BIOS update guide for ASUS notebooks - READ THIS BEFORE YOU BRICK YOUR MACHINE!

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  1. E.B.E.

    E.B.E. NBR Procrastinator

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    BIOS update guide for ASUS notebooks

    Table of Contents



    Caution! Users of newer ASUS laptops (N71JQ, for instance) report that, at least when using the EasyFlash method, placing the BIOS file on an NTFS harddrive partition and then updating from there results in a failed flash and a "bricked" computer. So, please DO NOT place the BIOS file on a harddrive partition when using EasyFlash, but use a USB key instead, and for safety make sure it is formatted using FAT and not NTFS. The guide will be updated to reflect this change.

    Introduction


    This document describes the BIOS update procedure (also known as "flashing" the BIOS) for ASUS notebooks. As usual, writing it was trigerred by many, many people asking the same questions about this procedure over and over again, on this forum. I used to have a text file with the instructions and copy-paste an answer each time, but that takes up unnecessary space on the server :) So I decided to centralize the information in one place, namely here, and then link to this page every time somebody asks how to update their BIOS.

    When should you update the BIOS?

    The BIOS should be updated only if the update is needed. For every BIOS update that you are considering, you should first check the list of changes and bugfixes on support.asus.com. If some of those changes solve issues that you have been having (e.g., you've been having problems with loud fans, and the new BIOS corrects the temperature thresholds where the fans kick in), then you should update. If none of the changes are relevant (e.g., microcode for a new CPU has been added to the BIOS, but you're using the older CPU), then you should not update. So, the rule of thumb is: don't fix what ain't broken.

    A word of caution

    A failed or interrupted BIOS update process almost always means death for the computer. For this reason, never ever interrupt a BIOS update that is already in process. For the same reason, have a good amount of charge in your battery when starting the BIOS update utility (more than 10 minutes worth of it). In that way, you will not depend on the AC supply which might run out just in the critical few seconds.

    BIOS files are specific to a given type of notebook. Even if the machines are superficially identical (like the ASUS V1Jp and ASUS V1J, for instance), with the same basic components, details in the motherboard and various low-level controllers that you might not even know exist might be different, leading to different necessary BIOS code. For this reason, always use only BIOS updates that have been specifically released for your type of machine, by the manufacturer (ASUS). Never use 3rd party BIOS releases unless you're very technologically savvy about these things, you know (and I don't mean "believe you know") exactly what you're doing, and you absolutely trust the source of the BIOS.

    The structure of this guide

    I describe how to update the BIOS using three separate routes:
    • A. The EasyFlash utility, included in the BIOS for some types of ASUS notebooks.
    • B. The AFLASH utility in DOS.
    • C. The WinFlash utility in Windows.
  2. Some of the steps are common between the three procedures, so I list them only once.

    The order in which I list the procedures is not arbitrary. If you have EasyFlash in your BIOS (some do not include it), you are strongly advised to use it, because it's the safest from the three. This is because EasyFlash does not require any operating system (be it DOS or Windows), nor any additional software where bugs might creep in and ruin the process. If you do not have EasyFlash, you should use the DOS AFLASH update program, because DOS is far more stable than any Windows version. Only if for some reason you can't use neither EasyFlash, nor AFLASH, should you consider using WinFlash.

    Note:I also cover downgrading the BIOS to an earlier version. This might be necessary sometimes. For instance, the temperature thresholds for the fans has increased in the new BIOS, but you might have liked that the previous BIOS kept your CPU cooler. Worse, new bugs might appear, although that rarely happens.

    [ ^ TOC ^ ]

    Step 1. Preparing the update


    It is not necessary to "uninstall" anything from the computer, since the BIOS is just a chunk of flash memory 512KB in size on a special chip on the motherboard. This memory will be erased and rewritten in the update process; the process, once started, takes on the order of 10 to 30 seconds (including erasing the old BIOS, writing the new BIOS, and verifying it).

    You only need to download the BIOS file, i.e., the raw content of the new BIOS, 512KB in size. This can be done from the ASUS support page. Navigate to support.asus.com, click Download on the tab menu, and search for your model number (e.g., V6J). Click your model number from the search results, and then click on the BIOS tab. Any BIOS files that are currently supported by ASUS for your model will be there. Download the version you need.

    The downloaded file will be a ZIP archive containing the BIOS binary code. Unzip it to obtain the BIOS binary, which is directly usable by the flash utility. Place the unarchived BIOS file somewhere on the harddrive, e.g., D:\BIOS, and remember this location.

