NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2002
Upgrading Your BIOS?
by Thornton Jacobs
(click to email author)

Have you ever felt the need or gotten the urge to upgrade your motherboard's BIOS? There are several good reasons to do this. An upgrade may only fix some small housekeeping problems, or it might correct something that really can cause problems or increase it's capabilities.

A couple of motherboards ago, I needed to upgrade to a larger hard drive. The old one was 6.4 gigabytes and the new one was 30 GB. (Maybe I finally have one that I will never fill.) The only problem was that my motherboard would only support drives up to 8 GB. I checked the motherboard manufacturer's web site and, Behold, the latest BIOS upgrade would increase my board capability to support 32 MB drives. Over time I had heard of great disasters when someone attempted a BIOS upgrade but after conferring with other people who said that it was "a piece of cake" I decided to try. After making a backup, I downloaded the upgrade install program and the upgrade file. Then, meticulously following the instructions and wiping the sweat from my palms several times, I proceeded with the upgrade. VOILA! A message on the screen informed me "Operation successful". I rebooted the computer and everything worked perfectly. I proceeded to install my gigantic (for that time) drive and the system recognized all 30 MB. Life was wonderful.

Fast forward to March 2002. I was having a problem and it was suggested that a BIOS upgrade might solve the problem. Again, I went to the motherboard manufacturer's web site and again downloaded the install program and upgrade file. After making a backup I proceeded with the process with great care. As before, wiping the sweat from my palms several times during the process. Again, the message "Operation successful" appeared on the screen. Oh great joy. I rebooted the computer. The boot started out just fine but the screen remained black and blank. There was that damnable Windows chime. All should have been well but all I could see on the screen was black. I rebooted with the same result. Everything was great except there was no video. I rebooted once more with the same result. Great panic had now set in. I searched the motherboard's manual for salvation but there was none. I call several people in the NWA-PCUG for a solution. Still no relief.

As a last resort I call former long time NWA-PCUG member John Hunt who had moved out of state. He had no solution but he did have a spare motherboard that he will send me on loan. This board was a twin of mine and was available because he had upgraded to a newer board. I asked what board he recommended since it was obvious that I was in the market for a new one. I hate changing motherboards. They are bad enough when they are planned. It is much worse when unplanned because you haven't a replacement board and the timing is usually terrible. John made a recommendation and said that he would look on the Internet for the best price. Since I was temporarily out of the computer business at home, I went to the Rogers Public Library to access the Internet from one of their computers. Fortunately, it was school day so there were several idle computers. I found a few places that listed the board I was looking for. I copied their telephone numbers and came home. Every place that I called had my board on back order. John called with the same result. I then ordered the board from a company I had done business with before and was prepared to wait until their backorder was filled (May 15 - six weeks). This board would use my Pentium III processor. PIII boards are becoming harder to find.

I then called John and told him to go ahead and send the loaner board. Four days later his board arrived -- just after UPS delivered my new one. So much for backorder delivery estimates. I spent the rest of the day installing the new board and with great trepidation booted up. Operation successful. Life was again beautiful.

I suppose that the moral to this story is that there is no moral to this story. If you must upgrade the BIOS, do it. However, be very careful about following the instructions and have a towel handy to wipe the sweat from your clammy hands. If there is no real reason to upgrade, don't bother because results can be capricious. It could cause much pain and suffering even if you do everything correctly there are some things that are beyond your control. I have e-mailed the old motherboard company several times asking for their help to repair the old board but haven't heard anything. I am not holding my breath.

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