EEPROM BIOS Firmware flashing, the good , the bad and the ugly.
Or how to Brick a PC easy?
Most folks that do this end up bricking their PC; see 10 reasons why here.
Best practice is leave it alone! (lacking skills and experience) OMG OEMs are now doing auto BIOS-UEFI updates !)
Why brick a good PC that ran say for 5 years perfectly?( reading FUD? on line?)
This job is to upgrade your BIOS Firmware, located in EEPROM flash memory. (8pin device)
The word flashing is a verb, the act of burning the EEPROM with new BIOS machine code.
This firmware has 100 year retention factor and does not just leak out by accident!
See my super short list (modern PCs)
A Dell PC burn.
The BIOS ROM history in a nut shell: (note how the first 3 can not ever get infected, pure hardware logic rules)
WP lasted for 15 years, 1995 to 2010. ( gone now for a savings of 2 whole cents) Even longer with EPROM 1981 up.
ast seen Via NAB7500 (2007) &ThinkPad x131e(2013)Gigabyte GA-8i91me, or Foxconn NF4K8mc. ABIT VA-20 , & endless lists.
The Foxconn manual even stated as "to prevent BIOS virus infections" in clear English, what happened? now?
They lost (DELETED) the 1cent jumper. ( to save a penny on a jumper , give me a break, how inane could they get?)
Also loved and now missing is the EEPROM socket, or worse the SMD chips that have only bottom side pins that can never be touched.
With socket I can move my EEPROM to a programmer and backup the firmware easy. ( but this is now gone )
The OEM makers of PC also removed the the burning APP's exe, switch (parameter CLI) to backup the firmware, NO GONE, OEM's hate backups now, amazing no?
The most safe ways to burn any EPROM is not using nasty infected Windows.
There were 3 ways, historically, FreeDOS/LINUX or BIOS current burns new BIOS.
Some OEMs (most) ban all that now, and use Windows cold reboots to run a Windows virtual DOS (and not documented)
The OEM's makers then make the EXE file encrypted to you can not unpack it and see the EXE the scripts or binary.rom file nor the burn scripts.
It is a vast moving set of rules now , ending at what UEFI allows or not. ( Ask your OEM for help, or avoid all this and leave BIOS alone)
Get your BIOS from (as appropriate) Dell.com , Asus.com, HP.com, Lenovo.com , Acer.com ,etc)
The if you must update your BIOS, using , the correct files from above matching your country , your exact PC model and better the serial number or you will suffer #1 failures below!
I first backup or hand record all my BIOS setting not the same as DEFAULT ( know your BIOS first, then flash it)
After any update or new CMOS battery , make sure time and date are correct in BIOS and PXE off, and boot order HDD0/SSD0 is top of list.
Flash, burn or update EEPROM main firmware.
Pitfalls: ( I expanded on the 10 ways to fail here)
The PC must pass Diagnostics first, ask your PC maker for those, or if DELL power on hammer F12 , lcick ePSA diagnostics, rule to all batteries must be good and or charged.
Do not burn with a CMOS battery is dead or weak, at 5-7 years old.
Some good reasons to flash BIOS? (sorry not by the phases of the moon)
Top ways to brick any PC
Flashing and burning new firmware
EXAMPLES ARE NEXT:
The best ways to flash, are: (after any OEM method fails try this, the old fashioned safe way)
Here is me flashing and HP computer, using the HP Freedos way (if the PC lacks EZ-flash) The modern PC the BIOS can find a rom.bin file and is not simple like EZ_flash, at all.
HP ERomqap utility FLASH! If the below fails, this works 2nd best.
On a older HP with odd non friendly EZ_flash (now gone on all NEW OEM PC's with UEFI)
Many HP with same simple model names, have like 10 motherboards used world wide, even with AMD chips not INTEL and if you get the wrong file you will brick this easy as falling off a log.
Best of all is using HP.com support page and tell HP what serial number your PC is from the F1 BIOS information page.
If WinKey +B fails , HP does not support this method now (win +B is go back to older BIOS)
See DELL's EZ burn here.
Pure love here, when see, as we know this engine here is NOT infected so the burn will work every time, I have done so countless times.
The Dell and Asus screens are super simple to see and understand, why HP makes this sow weird IDK.
EZ-Flash real or by any other name, is best if found. (the only trick is how the USB stick is formatted, Fat16/32/NTFS (ask the OEM this first) No need for any HDD at all, and can be far safer leaving it out.
