Bios Flashing

THE DAY
BIOS flashing is so rare and uncommon that you will most likly never have to do this. The day you need to flash your BIOS, you will crawl the internet pleading out loud for any scrap of information to help you get this done. I wasted an entire day on this, yet it turns out the solution was quite simple, if you know where to look and what to do.

There a couple of key concepts you will need, and some very specific tools like
  • NERO (Express will do)
  • MagicISO
  • DOS OS Floppy Disk (image or the real thing)
Nero is the only item that is not free, but I dare say you can use a free Authoring tool that supports making a bootable CD/DVD.

THE SYMPTOMS

Computer was working perfectly and now will not start
SATA Hard drives not found by the BIOS
Computer starts for a few seconds then stops, then starts normally
Date is always reset


THE PROBLEM
Your BIOS got corrupted. This can occur in a number of ways. a couple of viruses can attack the BIOS or in my case, the motherboard battery died after many years and the BIOS got corrupted.

Unfortunately they are very very limited. Motherboard manufactures tend to use very simple DOS based tools to update (flash) the BIOS. These consist of an executable like AWGFLASH.EXE and a data file like x65pev124.bin.

The idea is that you run AWGFLASH and give the data file as an argument at the command prompt along with whatever switches are required:

AWGFLASH  x65pev124.bin /sn/py/cc/r

You do all remember your DOS commands don't you?
all that fun stuff like
CD.. to change directory (up one level)
Z:\ to change to the Z drive

and the hours of fun typing the file names/switches one character at a time over and over (no copy and paste in DOS ya know)

Well that's just the start of the fun. The first problem you have is loading a DOS operating system, because the BIOS flash tools will NOT WORK UNDER WINDOWS, and by that I mean not even under a DOS prompt under windows.

No you may not fire up your favorite recovery disk from the CDROM drive and then put a CD/DVD with the tools in and launch them. no no no. You need a real DOS operating system to boot to, despite the fact that no one uses it any longer.


THE OPTIONS
The only reason we have a DOS prompt these days is because development tools like Microsoft Visual Studio in their most simple mode, will create an executable called a "console application" that will only run at a DOS prompt. This is in line with their commitment to support legacy windows applications, but frustrating when it comes to the life or death of your machine.

Since Apple has no DOS prompt, and some no BIOS at all, hardware either works or it doesn't. You can restore the BIOS in some machines, but flashing BIOS is just not something MAC users have to deal with.

On a PC, we have to use an OS from the dark ages called DOS. You wil have to download it becasue no one sells this any longer. Since DOS used to be loaded from that old relic of the bad old days, a 1.44MB Floppy Disk, this is what most motherboard sites tell you to use to boot your computer. The last time I saw a floppy disk drive in a computer was back in the 90's, so you are either going to have to trek over to Fry's and buy one, or get clever and use a CD/DVD.

If you install a Floppy Drive, it may instal itself as the B: drive, not as the Floppy A: Drive. To remedy this you will first try to go into your ADVANCED BIOS SETTINGS to set FIRST BOOT to FLOPPY.The computer will then be looking for a (nonexistent) internal A: floppy drive. If you bought a USB floppy disk drive then you will need to got into the ADVANCED BIOS SETTINGS and set FIRST BOOT to be USB-FDD to get the A:> prompt and run the executable or even the RUNME.BAT file if it was supplied.

The second method requires no additional hardware or BIOS re-configuring, because it uses the CD/DVD drive. I burnt a DVD but I am sure CD would work also. To create the DVD I used Nero and specified a bootable DVD. When you do this, NERO asks you for either a drive to take the OS from or a drive image file. I used this one.

After carefully burning the DVD (on another machine with internet access of course), the dead machine booted to a DOS prompt. However, the BIOS was only allowing 2 drives, A: and B: preventing me from switching to drive Z: as configured in this OS. After trying a few different approcahes, I realized I just needed to add my two files to the image, and they would then be available from the DOS prompt A: drive.

The drive that was imaged was originally 3072k. The DOS OS only takes up 30% of that leaving about 2000k available for the BIOS flashing files. These are typically 40k for the .exe and 400k for the .bin, so they can be added to the image without running out of space.

To add these files I tried several Image tools including Daemon Tools and others that advertised support for .IMG file format. The only one that worked was MagicISO. They have a trial version that will save images up to 400MB (bit no more) so this was a perfect solution. I added the two files, saved the new image and burnt it with NERO.

The resulting DVD booted to DOS and now I could run  AWGFLASH. This did not work. File not found. THis is because DOS only allows 8.3 characters for a filename, so AWGFLASH  x65pev124.bin had become x65pev~0.bin. This is the filename that must be entered:
AWGFLASH  x65pev~0.bin /sn/py/cc/r

And now the BIOS is flashed.

If you have trouble with this for any reason, you might try buying a boot cd with more drivers.


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