Award BIOS Update Guide
© x-bit labs - Special Hardware Infocenter
As soon as you have all the necessary data at your disposal and there is no doubt
that your mainboard allows software BIOS reflashing, you may start. You need two
files - AwardFlash utility and a file with the updated version of the BIOS, which
usually has *.bin extension.
The latest version of AwardFlash is always available here.
Besides, latest BIOS versions can be found on the site of your mainboard manufacturer.
This is probably the only safe source for new BIOS versions. Please, never use
update files of uncertain origin.
We would like to point out that AwardFlash supports both: dialog and command line
modes. In this article we have omitted the consideration of the dialog mode, for
it makes BIOS update even harder and offers fewer opportunities than the command
line mode. Moreover, command line settings turn the BIOS reflashing process completely
automatic, making the user free from entering any data. At this stage it is useful
to get acquainted with the properties of AwardFlash utility.
Like most other Flash BIOS utilities, AwardFlash is to be launched in a real DOS
mode only, i.e. before Windows and other multifunctional operating systems are
Here we would like to veer slightly away, though this may be very important. The
most recent product of Award Software is Award NT Flash Utility Version 1.00,
a special BIOS reflashing utility, designed for MS Windows NT 4.0 and MS Windows
2000. Besides, such mainboard manufacturers as ASUS and Gigabyte also offer an
opportunity to update BIOS directly from MS Windows, now including even MS Windows
95/98. Presently, however, BIOS reflashing from Windows makes rather an exception
than a rule. We could prove this by the fact that there are only 2 chipsets supported
by the program of Award Software. They are Intel 810 and Intel 820. That is why
in this article we will discuss only BIOS reflashing by means of the DOS version
of AwardFlash utility, which is actually a universal tool for Award Flash BIOS
update on any mainboard.
In case of MS Windows 9x the starting conditions for AwardFlash should be created
like this: in the very beginning of the startup press F8 to choose Safe Mode Command
Prompt Only in the startup properties or download the data from a previously created
system floppy. The latter way is better, and it is the one we will discuss further
on. First, it makes sense to format the floppy and then to save the system files
on it. Then copy AwardFlash utility and a file with the BIOS update onto this
floppy. Further they'll be referred to as awdflash.exe and newbios.bin. Remove
write protection from the floppy.
The next step is to create autoexec.bat file on the floppy:
As you can see, now the floppy contains all the necessary files - awdflash.exe,
newbios.bin, autoexec.bat and system files (commonly these are msdos.sys, io.sys
and command.com). There should be no other files on the floppy. At first sight,
autoexec.bat described above may seem too complicated. However, a structure like
this lets us get away with creating just one universal floppy disk, which can
be used not only for BIOS reflashing, but may also help return to the original
version in case the reflashing fails.
if exist oldbios.bin goto old
awdflash.exe newbios.bin oldbios.bin /py /sy /cc /cp /cd /sb /r
awdflash.exe oldbios.bin /py /sn /cc /cp /cd /sb /r
When you boot from the newly created floppy for the first time, the BIOS will
be updated. As for the current version, it will be saved in oldbios.bin. If you
do another boot-up, the original version of BIOS saved in oldbios.bin will be
reinstalled. In other words, the new version will be rejected. To avoid it, please,
don't fail to remove the floppy after a restart (it will be done automatically).
Of course, the above given exemplary properties of AwardFlash utility are nothing
but a sheer recommendation aimed at securing BIOS reflashing. An experienced user
may withdraw or add something. Anyway, if you are not entirely sure about something,
we advise you not to risk doing it.
Needless to say that one should be fully aware of what properties to change and
what may come out of it. To help in this complicated matter, we have elaborated
a detailed description of all the properties, which may appear in the command
line of AwardFlash v7.70. That's what you need to know about the syntax:
AWDFLASH [Filename 1] [Filename 2] [key [/key ]...]
The keys denote:
Filename 1: for reflashing
Filename 2: for the previous version of the BIOS
/? - Help. Before you start working with Award Flash Memory Writer, it
is advisable to use this key and to study carefully all the opportunities of this
/Py or /Pn - stands for answering "yes" (Y) or "no" (N) to the request
concerning the BIOS reflashing. By means of /Pn you can ban FlashROM reprogramming.