    The following sections describe in detail how to update the BIOS, using three different routes. This should be obvious but I'll say it anyway: only one these routes is necessary, they will all accomplish the same goal (writing the new BIOS).

    [ ^ TOC ^ ]

    Step 2 option A. Updating BIOS with EasyFlash


    If you have EasyFlash in your BIOS, you are strongly advised to use it, because it's the safest from the three. It is the safest because it does not require any operating system (be it DOS or Windows), nor any additional software where bugs might creep in and ruin the process. To check whether you have EasyFlash, reboot the computer and press F4 at the ASUS splashscreen. EasyFlash should start. Alternatively, enter BIOS using F2 at the ASUS splashscreen, navigate to the Advanced tab, and check if you have the option Start Easy Flash. If the utility starts but you're not yet ready to update the BIOS, you can exit by pressing ESC.

    Here are the steps to update with EasyFlash:
    1. Start EasyFlash, by rebooting the computer and pressing F4 at the ASUS splashscreen. Alternatively, enter BIOS using F2 at the ASUS splashscreen, navigate to the Advanced tab, and select Start Easy Flash. Confirm starting it by pressing Y if requested to do so. The utility will display in the top-left corner of the screen the model, version, and date of the current BIOS installed on the computer.
    2. Select the drive where you saved the BIOS from the list of drives to the left of the screen, e.g., D:. Then, navigate to the folder with the BIOS file, e.g., D:\BIOS. It is possible that drive letters have changed w.r.t. those in Windows, depending on what's plugged into the computer at that time, so check other drive letters if you don't find the BIOS at the drive letter you expected it to be.
    3. Select the BIOS file. The utility will display the model, version, and date of the BIOS file to the top-right of the screen, and ask you to confirm overwriting. The EasyFlash utility does not check that the date of the BIOS that you want to write is newer than what's already installed. So you can use it just as easily for downgrading the BIOS. Before continuing, check that the model number is correct, and that the version is the one you intended to write. If all checks out OK, confirm updating the BIOS.
    4. The utility will Erase, Flash, and Verify the BIOS. Wait patiently, it will be less than a minute. If all goes well, a message will be displayed announcing a successful operation, and after a few seconds the computer will reboot.

    [ ^ TOC ^ ]

    Step 2 option B. Updating BIOS with AFLASH for DOS


    If you do not have EasyFlash, you should use the DOS update utility, called AFLASH. Navigate to support.asus.com, click Download on the tab menu, and search for your model number (e.g., V6J). Click your model number from the search results, and then click on the BIOS Utility tab. Download the latest version of AFLASH for DOS. This will be a ZIP file. Unzip it; it will contain a single executable, named something like AFLASH2.EXE.

    If you have a FAT32 partition, place AFLASH2.EXE on this partition. Copy the BIOS file in the same place. If you do not have a FAT32 partition, copy AFLASH2.EXE to a FAT16-formatted USB key (this is how they are almost always formatted, so if you have one chances are it's directly usable). Copy the BIOS file in the same place.

    Navigate to http://www.freedos.org/freedos/files/ and download a recent FreeDOS ISO image. Burn it to a CD (preferably rewriteable, such that you can reuse it afterwards). Alternatively, use a FreeDOS-bootable USB key created using my Slax with bootable tools guide.

    Now you're ready to update.
    1. If you saved AFLASH2.EXE and the BIOS file to a USB key, insert this key.
    2. Insert the FreeDOS CD, reboot the computer, and press ESC at the ASUS splashscreen. Select from the ensuing popup menu the CD/DVD drive, and wait for FreeDOS to start.
    3. Navigate to the place where you saved AFLASH2.EXE and the BIOS. This might be something like C: or D:, for a HDD partition, or B:, C:, D: for the USB key. To navigate to a different drive in DOS you just type the name of the drive, e.g., D:, at the command line. To change directories, use cd e.g., cd BIOS. Remember the location of the BIOS file, and its exact name, e.g., D:\BIOS\V6JAS.304.
    4. Type AFLASH2 (or whatever the name of the utility is) at the command line. The utility will start, and will display the model, version, and date of the current BIOS in the computer. There will also be two options, Save current BIOS to file, and Update BIOS to flash memory (these were the names on my version, in your case they may be slightly different). Choose the second option, Update BIOS to flash memory (by typing 2, in my case).
    5. You will be asked to type in the location of the BIOS file; you should have written this down at step 3 above. Type it down, e.g., D:\BIOS\V6JAS.304. Press Enter.
    6. The model, version, and date of the new BIOS file will be displayed. Before continuing, check that the model number is correct, and that the version is the one you intended to write. Also, if the BIOS is older than what you currently have, you will be asked for confirmation that you really wish to write the older version. Confirm in order to downgrade the BIOS. (In fact, I was asked to confirm downgrading even though the BIOS file was actually newer -- maybe a bug, or maybe they didn't implement a separate confirmation message. Oh well.) If all checks out OK, confirm writing the BIOS.
    7. The utility will Erase, Flash, and Verify the BIOS. Wait patiently, it will be less than a minute. If all goes well, a message will be displayed announcing a successful operation, and you will be asked to press a key to reboot.

