Note that the BIOS can be write-protected. If that is the case (it is not usually necessary), before the BIOS can be updated, its write-protection has to be disabled by changing a jumper setting on the motherboard itself, or by changing a setting in the BIOS itself. If this needs to be done, the motherboard's user manual will provide the required information in the section devoted to the BIOS.
Note well that you should only reflash the BIOS for a specific purpose, such as to fix a known bug, or enable the use of a particular piece of hardware, because the flash process can go wrong. If it does in an irrecoverable way, your system will put completely out of action until you can get the BIOS program restored, or you purchase and install a new motherboard that has a functioning BIOS chip.
Revised editions of a particular model of desktop-PC motherboard are common. If you have purchased a revised model, you have to obtain the updated BIOS file for the revised board, not the original board. For example, the first edition might have been called version 1.0 and subsequent revised models called 2.0, 3.0 or 1.1, 1.2, etc. The image below shows where to look on a motherboard for its revision number.
Note that if you are looking for information on relashing the BIOS of a tablet PC, some of them have a standard PC-type BIOS that can be accessed and reflashed and others use inaccessible firmware that can only be updated. The tablet manufacturer's website should provide information un how to perform a refrash. If not, some manufacturers provide email and forum support. Also, Amazon runs forum topics on some products that are accessed from the product's buying page, such as the following thread that provides advice on how to update the firmware of a popular 7" tablet PC to fix a problem with a touchscreen that freezes:
Updating an EFI BIOS used on motherboards manufactured by the major manufacturers is usually just a simple matter involving nothing more than downloading the update, transferring it to a flash drive, plugging the flash drive into a USB port and pressing a button on the motherboard, as shown in the following video. The method might differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it will always be simple.
ASUS How-To - Install CPU, CPU Fan, & Memory -
Shows how a UEFI BIOS is updated by installing a USB flash drive containing the update and pressing a button on the motherboard. When the light on the button flashes the UEFI is updated.
The manual reflashing procedure reprograms the BIOS chip on the motherboard, and is usually accomplished on a Windows 95/98/Me (Windows 9x) system by copying the flash utility and the new BIOS file to a floppy disk containing the three MS DOS system files that make it bootable and then entering a command at the DOS Command Prompt.
However, that changed with Windows XP, which is not built on MS DOS as are Windows 9x systems. Because of this, even though it was still possible to use a boot floppy disk from which to flash the BIOS in Windows XP, most of the major motherboard manufacturers, such as MSI, developed an application that locates, downloads, and updates the BIOS automatically. MSI's application is currently called MSI Live Update, which can also update the motherboard's drivers and graphics drivers if the motherboard has an integrated graphics chip.
Each motherboard manufacturer has its own ways of flash-updating the BIOS, so you should visit its website to find out what they are.
You can install the application from the CD that came with your MSI motherboard, or access it via the company's website. It is an automatic procedure that downloads an executable BIOS update to your hard disk drive, then reboots the computer and runs the executable file, which is programmed to perform the update.
You install MSI Live Update software. When it is installed, the MSI Live Monitor icon appears on the Desktop. You double-click it to run the application. The Live BIOS and Live Driver tools locate the latest BIOS, driver, and firmware files. If you select them to be updated, they are then installed automatically. The Live Update application can be scheduled to look for updates on MSI's website.
The other major motherboard manufacturers, such as Asus and Gigabyte, provide a similar live update service.
Some MSI motherboards also have a BIOS update feature that operates from the BIOS itself. No bootable floppy disk with the BIOS files on it is necessary. You just download the update file and enter the path to it in the utility. This has been provided now because Windows 2000 / XP / Vista and Windows 7 do not have a DOS mode. You obviously cannot access the Internet from the BIOS, because you have to have Windows up and running to do so.