This option enables you to save the current version of the BIOS or to get its
checksum without updating your BIOS. A backup copy will help you to restore the
previous version of the BIOS. By default /Py mode is set.
/Sy or /Sn - stands for answering "yes" (Y) or "no" (N) to the request
about saving the previous version of the BIOS. By default /Py mode is set again.
In this case before reprogramming the FlashROM microchip you'll need to confirm
saving by this request:
Do You Want To Save Bios (Y/N)
/Sn is recommended to use for *.bat-files in case of automatic BIOS reflashing
in systems without a display.
/CC - to clear CMOS after reflashing. This option comes in handy when there
is a risk that the data arrays created by new BIOS version in CMOS may differ
from those former ones. If so, then you are likely to have troubles with the mainboard
startup. Clearing CMOS will let you avoid searching for Clear CMOS jumper on the
board, which is really helpful if it isn't accompanied with a proper manual or
is simply hard to access.
/CP - stands for clearing PnP (ESCD) Data matrix after BIOS reflashing.
The information about PnP devices is stored in ESCD. The key /CP is an equivalent
to Reset Configuration Data in PnP/PCI Configuration CMOS SetUp. It makes sense
to use /CP if you skip several versions of BIOS or if you have installed new PnP
cards. If you don not update the ESCD, your board may suffer some startup problems.
/CD - stands for clearing DMI Data pool after reprogramming. Literally,
DMI is a data base, containing all the information on the system as a whole. Clearing
it may be fruitful in the above mentioned situations with /CP and /CC keys, as
well as if some of the system components have been changed.
/SB - stands for no BootBlock reflashing. The BootBlock is the first unit
to be addressed by startup and it is hardly ever changed. If the board manufacturer
gives no other recommendations, there is no need to reflash BootBlock. In particular,
if the BIOS reflashing fails, it may become impossible to restore the BIOS via
software. On some mainboards there is a BootBlock Protection jumper. If protection
is set, either you won't be able to reflash the BIOS without /SB at all or the
system will face verification errors.
/SD - stands for saving the data of DMI pool in a file. Part of DMI can
be saved to be used by the software in future. Even though this key stands in
the list, which is shown by /?, using it will bring no result. This key simply
/R - stands for the system reset after reflashing. It lets you have your
computer restarted automatically as soon as you finish updating FlashROM. The
option is useful for working through a *.bat-file.
/Tiny - stands for using less RAM. Without the /Tiny key, AwardFlash utility
tries to put the entire BIOS file, which is intended for further reflashing, into
RAM. Still, if have taken all the precautions but anyway you see a message saying
"Insufficient Memory" during the BIOS reflashing procedure, then the key /Tiny
should be used. It will make the data from the BIOS file loaded and reflashed
/E - stands for returning to DOS after BIOS reflashing. For instance, you
may need it to make sure that the previous version of the BIOS is saved.
/F - stands for reprogramming by means of the system BIOS. Most contemporary
BIOSs feature the procedure of FlashROM reprogramming. The key /F enables AwardFlash
to reprogram FlashROM with the algorithms of the current BIOS version. If a mainboard
peculiarities do not allow applying AwardFlash Writer algorithms, you should use
the key /F.
/LD - stands for clearing CMOS after reflashing and not showing the message
"Press F1 to continue or DEL to setup". Unlike /CC, this key lets you avoid this
message by the following startup after clearing CMOS, provided you have set the
properties by default.
/CKS - stands for showing the checksum of XXXXh file. The checksum is shown
in hexadecimal representation. This option is advised to be used with the verification
/CKSxxxx - stands for comparing the checksum of the file with XXXXh. If
the checksums are different, you'll see the message "The program file's part number
does not match with your system!". As a rule, XXXXh for each BIOS update file
is usually available on the mainboard manufacturer's site.
All the properties may be entered in either upper or lowercase.
As soon as you have got acquainted with the basic keys and changed the utility
parameters (or you might have left them as given in the example above), you can
turn to BIOS reflashing. Then you should just boot from the newly created floppy.
