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How to Recover from a Failed BIOS Update Procedure

If your BIOS update procedure fails, your system will be useless until you replace the BIOS code. You have two options:

  • Install a replacement BIOS chip (if the BIOS is located in a socketed chip).

  • Use the BIOS recovery feature (available on many systems with surface-mounted or soldered-in-place BIOS chips).

If your BIOS is socketed, you will need to replace it with a compatible BIOS chip. Replacement BIOS chips are available from the BIOS upgrade sources listed earlier. However, if your system is still supported by BIOS updates from the manufacturer, you can order a BIOS replacement from BIOSWorld (http://www.biosworld.com), a company that will download the system or motherboard maker's latest BIOS into a replacement flash memory chip for about $30.

Most motherboards with soldered-in flash ROMs have a special BIOS recovery procedure that can be performed. This hinges on a special unerasable part of the flash ROM that is reserved for this purpose.

In the unlikely event that a flash upgrade is interrupted catastrophically, the BIOS might be left in an unusable state. Recovering from this condition requires the following steps. A minimum of a power supply, a speaker, and a floppy drive configured as drive A should be attached to the motherboard for this procedure to work.

  1. Change the flash recovery jumper to the recovery mode position. Virtually all Intel motherboards and many third-party motherboards have a jumper or switch for BIOS recovery, which is normally labeled Recover/Normal.

  2. Install the bootable BIOS upgrade disk that you previously created to perform the flash upgrade into drive A, and reboot the system.

  3. Because of the small amount of code available in the unerasable flash boot block area, no video prompts are available to direct the procedure. In other words, you will see nothing onscreen. In fact, it is not even necessary for a video card to be connected for this procedure to work. The procedure can be monitored by listening to the speaker and looking at the floppy drive LED. When the system beeps and the floppy drive LED is lit, the system is copying the BIOS recovery code into the flash device.

  4. As soon as the drive LED goes off, the recovery should be complete. Power off the system.

  5. Change the flash recovery jumper back to the default position for normal operation.

When you power the system back on, the new BIOS should be installed and functional. However, you might want to leave the BIOS upgrade floppy in drive A and check to see that the proper BIOS version was installed.


Note that this BIOS recovery procedure is often the fastest way to update a large number of machines, especially if you are performing other upgrades at the same time. This is how it is normally done in a system assembly or production environment.

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