I updated my MSI 7093 motherboard's BIOS by using the Live Update feature without any problem. You are informed that you are using it at your own risk and you are advised to create a back-up floppy disk the copies the old BIOS to the floppy disk and creates a boot disk that restores the old BIOS automatically if you boot the system with the boot disk. You would only do that if the update procedure fails and you can't start up the system. It is very advisable to create the boot disk, because if there is any kind of failure the BIOS update will go wrong and render the PC unbootable. However, most new desktop and laptop PCs no longer come with a floppy disk drive, so an alternative method will have to be used, which is why most motherboards now allow the user to restore a corrupt BIOS file from a USB flash drive that contains a backup or a downloaded BIOS file.
Most of the motherboard manufacturer's still provide the option to create a boot disk that reflashes the BIOS at system startup when the boot floppy disk (that contains the system boot files, the utility that updates the BIOS, and the updated BIOS file) is placed in the A: drive. Apart from running the update utility in Safe mode, using a boot disk used to be the only way to update the BIOS, but, as I said, using a live BIOS update works very well as long as you follow the instructions and disable monitoring software, such as a virus/spyware scanner, firewall, etc. and close all running programs before you run it.
You should read your computer's motherboard manual to find out how BIOS updates are installed. If you don't have a copy, download one form its motherboard manufacturer's website. If you need a quick way to identify a PC's processor, motherboard, and RAM, the free CPU-Z utility is ideal. It provides plenty of information on those components in Windows 95/98/Me/XP/Vista and Windows 7. When you know the make and model of the motherboard, you can locate its manufacturer's website by entering that information into a search engine (such as the Google search box provided at the top of this page (enable the Web Search option on the first search page).
If you need the latest BIOS update for your desktop or laptop computer but can't find one on the computer's manufacturer's or its motherboard manufacturer's website, BIOS Updates, "The official BIOS and update support center for Phoenix-Award and AMI BIOS" is a good place to start. It also looks for and can download updates for the other software and hardware on the computer. The downside is that despite the free scan, it costs $29.95 to join. - biosagentplus.com
Some new motherboards, such as those made by Asus, provide the BIOS files on a bootable CD. The following is an extract from the user manual for the Asus A8N-E Socket 939 motherboard for AMD Athlon 64 processors.
Creating a boot CD/DVD to flash the BIOS will work on any computer that has an optical CD/DVD drive that can read the disc. However, a boot disc will have to be created every time that you want to upgrade your computer's BIOS. Bootdisk.com provides all of the information and files that you need to create a CD/DVD disc that can flash your computer's BIOS.
My desktop PC has an MSI 790GX-G65 motherboard running the 64-bit version Windows 7 Ultimate. I need to update the BIOS, but apparently MSI is changing the base code of the motherboard's built-in flashing utility, so it can't be used. MSI's website says that the online tool can be used instead, but, as usual, I can't get this to work. That leaves flashing the BIOS in the old-fashioned way by booting with MS DOS boot files and flashing the BIOS file with the flash utility that MSI still provides. However, the option to create an MS-DOS boot disk is greyed-out in Windows 7 when I right-click on my USB flash drive under Start => Computer and then click Format.
The option to create an MS-DOS boot disk is greyed-out on several Windows 7 computers that I have come across and I have no idea why this is the case. There is no information on the web about this that I could find. However, if you search for Drive Key Boot Utility from hp.com, it can be used to format most brands of USB flash drive and make them bootable.
Extract the HP utility and run it. Choose your USB flash drive from the list. When the process has finished, the flash drive will appear to be blank when viewed using Windows Explorer, because the only files on it are the three hidden MS DOS boot system files. The flash utility that does the reflashing and new BIOS file provided by MSI can now be copied to the flash drive.
Reboot Windows 7, leaving the USB flash drive plugged in. Note that to boot from it, the BIOS has to be set to boot first from the flash drive, so press the key(s) that bring up the BIOS at startup and set the USB flash drive as the first boot device.