If you have successfully followed our advice, after the boot-up you'll be happy
to see how reflashing process goes (please, don't interrupt it!) and eventually
the system will be restarted. When it occurs, you must be quick to remove the
floppy from the floppy drive, otherwise a second boot-up from this floppy will
take place. The consequences of this event have already been mentioned.
Well, that's about all we wished to discuss. Now it's time to pass over to adjusting
the freshly reflashed BIOS. However, that's the pleasure for those who have had
no troubles with the reflashing itself. As for the other martyrs, they'll find
it helpful to read on, since further parts are dedicated to troubleshooting at
home. We will examine both trifles and grave problems.
How Do We Eliminate Problems?
While AwardFlash is running, you may encounter a number of problems. If so, then
you may be upset to see one (or more) of the following messages:
"Insufficient memory" means that you have violated some of the above scrutinized
rules. In this case you need to disable the caching of the system and video BIOS
alongside with all types of Shadow Memory. Furthermore, no programs should be
launched (including the disk compression drivers like drvspace.bin). AwardFlash
is, naturally, the exception. If all this doesn't work anyway and you are still
disturbed by this message, try the key /Tiny (but only in 7.xx versions).
"The program file's part number does not match with your system" shows
up when the new BIOS does not fit the mainboard. However, if you enable /Py (like
in the example), then the compatibility is not checked. For this reason we highly
recommend you not to use the BIOS files of dubious origin and purpose.
"Unknown Type Flash" occurs when you install a FlashROM supporting the
reprogramming voltage of 12V (5V) on a mainboard, which doesn't support this voltage,
or if the FlashROM chip is wrecked, etc.
"Program Chip Failed" appears during reflashing of FlashROM 28F001 chips
by Intel. The matter is that the 8KB BootBlock of these chips has hardware protection.
To reflash the BootBlock and the block with BIOS different voltages are to be
used. In order to prevent the FlashROM and the mainboard from getting damaged,
the BootBlock of these chips can't be reflashed because it is hardware protected.
This fact brings about the warning.
However, error reports like this is far not the most unpleasant thing about
the BIOS reflashing. It may turn out that the new BIOS is not completely reflashed,
while the previous version is entirely erased. The trouble may be caused by a
common energy cut - even if it lasted an utterly short period of time - or the
user's attempt to reflash the wrong file. Consequently, the computer will simply
be unable to restart. Here belong two probable situations.
At best the BootBlock will still keep going. For example, this may happen if the
recommended /SB key was used. The valid BootBlock enables you to carry out a startup,
though in a very limited mode. Shortly after the reset the system will inspect
the BIOS checksum and you'll probably see a warning:
Award BootBlock BIOS v1.0
Copyright © 1998, Award Software, Inc.
BIOS ROM checksum error
Detecting floppy drive A media…
Nevertheless, this message is shown most often only if ISA graphics card is used,
since the data cannot always be output to PCI and AGP graphics adapters because
the chipset is not entirely initialized. Therefore, we would advise you to carry
out the emergency BIOS reflashing with an ISA graphics card installed. Especially,
if you have ignored all the recommendations concerning the floppy disk. If you
actually have this floppy right at hand, the only thing you need is just to boot
from it. That's why a safe BootBlock is so valuable. Some mainboard manufacturers
advise to disable all the secondary devices (except for the graphics card and
the floppy disk drive) before you begin the restoration. Still, we should confess
that not all ISA graphics cards are that smart. The best results were obtained
with graphics cards based on Cirrus Logic CL-GD5422 chip.
When you have the old BIOS back after it is restored from the foreseeingly created
oldbios.bin, your further actions will depend on the cause of the breakdown. If
these are the lyrics of your favorite song that you have happened to reflash instead
of the new BIOS, you'll need simply to restore the working BIOS. If it weren't
you that caused the failure and you are still determined to finish the reflashing
procedure, then you should just remove the file oldbios.bin (and nothing more!)
from the floppy and boot once again.
We have just considered the better possible outcome. Before we pass over to the
worst one, let us mention the intermediary situation. Sometimes, if you can't
boot from the floppy, you may try connecting the floppy drive to an individual
ISA MIO controller. At last the floppy drive should be initialized and you'll
happily restore the old BIOS. That's the last resort for software troubleshooting.
