Audible BIOS Tones and Troubleshooting Tools. Part I

Modern versions of BIOS have developed diagnostic facilities, with the help of which you may identify defective or wrongly set hardware. BIOS can inform about such problems by sound signals, messages on a display or POST-codes.

An initial diagnostics of the computer is usually accompanied by one short audible tone which informs that the POST-procedure has completed successfully and the operating system is ready to boot. If a serious error has been found, the operation of a system will be stopped with audible tone and/or messages on a display. Audible tones are used in those cases when a fault does not allow the system displaying a message. They also may be used to alert the user to visual messages on a display.

It is noteworthy that some motherboards manufacturers may change the tone meaning or add the new ones. If you have heard a strange tone, try to search its decode in the board manual or contact a technical support service of your motherboard manufacturer.

Specific Features of BIOS Recovery

The leading manufacturers of motherboards may offer their own methods of recovery of damaged BIOS, information about which you can get from a motherboard manual. Let’s look at some of them.

  • ASUS CrashFree BIOS. This method is used in many modern motherboards by ASUS and is an upgrade version of AMIBIOS recovery. You may place the file with the firmware on a floppy, CD or flash-disk and rename it according to the directions in the motherboard manual. If an error in a check sum of BIOS occurs, the file with the firmware will be searched on the removable medium. And if successful, the flashing will start automatically. You may find a file with a firmware on a disk with drivers attached to the board.
  • Gigabyte DualBIOS. A number of models of Gigabyte motherboards have got two BIOS microchips: main and reserve. If the main microchip is damaged, the system will automatically boot from the reserve one. The recovery of the main microchip may be done automatically, but some models have got a special menu (by pressing F8) to manage the main and reserve microchips.
  • MSI. Most motherboards of this manufacturer use the methods of AwardBIOS and AMIBIOS recovery, but sometimes you may find motherboards with the SafeBIOS method which allows automatic recovering of damaged BIOS code from a reserve copy.
  • Elitegroup (ECS). Some motherboards by Elitegroup have got the reserve BIOS microchip. If the main microchip is damaged, the reserve one is set instead of it with the help of a special panel, and the system will boot. Then the reserve microchip is taken off and the main one is flashed in its normal way.

Recovery Using Boot Block

This method is based on an assumption that the booting block of BIOS (Boot Block) has remained intact and you may run BIOS update with its help.

Boot Block of most versions of AwardBIOS just tries to boot a computer from a floppy, and as the display may be black all the time, you should create the floppy from which the update will be automatically started. To do this, follow the steps below:

  1. Create the same system floppy as for the AwardBIOS update, record a firmware program and a file with a firmware on it.
  2. Create a text file which has the following command: AWDFLASH name_file_firmware /ру /sn /ее /cd /ср /sb /r
  3. Save created file on the floppy named autoexec.bat. While saving the file in Notepad, it is necessary to select a type of the file “All Files”.
  4. Null the content of CMOS-memory, set the primary booting from the floppy, then insert the floppy into the floppy drive and turn on the computer. Then everything must be in automatic regime. If successful, after rebooting you will see “Post” on your display. Eject the floppy from the drive then.

If your booting block is intact, AMIBIOS recovery is performed in the following way:

  1. Record a file with the BIOS firmware on a floppy or rename it in AMIBOOT.ROM.
  2. Insert a floppy into a drive and turn on the computer. All further operations should be performed automatically. To start recovery in some version of BIOS, you need to press Ctrl+Home immediately after switching the power supply.

Recovery of Damaged BIOS

If the above update rules are not observed, the BIOS code may be damaged. As a result, there is no possibility to boot a computer but it also shows some indications of its operation: a power indicator illuminates, a fan of the power supply starts, the indicators on a keyboard and a disk drive flash. Before recovering BIOS, power off the computer, null CMOS using a jumper on the motherboard and try to turn it again.