If you have read the Motherboard, Cases and Power Supplies section of this website, you will know that the settings for the processor - e.g., the front side bus frequency (FSB), clock-multiplier, and voltages, can be set by setting jumpers or DIP Switches that are on the motherboard of PC a decade or more old, or by using the BIOS setup program of more recent PCs - if they are made available, which is not always the case, because the computer manufacturer might restrict the BIOS setting in order to make it impossible for the owner to render the computer unbootable by setting incompatible settings.
Shown below are the processor BIOS settings for the Abit AT7 motherboard - available for both the AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium 4 platforms - which uses the BIOS (instead of motherboard jumpers or DIP switches) for all of the processor's settings. This is the easiest way to set a motherboard, and Abit were past masters at providing the means to do it this way. (Abit no longer exists.) This motherboard was an overclocker's dream because of the wide range and scope of its SoftMenu BIOS settings.
Note that the way that these settings appear or are accessed varies from BIOS to BIOS and that the main settings have remained much the same. Modern BIOSes, especially the new EFI BIOSes, currently provide very slick-looking menu pages that are much easier to use (accessed by using a mouse, laptop touchpad or the keyboard arrow keys) than was the case with the BIOS used by the Abit AT7 motherboard.
Here is an image of the current (May 2011) slick-loooking main BIOS screen of an EFI BIOS used by an Intel-based MSI MS-7673 Socket LGA1155 motherboard. It provides a special Overclocking menu that provides overclocking settings. The motherboard manual, which can be downloaded as a PDF document, provides information on the settings.
The BIOS can also be used to monitor the system. BIOS settings are capable of monitoring the processor's temperature, fan speed, and voltages. Most current BIOSes allow you to set a temperature that sets off an alarm or shuts the system down if it is exceeded. The image below shows PC Health Status page of an Award BIOS showing its warning and control settings. I would enable the CPU Warning Temperature. I would also enable the CPU [processor] Fan Warning setting.
You should be able to set the fan speeds for a minimum and a maximum temerature for both the chassis (internal temperature of the case) and the processor. For example, if the setting is measured in percentages, set the fan speed as 0 for the minimum and 100% for the maximum temperature. Then set the processor's temperature range, which depends on the make/model of processor. You can find out what the maximum operating temperature is for a particular make/model from its manufacturer's website. Note that laptop processors can function at much higher maximum temperatures than desktop-PC processors - usually up to 100 degrees Centigrade. For current Dec. 2011) Intel processors, set a minimum of 55 and a maximum of 85 degrees Centigrade. For AMD processors, use 50 and 70 degrees for the min. and max. temps.
Automatic settings may also be provided, such as lowest settings shown in the image above described as Smart, which are preset. You will have to save the settings when you exit the BIOS. The computer's fans will be adjusted automatically. Note that the faster the fans spin the more noise they make, so, for a high performance computer it's advisable to buy special silent fans for the case and cooling unit for the processor.
With the Athlon 64 processors, AMD allows the free choice of clock multiplier settings for the purpose of overclocking - even though the processor itself can only tolerate a few hundred megahertz of extra speed - and then only if the motherboard supports alternative clock-multiplier settings. See the relevant BIOS page (below) for the clock-multiplier settings on a motherboard with an Athlon 64 processor installed.
The X stands for the motherboard's FSB setting, which in this case is 200MHz. AMD uses a Pentium Rating (PR) method to rate its processors, so the 16X clock-multiplier setting (or CPU RATIO) represents 16 multiplied by the FSB of 200MHz, giving the processor a PR of 3200+ - the intended setting for this processor, which should display as such on the boot screen instead of its clock speed/frequency of 2200MHz.
If a 17X clock-multiplier setting were available, the processor would be running at an overclocked PR of 3400+, etc.
For more information, click here! to go to the page that deals with overclocking on this website.
