Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Flashing the BIOS is not fun

I recently sold my motorcycle, and decided to spend a bit of cash on upgrading my PC. My PC was pretty beefy already, but I had skimped a bit on my processor, getting a 2.2GHz core2duo. This processor was a huge upgrade from my 3.0GHz P4HT, but it was still kinda old. had a great deal on a 3.0GHz core2duo, so I jumped. I also bought a huge cooler for the processor, so I can overclock it, I'm hoping to see close to 4.0GHz.

I read a really great, geeky blog of a guy named Jeff Atwood. He is very passionate about hardware, and building excellent pcs, so I generally look to his blog when it's time for me to pick components or upgrade. I was reading an entry of his, and it talked about how he bricked (ruined) his pc by flashing the BIOS, and having that fail, due to a software bug. Here's the link:

Anywho, I got the new processor, dropped it into my motherboard, spent way too long dealing with the huge heatsink and fan, then turned on the pc. Nothing. Crap, I thought, the CPU I got was dead. This is the first item I've gotten from newegg that showed up defective, so I contact them for an RMA. While I'm waiting, I decide to stick my processor in my sister's new computer (which I'd just built a couple of days before), to see if maybe the processor was ok, but something else in my system was the problem. It booted fine, she showed the 3.0GHz, and it ran like a champ.

Something tickled in my brain, from the article Jeff posted. He had to flash his BIOS to support the newer proc. So I visit Asus' website, and sure enough, support for that series of processor was added in a BIOS version about 6 newer than the one I had. Yay! I should be able to have the PC up and running in an hour, I think to myself. Download the BIOS file, read all the directions, I'm good to go. After reading about Jeff's problems, there's no way I'm going to try the software that runs inside windows; that failed for him, and he had to get a new motherboard. I'm pretty sure my motherboard is not under warranty, so I'm going the safer, slightly more complicated route. I read the directions from Asus, and it says to put this file on an USB drive, then reboot the machine, and go into the BIOS screens. They have an ezflash utility in their BIOS that will handle the upgrade for me.

EZFlash works a treat. It finds the file, does some preprocessing, shows me some progress bars, and announces that the upgrade was successful, and the machine will reboot in 5 seconds. All the lights turn off on the computer, the hard drives spin down, and the monitors go black. Once I'm sure the process is over, I remove the usb drive, and wait semi-patiently for the BIOS screen to load, and show me my shiny new processor. Nothing happens. So I wait another couple of minutes (this should have taken 30 seconds, max). Still nothing. Oh crap, I think. I'm afraid to turn off the power to the computer, since every site I could find on BIOS updates said turning off during the update would fry your motherboard. But, the sign said the upgrade was complete, and successful, and the mobo rebooted itself. So I cycle the power to the PC, and wait some more. Still nothing.

At this point, I'm literally sick to my stomach, cause I'm certain that something went wrong, and my mobo is trash, and I'm going to have to buy a new one, since I'm sure mine is out of warranty. I go to sleep for the night feeling sick, and determined to call Asus in the morning. I get tech support on the line, and they tell me almost immediately that the bios update failed, and I will need a new bios (most likely requiring a new motherboard). The wonderful tech support lady, though, asks me to look for a socket near my southbridge (this chip thing). Turns out some of Asus' motherboards have removable BIOSes. Mine is one! Hallelujah! They can ship me a new chip (with the most recent BIOS already installed), I can swap them, and I'm back in business. $15 for 3day shipping, or $20 for overnight? Overnight, please.

Right now my chip is on a fedex truck, in my town, on it's way to my house. I'll let you know how the BIOS chip swap goes, and how the new processor works out.

[Edit] I got the bios chip, installed per the instructions, and still have nothing with the new processor. I called Asus back, and they're shipping me another bios chip, with the previous bios on it. The one they sent me is the most recent, which says it has a bug fix for newer processors. The one they're sending me now is the one before that, which is where they added support for my new processor to start with. We'll see if this fixes it. I sure hope so, not having that pc available sucks.


I really want to take my hat off to Asus. My motherboard is a couple of years old, and they could have easily told me I was out of luck, and to buy a new one (many companies would have, I'm certain). Instead, they are shipping me a free BIOS chip, asking only that I pay for the shipping. Their tech support staff was incredibly friendly and amazingly efficient; I went from first contact (after hold) to having my bios in the pipe to ship in literally 10 minutes. I received an email and a phone call following up on the order, and the email even came from a real person, with a real return address. Thank you, Kara, and all of the other folks at Asus support. You folks totally rock.

I've bought several boards from Asus, and always been happy with them. This experience has made me even happier, and has certainly cemented me as an Asus customer for life.

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