Here is ASUS.com Ez-flash ( yes, the best way if present) done with ZERO BOOT DEVICE MEDIA, but use a USB stick for only the flash.bin file. P5Q-ws~1.ROM best is to use 8.3 file names , ok?
This runs in Intel CPU "REAL" mode, and is 100% safe, the most safe way on earth to flash is with EZ-flash.
First make sure you backed up your old BIOS or download say the top 10 versions just in case. (have a regression path planned out )
Most OEM's have very horrible documentation on BIOS (no books) and for sure the details of each BIOS change, ( like stating only change was , CPU microcode updates, gee why not tell what was done or added.?)
See my UEFI rant here.
More FREEDOS examples. ( I like having one powerful FREEDOS boot USB stick that can run any BURN UTILITY made.) With full memory manager loaded.
I use the same way to burn new firmware on all my LSI 93xx RAID cards, easy as pie , use full version of FreeDSO only. not light.(lite)
BEST OF ALL MANY BURN APPS HAVE BIOS BACKUP MODE, I ALWAY LOOK FOR THAT AND USE THAT FIRST, BACKUP1.BIN <<<DO THAT FIRST.
HP Elitebook 8540w actual, just before the burn.
I always look for a way to backup Firmware first. My version of Eprompaq has no buckup mode at all, sadly.
Some OEM's fear that Backup.rom files (bu.bin) will then be edited and infected then be sent out on the web, like at rednick-rom.com , free firmware site (fake, example)
The do not allow this now using THIER tools.
Each PC maker has there own way to flash the BIOS. (some are good others are vary risky some offer 3 ways to do this with not one warning on true and accurate risk levels)
From best to worse here they are:
The best way for PC makers to handle this is to have EZ-flash so there is no need for MSDOS(Freedos) with 100% class 3 UEFI rated cards or PCs' Class 3 is insane crazy strict UEFI(BIOS) UEFI is a wrapper around BIOS in most cases. CMS is best of all only buy PC with CMS options in BIOS and WIN .
Flashing means or burning, is to charge up the EEPROM cells gates. A.K.A. programming or burning and in the very old days' fusing the PROM's) EE = electrically erasable and alterable.
This gate is like a very tiny capacitor that charged up with electrons. This is how 1 binary bit is stored,
This chip does not forget or leak bits to the bytebucket at all. 100+ year retention spec.
Flashing is the ACT of charging the GATES of this transistor (millions of them)
The term Flash was used when EEPROM started at Intel or SEEQ. (old EEPROM were slow,so they learned how to make them faster and coind the word FLASH . (10mS per byte or less is FAST)
The FLASH simply charges up the MOS floating gates. (after erasure) this is just ONE BIT CELL. (1 of 8 million on mine)
This cell charge can LAST for 200 years. (from top makers like Microchip(tm) "data retention spec. shows 200 years."
They have oxide layer under the gate that is super impurity free ! ( mostly job#1 on all CMOS made) this! If made correctly life span is 100 years, holding data on the floating gate that long.!
Below is a typical EEPROM CHIP with 8 pins (large) and Surface Mounted Device or SMD, used today, and has no socket. (sadly)
25Q16 is 16 Million BITS Q25 IS 512 million bits. (modern serial EPROMs called SPI) The "Microchip AT24CM02" is linked below)
Citations , in all cases use my links to maker Microchip.com (page 21, write cycle timing, if an "ACK" is missed, or the programming pulse is too short or missing called Twr, at 10mS minimum ,not using ACK method) FAILS:
262K Bytes Serial EEPROM 2‑Mbit (262,144 x 8)
If you learn how EEPROM work even basic basics, you will learn fast that TIMING must be CORRECT or you brick the burn and PC. (and any multitasking OS can cause bad TIMING, SUPER EASY and fail)
The modern chips do not need to be pre Erased before the burn (magic inside?) (it auto erases as you program it, like magic)
An Example BURN: A DELL PC) NO better way exists on planet earth than F12 BURN / Flashed updates)
This is only to show that Dell Flash updates do not just do one EEprom main update, it does 3+ in a row. Logged proof here.
The Dell PC with Dell Support Assistant software , does this burn automatically with out your permisssion, DO NOT RUN this DELL Assistant. (or learn how to defeat this crazy idea)
1.4.5 INSTALLED (Dell System OptiPlex 7040)
below are are all ways to burn that are unsafe in RED.
F12 ABOVE IS SAFEST.
The above BIOS FLASH UPDATE/ F12 I call EZflash, with any UPS . $100 device. (200watts will run most PCs lacking GTX690 300watt GPU card)
Flashing pure in Windows with Desktop running, is recipe for disaster.
