannot be fixed with drivers or an operating system update. You can think of a BIOS update as an update to your hardware and not your software. Below is a picture of a flash BIOS on a motherboard.

BIOS

What does a BIOS update fix?

A BIOS update can fix any of the following problems.

Note: Although a BIOS update could fix all of the following it is only going to fix what is mentioned in the readme file or on the manufacturer's website. Make sure you're updating the BIOS only if it addresses your problem.

  • Add the capability of adding new hardware to the computer.
  • Additional options or corrections to the BIOS setup screen.
  • Correcting issues with incompatibility with hardware.
  • Update hardware capacity and capabilities.
  • Missing information or instructions.
  • Update to the startup logo.
  • Older computers that need an update to the Year 2000 issue.

Do I need a BIOS update?

Unlike a software update you'd perform on a software program or computer game, BIOS updates are much more difficult and if done improperly can cause your computer to no longer work. Therefore, a BIOS update should only be done if the readme file or the manufactures website indicate that the BIOS update will fix your problem or the manufacturer is suggesting an update.

I want to keep my computer up-to-date, should I update the BIOS?

We only recommend updating the BIOS if you are having problems. If the computer is working fine, we do not recommend updating the BIOS.

BIOS update precautions and suggestions

BIOS updates can be a costly mistake if all of the proper information and steps are not known by the user before proceeding. Updating the BIOS improperly or with the wrong BIOS may cause your system to not boot. The steps below are steps that should be taken before upgrading your computer BIOS.

  1. Only obtain the BIOS update from the computer manufacturer or motherboard manufacturer. Note: most OEM's (e.g., Dell, HP, and Toshiba) do not recommend updating the BIOS from the motherboard manufacturer and to only use their BIOS updates.
  2. Do not shut off or reboot the computer until the BIOS instructs you to do so.
  3. Verify that the BIOS you have been instructed to use or the one that you are downloading resolves a problem you have. Remember that BIOS updates only fix hardware issues and will not fix software issues unless that software is directly related to the hardware.
  4. Verify the BIOS version and make sure that the BIOS update you plan on using is the next version. For example, if your BIOS is 1.0a, and the manufacturer has 1.0b, 1.0c, 1.0d, etc. update to version 1.0b first. If you need 1.0d, update to 1.0b, 1.0c, and then 1.0d unless otherwise instructed by the motherboard manufacturer.
  5. Some BIOS updates only work with a specific type of processor. Therefore it is also a good idea to know what type of processor your computer has.
  6. Verify that the computer has been scanned for viruses. It is possible for a virus to cause a BIOS update to abort or fail.
  7. If you are updating a laptop BIOS, make sure the AC adapter is connected.
  8. Only do a BIOS update in a stable environment. If it is storming outside and the power goes out during the update on a computer without a battery backup or UPS it can cause the computer to no longer boot.
  9. Finally, when upgrading a BIOS, read all disclaimers and other instructions included with the download. Many computer manufacturers void warranties if the update is done by a user without the assistance of a technician or company representative. If the BIOS causes any difficulty with the computer, you may be held responsible.

Where do I get a BIOS update?

Computer Hope does not provide users with BIOS updates. A BIOS update must be handled directly through the computer manufacturer or motherboard manufacturer. See the motherboard drivers page for a list of computer motherboard manufacturer driver and BIOS update pages or our computer manufacturers listing for a full list of computer manufacturers.

How to download a BIOS update without a working computer

If your computer cannot connect to the Internet to download a BIOS update, use another computer to create a BIOS update diskette, disc, or bootable USB thumb drive.

Where can I find the BIOS version for my motherboard?

The BIOS version is often displayed when the computer is first booting. If necessary, you can press the Pause key on the keyboard to halt the boot process and view the messages as the computer is booting. If you are unable to see the BIOS version during the boot sequence, this information can be found in the CMOS setup. See the link below for full information and other ways of determining the BIOS version.

How do I install my BIOS update?

Note: All BIOS updates are different, so the instructions below may not apply to your BIOS update.

BIOS updates that are downloadable from the Internet create a diskette, disc, USB flash drive, or install the BIOS update in Windows. How they are installed, all depends on the manufacturer.

Bootable diskette, disc, or USB

In the case of a diskette, disc, or bootable USB flash drive the file you download steps you the process of creating a diskette, disc, or using a USB flash drive. Once it has been created restarting the computer with the disk, disc, or USB inserted in the computer will start the BIOS update automatically. If the computer does not boot from the bootable media, you may need to adjust your boot settings.

Note: If you're doing a BIOS update that boots you to a command line you may need to type "install" or "update" at the command line to start the update.

BIOS update through Windows

With an update done through Windows, after the BIOS update has been downloaded it can be installed like any other program on your computer. After it has been completed, you must restart the computer to finish the BIOS update.

After a BIOS has been updated can it be updated again?

Yes. As long as the previous BIOS update has been flashed correctly, it can be updated again to a later BIOS update version. For example, if you've updated to BIOS version 1.1 and BIOS version 1.2 was later made available you could update the BIOS to 1.2 after 1.1 has been installed.

However, if the BIOS update failed and the computer is no longer able to boot you will no longer be able to update the BIOS.

Can I revert to an older BIOS version?

Some computer and motherboard manufacturers can revert to an older BIOS version. However, it all depends on who developed the BIOS update. Generally speaking, most update programs are only capable of being updated and not reverted to an older version.