If BIOS zeroing has not produced the desired results, the only way to bring the motherboard back to life is to recover damaged BIOS code.  There are several ways to do this:

  • if you have a modern motherboard by one of the leading manufacturers, you can use the recovery technology offered by your motherboard’s manufacturers.
  • If there are not any special recovery technologies in your board, you may use the standard ways of recovery for AwardBIOS and AMIBIOS (using Boot Block).
  • If any of the above methods do not recover your BIOS, you may contact the service center of manufacturer or one of specialized companies where the flashing will be done using Programming Tool hardware.

BIOS Update for Gigabyte Motherboards

Most motherboards by Gigabyte have got the Q-Flash utility for direct BIOS update. To use it, you must enter BIOS Setup and press F8. There you will find the commands “Save BIOS to Drive” (for saving the previous version on a floppy or a flash-disk) and “Update BIOS from Drive” (for starting flashing of a new version). The modern version Q-Flash support update from flash-disks and hard drives formatted with FAT/FAT32, and older ones – only from floppies.

The utility @BIOS is located on CDs of Gigabyte boards for automatic download of the update from the Gigabyte site and BIOS flashing. As it was stated before, BIOS update from Windows is less favorable and may be used if there is no possibility to execute an update by other methods.

BIOS Update for ASUS Motherboards

The utility EZ Flash was supplied together with a set of ASUS motherboards produced earlier. It allowed automatically updating BIOS using the firmware file prepared beforehand. This file had to placed on a floppy, CD or flash-disk and to give it a new name in the form XXXXXXXX.rom where XXXXXXXX is a motherboard model. The exact name can be found in the board manual. Then one had to insert the floppy into the floppy disk drive, reboot the computer and press the combination Alt+F2 after starting the POST procedure. BIOS updated automatically.

All new ASUS boards have improved utility EZ Flash 2 which can be ran in two methods:

  • by pressing the combination Alt+F2 during the POST procedure.
  • by entering BIOS Setup and running the utility from the Tools.

After running the utility, one should select the location for the firmware file. An update procedure will start by pressing Enter and it will result in rebooting.

There is also the ASUS Update utility on CDs for ASUS boards which allows booting BIOS update from the ASUS site and performing upgrade. The rules of use of this program can be found in the board manual.

AMIBIOS Update

To update AMOBIOS, use the Amiflash utility and its analogues. This procedure in the regime of the command line is similar to AwardBIOS update and may be the following:

  1. Create a floppy disk and copy the file “Amiflash.exe” and also the file with BIOS firmware on it.
  2. Enter BIOS Setup, record the current values of the parameters, null BIOS, set a primary boot from the floppy and allow BIOS update (these steps have been described in detail in the instruction on AwardBIOS update).
  3. Exit BIOS Setup with saving all changes and reboot your computer using previously prepared floppy.
  4. After MS-DOS booting and occurrence of the command line, enter the command “Amiflash the nam_of the file_firmware and press Enter.
  5. Wait for finishing all operations and then reboot your computer. Null BIOS settings and set all necessary parameters.

Depending on the motherboard’s manufacturer, the name of the program and the syntax of the command line for AMIBIOS update may be different. Thus, the utility for AMIBIOS update by ASUS is called “Afudos.exe” and the update command has got the following syntax (there are not any gaps between keys /i, /o and the files names):

Afudos/iname of file_firmware        [/oname      – name of_older_file]

Award BIOS Update. Part II

To update BIOS by using parameters of the command line, follow steps 1-3 from the former instruction and then enter the next command in the MS-DOS invitation:

AWDFLASH                          the name of the file_firmware

the name of_old_file /ру /sy /сс /сd /ср /sb/ e

A recommended set of keys for BIOS upgrade with saving older version is given in this line. If saving of older version is not required, the command must be the following:

AWDFLASH       the name of the file_firmware

/ру /sn /ее / cd /ср /sb /е

You may use the other keys in case of necessity, and the information about their function may be found by pressing “Awdflash /?” in the command line.