Note that MSI BIOSes (and many other PC and motherboard manufacturers) have a setting in them that produces the manufacturer's start-up screen instead of the usual memory count and system information screens. Here is the description of the setting in an MSI motherboard manual:
"Full Screen LOGO Display - This item enables you to show the company logo on the bootup screen. Settings are: [Enabled] Shows a still image (logo) on the full screen at boot. [Disabled] Shows the POST messages at boot."
If the system starts up showing a manufacturer's logo instead of the Power-On-Self-Test (POST) information, such as the audible beep issued by the speaker in the PC's case, the memory count, and the tabled information on the hardware, it is generated from the BIOS setup program, not from software that is set to load at startup. The manufacturer's logo could be that of the PC's manufacturer, such as Dell, HP, Gateway, etc., or the manufacturer of the motherboard, such as MSI, Asus, Abit, etc., or even the developer of the BIOS itself, such as Award, Phoenix or AMI.
It is worthwhile seeing the POST screens because unexpected changes in the startup information could indicate a problem with the RAM memory, or indicated that a hard disk drive or CD/DVD drive has not been recognised, etc.
Some BIOS setup programs allow the logo to be temporarily disabled so that you can see the startup information by, for example, pressing the Tab or Esc key during startup. Other BIOSes have an internal setting that enables or disables the logo. Not all BIOSes have the option to disable the logo, but if yours does, the BIOS page that the setting is on has a title such as Advanced BIOS Features, which is the case in a Phoenix BIOS. In the Phoenix BIOS of an MSI motherboard used by the PC I am working on now, the setting has this name: Full Screen Logo Show. Enabling it shows the MSI logo at startup; disabling it shows the POST information.
A good example of how the BIOS can make a vital difference is the case of AMD K6-2 and K6-3 processors.
The K6-2 450MHz processor and the K6-3 range of processors use a new CXT core that requires a BIOS upgrade in order to function on motherboards designed to use the previous processor core. Without this BIOS upgrade, these processors will not function, even though the motherboard can run K6-2 266MHz to 400MHz processors.
Most computer manufacturers (Dell, HP, etc.) and motherboard manufacturers (Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, etc.) install flash BIOS chips on their motherboards, which can be upgraded from a floppy disk by using a utility downloaded from their websites or by using their live update facility, which means having to install the update software, instead of replacing the BIOS manufacturer's chip on the motherboard.
The problem is, many firms that have their motherboards manufactured cheaply in the Far East do not provide flash BIOS upgrades for their motherboards, either from their websites, or through the post. So, before you make a purchase, make sure that you can obtain BIOS upgrades and the latest device drivers, either from the vendor, the manufacturer of the computer, or from the manufacturer of the BIOS chip.
When a new piece of hardware, such as a new type of HDD, or video card, is introduced, the software driver for it is often far from being honed to perfection. Therefore, the opportunity to download the latest drivers for devices from the major manufacturers and/or vendors usually exists.
Most reputable motherboard manufacturers have websites from which BIOS and device driver upgrades can be obtained.
Note that it is always essential to obtain flash BIOS file upgrades from the computer's manufacturer (Dell, HP, Compaq, etc.), or the computer's motherboard's manufacturer, (downloaded from their websites), because the original BIOS was probably customised for that particular motherboard.
The motherboard manufacturer can add or remove BIOS settings to suit its needs. If, say, it discovers that BIOS settings are creating support issues, it will remove the ability to enable or disable the offending settings, and make the BIOS set them automatically.
Loading an uncustomised flash upgrade obtained directly from a BIOS manufacturer such as Award would overwrite the original BIOS and may render the computer inoperable if the original BIOS cannot be restored, having not been saved to a floppy disk by using the same utility that reflashes the BIOS.
An inexpensive BIOS recovery service, among other BIOS related matters, is offered at the following websites - flashbios.org and badflash.com/.
Apparently you can send your BIOS chip in to these businesses to have it reprogrammed to order in those cases where the BIOS file has become corrupt and cannot be reflashed.
You can also try entering a web search term such as bios recovery. You could probably spend all day looking at all of the BIOS-related links that any search engine can find.