Dells (for example) Windows flash methods are not disclosed, and the EXE binary can not be unzipped. ALL a bloody secret. (but I am sure if your windows is infected you are doomed doing it this way)
Let me be more clear, for decades I first backed up the onboard, BIOS, to file then burned the EEPROM with new firmware, if that failed, I can go back to the one I just backed up, They now do not let me do that, (the bums)
This nasy fact means bricking a good $350 Motherboard is too easy.
The reasons all this is so hard will be told here, I will tell all pitfalls here.
The #1 reason to fail is timing to flash any EEPROM (firmware) the timing must not be wrong, and windows loves to get this wrong.
The 2nd PITFALL is using the wrong, BIOS xyz123.exe file (the ROM file we call this) take my Dell 3020 MT, and is not at all a Dell 3020M (means micro) they are NOT THE SAME PC, nor the same BIOS at all. Not by a country mile.
Pitfall #3 us make sure burn file is 8.3 filename rules just in case. (12345678.exe , not "Dell Optiplex-790mt.exe" ok? See goodones below.
Keep in mind, some or ALL UEFI PCs DO NOT allow a regression path for BIOS, once UEFI is Class 2.x up, you are stuck there. (not legacy but no regression of BIOS)
The Older DELLS pre 2010 , have no F12 UPDATE BIOS feature. (the cure for that is DDDP, Dells very own DOS..)
DDDP is not corrupted, it is fresh and is not multitasking, so Flash timings are not WRONG. DDDP is very very good. (vastly better than Windows)
At version UEFI Class 3 (iii) there is no more legacy at all, and the OS is married to the mobo and GPU card and is now an intractable POS . (UEFI stinks page)
The future is daily automatic BIOS upgrades (I never allow this) and your $350 MoBo is now bricked hard. (Not my beloved Asus z270 prime)
The Dell rules are here, and not too good (due to evolved changes), but does work. (F12) Note how it skips step #0 ,dang.
Better for home users is the 2012 AND NEWER, DELL PCs with F12 burn, as seen below. DO THIS FIRST , if F12 BIOS FLASH UPDATE IS THERE ?
Power on the PC and quickly (at dell logo) hammer F12 key, (no dead wireless battery keyboards need apply)
This is DELL's version of EZ-FLASH./BURN as seen here.
Dells EZ BURN like:! F12 it's Dell name and hot key. Nothing could be safer.
NIC = network interface card, or in my case is the Ethernet and PXE boot DISABLED for thin-net boot servers nobody has at home. (the M.2 is a SSD gum stick boot drive)
end Dell burn.
CSM = Compatibility Support Module, or Dual BIOS, or legacy + UEFI mode. (the best is here)<<< means you still have some control.
BIOS = BASIC Input Output System, or FIRMWARE the only intelligence in the PC with all boot media removed;
UEFI is BIOS in a wrapper.@ Class 3, kills: regression, << UEFI rant.
RTM = Read the manual at your OEM makers website
OEM = Origional Equipment Manufacture. (eg:. Dell.com and HP.com, Acer.com, Lenovo.com ,etc )
Burning or Flashing (verb) the act of reprogramming the Firmware. (by any means) or BIOS/UEFI UPDATES
DOS, I mean Freedos, a great OS that is virus free, and is single tasking OS that burns with clean accurate clocks and does not weak the burn ever.
EEprom = electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (reads fast , programs slow) and has erase mode, some even have autoerase. ROM are not used, nor are EPROMs for decades now.
Freedos (16bit still) is a new version of DOS and is not allowed at all now with UEFI, so no more safe, BIOS burns with DOS. (infected windows burns now)
Dells DOS called DDDP, does work correctly. (and easy to use)(and used for years is now gone.
ROM files the BIOS files called update123.bin or dot ROM are now gone and made illegal now by UEFI.
USB STICK or STICK means USB memory , fob/key/thumb drive, or Udisk.
BRICKED means the PC is now 100% dead as is the BIOS or UEFI and in many cases can not be regressed or recovered at all. (so stop flashing BIOS and win?) or will not boot any media of any kind is bricked.
My best PC, (CSM joy) is ASUS.com Z370 Prime
Below is my first Intel 1702 EPROM with a quarz UV light windows. The bonding wires are seen clearly. See the die, see the array of floating gate MOS.
My UEFI RANT, (short and sweet?) . ( this my opinion only)
Version-#7 5-9-2017 (v1) v7=Sept-2021 , more UEFI warnings. and pitfalls.