Advice

There is a possibility of error when setting the keys manually, so it is better to record the command for running the firmware program into the file with the BAT extension, or launch it by rebooting from the floppy.

Note

Some manufacturers offer an archive with the firmware where you can find ready BAT-file for running an update with necessary keys. In this case you need to unzip its contest on the floppy and then start BAT-file after rebooting by entering its name in the command line. An archive with a firmware for Gigabyte motherboards contains the file autoexec.bat which will be run automatically after booting from the floppy.

Award BIOS Update. Part I

To flash systems with Award BIOS, the utility Awdflash.exe is used (it may also have another title, for example Award.exe). Sometimes the manufacturers of motherboards may offer their utilities consistent with Awdflash which may be found in the archive with the flash file. Awdflash utility allows updating BIOS in two ways: in the regime of a dialogue or with the help of the command line parameters.

To update Award Bios in the regime of a dialogue, follow the steps below:

  1. Copy the firmware program and the file with BIOS firmware for your motherboard on the floppy disk or another media created beforehand. If the firmware is situated in the archive, it should be extracted.
  2. Reboot the computer, enter BIOS Setup and follow the steps below:
    • remember or better write down the current BIOS Setup settings;
    • null BIOS settings by using Load BIOS Defaults or the command similar to this;
    • make sure that the primary booting from the floppy was set as value of parameter First Boot Device;
    • if there is the parameter “BIOS Flash Protect” in BIOS Setup, its value must be equal to Disabled.
  3. Exit BIOS Setup with saving all changes, insert the prepared floppy into the floppy disk drive and reboot your computer.
  4. Wait for MS-DOS booting and occurrence of the command line, enter Awdflash and press Enter to run the utility.
  5. Enter the name of the file with the firmware in “File Name to Program” and then press Enter.
  6. If the name of the file with the firmware was entered correctly, the message “Do You Want to Say BIOS (Y/N)” will appear on the bottom bar. Press Y to save the current version of BIOS or N if saving is not required.                                                                                                                                                  1
  7. To save an old firmware, enter its name (for example, OldBIOS.bin) in “Save Current BIOS as” and press Enter again.                                                                                                                                                  2
  8. The further steps will be operated without user input. A message “Flashing Complete. Press F1 to Continue” will appear after the successful firmware upgrade.
  9. Press F1 and reboot your system, after that all BIOS settings must be zeroed by “Load BIOS Default”. Then reset the former values of parameters.

Creating Bootable Media

To update BIOS in MS-DOS, you must have a bootable floppy or another media with the MS-DOS operating system. To create the MS-DOS bootable disk in Windows XP/Vista/7, follow these steps:

  1. Place a blank floppy in the floppy drive.
  2. Open “My Computer”, right-click the icon of A disk and select “Format”.
  3. Select “Creating Bootable Media of MS-DOS” check box, press “Start”, confirm your action by pressing OK and wait until the procedure is completed.

A floppy media in Windows 95/98 and MS-DOS may be crated with the help of “format a: /s” in the command-line mode.

A lot of modern computers have not any floppy drives as they are outdated. But you may create a bootable CD or a flash-disk with the MS-DOS operating system. To create a bootable flash-disk, you will need utility to format it, for example HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool, and also the MS-DOS system files on a floppy, hard drive or in the form of a sample. The flash-disk should be formatted in FAT32, you need to specify the mode of bootable disk creation (Create a DOS startup disk) and the path to the MS-DOS system files. After the disk has been formatted, copy the file with the firmware on it.

2

To create a bootable CD, you can find the ISO image in the Internet or record your own image by using UltraSo (www.ezbsystems.com) or another program that is similar to this one. The file with your BIOS version and the firmware shall be added into the ISO image and then record it on the disk. Some motherboards’ manufacturers, for example Intel, may offer their own disk images for updating.