BIOS Flashing – What Is It, and Why You Should(n’t) Do It

Every once in a while, whether you’re trying to reinstall your operating system, or you’re building a whole new one from scratch, you hear about the term “BIOS flashing”. And whether you’ve messed with BIOS settings often, or you’re a complete stranger to PCs, BIOS flashing is something you maybe haven’t tried. In an attempt to clear things up a bit, we’ll be taking a look at what the BIOS is, what flashing is, how it’s done, and a few mistakes you might want to avoid. Let’s not waste any more time, and take a look, shall we?

What is the BIOS and what is BIOS flashing?

The BIOS is what first loads when you turn on your computer. BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System, and it’s put on a chip on your motherboard. It’s meant to instruct your computer on how to do some things that might seem rather basic. We’re talking things like interacting with hardware or loading the operating system. The BIOS is also responsible for things like the boot device order, CPU settings, and sometimes a power-on password.

When you turn on your computer, you’ll see the process known as POST or Power-On Self-Test. This is when the BIOS verifies the system memory, checks the system devices, and locates the device from which it should boot. Once these tests have passed, the BIOS hands over control to your operating system.

Now on to the fun stuff – what is BIOS flashing? Flashing means updating your BIOS (or any other piece of hardware, for that matter), with a new program. This is a process that gives your BIOS improved functionality. Also, sometimes it adds new features, but it’s a process that should be done with extreme care. If you don’t explicitly need it, it’s smart to play it safe and not do it.

When should you flash your BIOS, and how is BIOS flashing done?

There are a few possible reasons why you might want to update your BIOS. The first one, and the most common one, is support for newer processors. This was the case with AMD’s Ryzen 3000 series processors. You could use them on the older B450 or X470 motherboards. But this is possible only if you flashed a new BIOS that had support for them.

The second reason is if you want to install a larger storage device. Honestly, this isn’t all that much of a problem nowadays. But some older motherboards have a BIOS that’s configured to only accept storage devices up to a certain size. If you want to add a larger storage device, you’ll have to do some BIOS flashing.

And last but not least, a BIOS flash might be necessary if there are bugs in the current BIOS. This is something that doesn’t happen all that often. But if your motherboard’s manufacturer has found a bug in the BIOS, a flash might be a good idea to fix the possible bugs.

How do you do it?

When it comes to the process itself, there are a few ways to go about this. The first one, and the most “traditional” one is to flash it using the BIOS’ built-in flashing functionality. The second one is by using a Windows software that has special drivers that give it access to the BIOS on a hardware level – this is how things are commonly done today.

One thing to be careful about is the fact that you must be careful in terms of power. If power runs out while you’re flashing the BIOS, you might be left with an unbootable computer. It is for this reason that some manufacturers of modern motherboards implement a secondary firmware on a separate chip. If the main BIOS gets corrupted in some way, this secondary firmware kicks in and you can get things back to normal.

Common mistakes with BIOS flashing you’ll want to avoid

As we mentioned, making a mistake during BIOS flashing might be a potentially major problem. Therefore, we’ve decided to mention a few mistakes that are made far too often, so you know to avoid them.

Downloading the wrong file

This is the most common one – almost everyone’s guilty of it. You download the BIOS file, only for the flash to fail. Why? Because you downloaded the file for the wrong revision, or even worse, the wrong motherboard model. This is rather common when you’re flashing a prebuilt computer’s BIOS. Sometimes it can be hard to find what motherboard is inside. However, most motherboards come with a safety feature that won’t allow you to flash the wrong BIOS.

Using an outdated flash utility

This was more common with older motherboards, which came with CDs that contained utilities for BIOS flashing. If you have one, you’d be much better off downloading the latest BIOS flashing utility from your motherboard manufacturer’s website.

Not following BIOS flashing directions

It’s no secret that many of us just don’t like reading directions. But with some manufacturers, there are some rather specific instructions that you must follow for the BIOS flashing procedure to go without problems. For example, you might need to change a setting in your current BIOS to enable it to be replaced by a newer one. You can oftentimes find such instructions either on the manufacturer’s website or in the readme file that comes with the BIOS flash file.

BIOS flashing from Windows while other applications are running

Even though many manufacturers scoff at the thought of flashing your BIOS from within Windows, sometimes you just have to go that route. If that’s the case, you will want to close any possible applications that are running in the background, and you’ll want to shut down any additional processes, too. If you have an antivirus running, shut it down – they’re notorious for causing problems in these situations.

Not having a backup

Last but not least, this is one you should always keep in mind – when doing something as risky as flashing a BIOS, always have a backup plan. We mentioned that some motherboards have a separate, second firmware for situations where something fails. But if you don’t have such a motherboard, you should try having a backup of your current BIOS ready. This is done either by backing it up from the flashing utility or by downloading the current BIOS from your motherboard’s manufacturer.

Wrapping things up

All things considered, BIOS flashing is something you should do only if you find it really necessary. But if you do need to do it, make sure you follow instructions to the letter, download the right files, and always have a backup ready!  

Leave a Comment: