Apps / Software BIOS Update – How it Works

Elizabeth Harper

The BIOS/UEFI is responsible for allowing your operating system to access the processor, memory, and other hardware components. Because this firmware runs below the operating system, such as Windows, updating it is more complicated than updating drivers or programs.

Note: Nowadays, many BIOS updates are bundled together with Windows updates. If this is the case for you, simply perform regular Windows updates.

## How does BIOS updating work?

First, it’s important to understand what BIOS/UEFI is and why both terms are often used interchangeably. BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System, while UEFI stands for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. These are both firmware components of your computer that enable access to the hardware. Without BIOS/UEFI, there would be no connection between the hardware and the operating system, such as Windows. Every device, from printers to cameras to GPS loggers, has such firmware. With cameras, you directly operate the device using this firmware, while with computers, it works invisibly in the background as you interact with Windows, Linux, or macOS. BIOS dates back to the 1970s, consisting of plain text that is operated using the keyboard. Its successor, UEFI, provides a graphical interface that can be operated with a mouse, but the differences in usage are not significant. Since the term BIOS has become so widespread, you will often see the term UEFI-BIOS or simply BIOS, even when referring to UEFI – and that’s how we’ll refer to it here. The important point to note is that **the BIOS runs beneath Windows**, so you cannot simply double-click an EXE file in Windows to update the BIOS. Just as the Firefox browser cannot update Windows, Windows cannot update the BIOS. The BIOS must handle the update itself. The firmware runs on a flash memory on the motherboard, which is why the term “flashing” is used. We will use an MSI motherboard as an example, but the process is similar for other manufacturers as well. Windows itself provides the model information upon request.

## Should you even update the BIOS?

Regardless of which standard your device uses, it is worth considering if you really need to update the BIOS. If something goes wrong during the BIOS update, your computer could become unusable. If there is a power outage or the computer is shut down during the update, it could mean that it won’t start up again. While this is unlikely, it is not impossible. Therefore, we recommend reading the release notes of the latest version (as well as any versions prior to your current one) on the manufacturer’s website to determine if the new version adds the features you need or fixes any issues or vulnerabilities. If not, it may not be worth the risk. Sometimes, you may need to update the BIOS to properly support a new processor or other hardware on your motherboard, or to fix errors and improve stability or performance.

Important: Determine your motherboard model

Flashing a new BIOS is quite simple and reliable nowadays, but it can also brick entire systems! The good news is, even if something goes wrong during flashing, your operating system and data will remain unaffected, and you can simply flash again. However, you need to do some preparatory work. Firstly, you should make a backup of your system or important data, despite everything. Secondly, you need to determine the exact **model name of your motherboard**. If you bought a pre-built computer with Windows, chances are that there is already a **firmware tool from the motherboard manufacturer** on your computer that displays the exact model name and may even offer BIOS updates. Alternatively, you can download the free CPU-Z, open it, and navigate to the “Mainboard” tab. There, you will find all the necessary information about your motherboard and the installed BIOS version. In this post, we will explain step by step how to obtain information about your motherboard using CPU-Z. If you have a receipt that indicates the model, it is not recommended to solely rely on it. It is not uncommon for an ordered motherboard to be upgraded to a better/newer model without any notification in customized computers. Alternatively, you can simply run the “msinfo32.exe” command in Windows – this is sufficient for obtaining the BIOS version. CPU-Z provides all the necessary information.

## Finding the BIOS file for the update

Go to the website of the motherboard or laptop manufacturer and look for a support link. You should be able to search for the model of your motherboard and see a list of available downloads, which may include manuals, drivers, and BIOS/UEFI files. This is why it is important to determine your motherboard model in advance. Incorrect BIOS files can have disastrous effects on your system. If you find a BIOS update on the manufacturer’s page, check the version numbers. Is the update newer than your current version? If so, it’s time to download the update. Older BIOS downloads used to contain a flash program that was launched from a USB drive after entering a command in the command prompt. However, modern motherboards usually have a utility integrated into the BIOS, so the downloaded .zip file only contains the BIOS update file and a text file with the release notes. At this point, it is worth reading the instructions on the manufacturer’s website regarding the exact update process for your BIOS. The process may vary, and you may need to configure some settings before starting the update process, such as disabling secure boot modes and fast startup modes. In most cases, you simply need to extract the files from the zip file and copy them to a USB drive. MSI offers the different BIOS versions for the specific motherboard model on their website.

## Updating the BIOS directly in the BIOS

With this information, you can now search for the correct BIOS version. **All manufacturers provide corresponding downloads on their websites**. Motherboard names often consist of endless, confusing combinations of letters and numbers – the name should match exactly! Usually, you will find a ZIP archive, often with only a readme text file and a file with a peculiar name and no file extension. **Copy the contents of the ZIP to a USB storage device**, whether it is a USB stick or an entire hard drive. Then, **restart your computer** and enter the BIOS. To do this, you need to press a specific key shortly after the computer restarts. You can find out which key to press to enter the BIOS of your computer. There are differences between manufacturers. However, there is usually a corresponding notification displayed on the screen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always proceed in the same way. In the case of MSI, you will find the update option directly at the bottom left under “M-Flash”, while other manufacturers require you to search for a suitable menu entry. The rest of the process is quite simple: When prompted by the update tool, select your **USB storage device** and then the extracted **firmware file**. After that, all you have to do is wait – the computer should start up normally after a few minutes. Very important: During this phase, **do not turn off or restart the computer**, as that will surely create problems! The process is straightforward in UEFI.

## Updating via Windows

Some manufacturers, such as Asus, also offer **Windows tools for BIOS updates**. Asus’ software is called WinFlash and has only one advantage: You can copy the currently installed BIOS to the USB drive. However, older BIOS versions are usually available for download as well, in case you need to downgrade for any reason. WinFlash also handles the BIOS image download, but you still need to find the correct WinFlash version for your motherboard, so it does not save you any work. Once you have it, you simply need to **start the tool and let it do its job**: The computer will restart, the new BIOS will be flashed, and the computer will boot up with Windows. Although using a Windows tool might seem easier, it ultimately only skips entering the BIOS and a few clicks. The advantage of the manual method is that it works almost always, and you will learn how to enter the BIOS. Plus, you may discover some useful features! At least MSI helps with finding updates.

## Flashing BIOS via USB

To update your BIOS using DOS, you will need a **bootable USB stick**. Creating one is simple. We will use Rufus, but you can also use other options such as HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool, MSI DOS Tool, or UNetbootin. Rufus formats your USB drive with the FAT32 file format by default, which is suitable for UEFI or DOS system types. It creates a bootable USB stick with MS-DOS or FreeDOS, depending on your preference. You can also create an ISO image if you prefer. Tip: Pay attention to the correct formatting, as otherwise, problems can arise. Typically, you can’t go wrong with the NTFS format. Take the **updated BIOS version** and the **BIOS update program** that you downloaded from the manufacturer’s website, and copy them to the newly bootable USB stick. Leave the USB stick connected to the computer and restart the system. Press the [F11] key or hold it down when the system restarts. This will take you to the boot selection, where you can specify a boot device. Make sure you have set your bootable USB stick as the boot device, and then press Enter. Once the command prompt appears, you need to enter the exact name of your BIOS update program or flash tool, such as “bupdater”, “afudos”, or “awdflash”. If your files and the update tool are in a different folder, you will need to access that folder first using the “cd” command. Each flash utility is slightly different, but they are generally easy enough to understand. They also provide instructions on what to do when running in DOS. Check the provided information or follow the on-screen instructions to save the current BIOS and/or select the new BIOS file for the update. After compatibility checks, the update should be ready. Use the [Y] key to confirm and start the update. Once the update is complete, you can check the **BIOS version number** to ensure that the update was successful, using the method mentioned above.

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