Upgrading Your BIOS to Make Your Computer Work Better

What is the most alien computer jargon that terrorizes the average person or the easiest way to scare off the innocent computer user?  Tell them “there seems to be a problem with your system’s BIOS!” (By the way, they should get scared, because a problem with the BIOS does mean deep trouble for your computer, as I will explain further.)

If I tell you that BIOS  (Basic Input Output System) is taking care of all your computer’s basic operations, that sounds very nice but it still doesn’t solve the confusions that the alien acronym brings with itself. To put it  simply, your computer’s BIOS is responsible for loading everything when you first turn your computer on – that is, it has a library of functions for your keyboard, your mouse, your hard drive, your DVD burner and everything else responsible for the functioning of your computer. It is also responsible for starting (booting) your PC operating system by telling your computer where to go find it.

Why Would You Need to Update Your BIOS?

Your computer’s BIOS is shipped with your motherboard. Unlike software such as Windows, it won’t need to be updated that often, if at all. If there is an update, it is usually for improvements and efficiencies on how your computer operates and runs. Sometimes (very rarely) a security vulnerability may be found and corrected. Whatever the reason, flashing your BIOS could reap big improvements in speed!

As for myself, I bought my latest computer at the end of 2010. I have flashed the BIOS once – Asus, the manufacturer of my motherboard, reprogrammed some commands to make memory and speed more efficient on the circuitry. It resulted in my computer booting faster, and a slight improvement to the response times of my programs. Good enough for me!

A little more Background and a Big Warning!

Now that you understand the necessary basics of BIOS, there is just one more thing to cover before I get into the exact steps required for updating it. BIOS is a set of instructions that are programmed on the ROM (Read-Only Memory), that is, memory that isn’t erased when your computer is turned off. “Memory” as is commonly known, is RAM(Random Access Memory), where your programs load after the computer is turned on.

To put it simply, once the ROM has been programmed, it holds onto its data  and any efforts made at modifying it should be done with care and at your own risk. A wrongly programmed BIOS or ROM can render your device entirely useless, so be warned before you mess with the ROM!

Befriending the Alien aka Updating the BIOS

the computer bios

Now there are a couple of ways to go about this particular task of BIOS upgrade or “flashing the BIOS” (as it is called in the tech-slang).

  1. Install the upgrade program offered by the Motherboard manufacturer
  2. Flashing (upgrading) via a Windows/DOS based environment
  3. Physically changing the ROM chip on your motherboard

I will be discussing the first option as it is the most widely used.

Using the Integrated BIOS Programmer

The most widely used way to flash your BIOS is to install an update. For this purpose you will have to find out the motherboard manufacturer and the BIOS programmer for your PC.

As your computer starts up, read the BIOS programmer name from the top line, as this screen changes quickly – press the “pause” key on your keyboard to hold the screen. If the motherboard is indeed provided with an embedded programmer, you will be able to read it in the bottom line (Here you will press “ALT+F2” key to enter that menu). You can also access this feature by entering setup. In ASUS motherboards, the programmer is indicated in the Tools menu and is named ASUS EZ Flash.

Finally, if you are already in Windows and you have Vista or higher, go to your Start button, and type “msinfo32” into the search box. This will bring up your system information. You’ll find an entry for BIOS Version/Date. Record both.

The instructions that follow are for ASUS Motherboards – for other makes, a variation of the below mentioned steps might apply:

  1. Find out the model no. of your motherboard. It might be written on the box in which the motherboard was packed, in the user manual, your receipt, or on the motherboard itself on a sticker (the motherboard serial number is also written here). It could also be on msinfo32 under “System Model”.
  2. Type in the model number on the ASUS support website. If any BIOS update is available for this model, you can download the update and save it to your computer. be sure to get that file which is compatible to your respective Operating system.
  3. Save the uncompressed file to a USB key – remember the name of this file.
  4. Reboot your computer with the USB inside. Press the “Alt+F2” key as the memory check is taking place. This will open the EZ Flash program included in the firmware of your ASUS motherboard. (Other manufactures have different names – Gigabyte  has their own “Q-Flash” for instance.)
  5. Before updating the BIOS, you have to save the current BIOS. Press “1” to save the current BIOS. Once saved press “Esc”.
  6. Repeat Step 4.
  7. This time press “2” to upgrade the BIOS with the new file. You will have to type in the file name which will be used for upgrading. Remember, I asked you to remember the file name for this reason:)
  8. Enter “Y”  for all the confirmations that the system prompts for your selected action.
  9. Once your BIOS has been flashed, exit the setup and reboot your computer. Done!

For new versions of motherboards, the BIOS update is a simple .exe file which can be directly executed in Windows environment. My computer is from 2010, and I can do this instead. My older computer from 2007 didn’t have this ability. Whatever the case, be sure to read the readme.txt file that comes with your download and pay attention to the details.

I sincerely hope that whichever method you follow for flashing the BIOS, your PC gets through it with flying colors, and your computer runs a little bit faster!

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