Another thing worth discussing is some exotic technologies, which can contribute
to a relatively painless way-out. Firstly, some Intel mainboards feature a special
jumper named Flash Recovery. If set into recovery mode, it enables you to boot
up from BootBlock, even if the computer seemed dead after an unsuccessful BIOS
reflashing. When everything is settled, don't forget to reset the jumper in its
status quo ante. Secondly, Gigabyte has
lately introduced DualBIOS technology. As it comes from the name, the mainboard is
supposed to be equipped with two Flash ROM chips, so if one of them is wrecked, the
BIOS is booted from the other one. Among those who have followed Gigabyte's example
there are Chaintech Computer with its
"TwinBIOS" and some other mainboards manufacturers.
For some reasons, constructive solutions like that are quite rare. The main argument
against using them is that all the users have to pay extra, even if they are no
prospective BIOS destructors. So, the last part of our article is devoted to those
users, who were neglected by mainboard manufacturers. Specially for them we have
unveiled one more method aimed at restoring a heavily damaged BIOS. Now, if you
have lost hope to cope with the disaster via software, there is still... a hardware
If Nothing Helped...
The very first thing we would like to point out is that this method
has nothing to do with the notorious and highly risky "Hot-swapping" (you can
easily find all details about it in the Internet).
Well, to restore the BIOS via hardware, apart from the damaged Flash ROM chip
- any mainboard with a properly working BIOS;
- floppy with Award Flash and two BIOS files - one for the wrecked mainboard
and the other for the working board;
- two panels (e.g. SLC-32 - a 32-pin wide DIP panel);
- one Flash ROM microchip (e.g. ATMEL 29C020 DIP 32);
- two resistors (10KOhm, 0.125W);
- two-position switch;
- soldering iron.
To prevent you from confusing the terms and to make the explanations easier, we
will call the damaged BIOS "old" and the working one "new".
First, you should make a simple contraption, which will help you to restore the
BIOS. It is known as IC-Flasher and is made of two panels, one Flash ROM microchip
and two resistors. A detailed scheme is offered by the device developers at ICbook,
and we will restrict ourselves to rendering just the general idea (see chart 1):
Chart 1. IC-Flasher scheme
Now we will give you a step-by-step instruction for assembling IC-Flasher:
- All the pins of the U1 chip (except "Chip Enable") are to be soldered to the lower X2 panel.
- All the pins of the upper X1 panel (except "Chip Enable") are to be soldered to the U1 chip.
- "Chip Enable" pins of the U1 chip and X1 and X2 panels are to be connected to the SW1 switch and the resistors R1 and R2.
As soon as the contraption is ready, you are free to pass over to the BIOS
restoring. The first step is to remove the "new" BIOS from the mainboard and
to put IC-Flasher instead. The SW1 switch should be in "upper panel position
(2-3). It goes without saying, that this operation should be carried out with
the power switched off and you must be extremely cautious not to damage the
surface of the mainboard.
Secondly, install the "new" BIOS microchip in the upper panel and boot the
PC from the previously prepared floppy. We have to stress that you shouldn't
run AwardFlash from autoexec.bat! That's why in order not to enter all the
data manually, you'd better create a new file like autoexec.bat described
above but with a different name.
After loading the operating system and before reflashing the BIOS set the
SW1 switch in "lower panel" position (1-2). It is only now that you can start
reflashing the BIOS. The U1 chip is to be reflashed with the "new" BIOS file,
so that you could boot the "new" mainboard with the help of the U1 chip.
As soon as this operation is successfully completed, switch off the power
again and replace the "new" microchip in the upper panel X1 with an "old"
one. The SW1 switcher should correspondingly be left in "lower panel" position (1-2).
One of the last things to do is to restart the computer from the same floppy,
then to move the SW1 switch into "upper panel" position (2-3) and to reflash the
"old" BIOS file. Afterwards shut down the PC, remove IC-Flasher from the "new"
mainboard and put back the "new" chip. At last take the "old" microchip with the
restored BIOS out of IC-Flasher and happily use it to rearm the "old" mainboard.