    [ ^ TOC ^ ]

    Step 2 option C. Updating BIOS with WinFlash for Windows


    If you do not have EasyFlash and for some reason you cannot use AFLASH for DOS, you can use the WinFlash update utility for Windows. This should however be a last resort. The application is more poorly written than either EasyFlash or AFLASH, and there are many more things that could go wrong in Windows (for instance, Windows can crash for completely different reasons, leaving you with a half-finished update and a paperweight in the shape of a laptop).

    But, if you're stuck with WinFlash, navigate to support.asus.com, click Download on the tab menu, and search for your model number (e.g., V6J). Click your model number from the search results, and then click on the BIOS Utility tab. Download the latest version of WinFlash for your version of Windows (XP or Vista). For newer models, there might be no utility for XP. Even for older models it might have been removed from the website. Try using a direct FTP connection then, navigate to your model directory on the FTP server, and check if there is an XP utility there. For instance, the FTP address for the Europe mirror is ftp://dlsvr02.asus.com/pub/ASUS/nb/. You will need to change the number in dlsvr02 for other continents (in the worst case, try them all from 01 to 05).

    The file you downloaded will be a ZIP archive of the installation kit. Unzip it, and install the software (run setup.exe etc.) Now you're ready to update.
    1. Start WinFlash from the Start menu. If you wish to downgrade, the start procedure will be a bit more involved. Start a command prompt (in Windows XP, hit the Windows key + R; this will bring up the run box; type cmd in it and press Enter). Navigate to the directory where WinFlash was installed. This will typically be C:\Program Files\ASUS\WinFlash. Then, type at the command line WinFlash /nodate.
    2. The program will open a Browse window from where you can select the BIOS file.
    3. The program will display the model, version, and date of both your current BIOS and the new BIOS file. If the date of the new BIOS is older and you have not used the /nodate option above, the Flash button will be disabled. Return to step 1. and start the program with the /nodate option.
    4. Before continuing, check that the model number is correct, and that the version is the one you intended to write. Click the Flash button.
    5. The utility will Erase, Flash, and Verify the BIOS. Wait patiently, it will be less than a minute. If all goes well, a message will be displayed announcing a successful operation, and you will be asked to press a button to reboot.

    [ ^ TOC ^ ]

    Step 3. Configuring the new BIOS


    In all cases above, a reboot will be issued at the end of the procedure. The BIOS will then detect that it has been changed and load the defaults for all the options.

    Press F2 at the ASUS splashscreen to enter the BIOS and configure the options the way you like them. Typical configuration includes disabling the POST sound (Advanced tab, select Play POST sound and disable), disabling boot from LAN, and configuring the order of the boot devices (I have first HDD, then removable, and finally CD/DVD). When you completed setting up the options, press F10 to exit BIOS and boot up the computer.

    You're done.

    [ ^ TOC ^ ]


    Hoping this helps, sincerely yours,
    E.B.E.
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  4. E.B.E.

    E.B.E. NBR Procrastinator

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    I did not want to put this in the main guide, because it's untested by me, very much machine-specific, and not at all guaranteed to work (so it might offer a feeling of false security that might make unknowledgeable users more bold than they should be :) )

    Some new BIOSes have a crash recovery feature, that might help restoring the machine to a functional state even after a failed BIOS update:

    Source: wikipedia

    The way in which the boot proceeds afterwards is configured by the manufacturer, and probably specific to the machine. E.g., the BIOS binary might need to have a specific name and location on the removable device.

    The best way to proceed if your BIOS has been corrupted is to call your manufacturer's tech support, and ask details about the crash recovery feature and how you could use it (starting with whether it's available at all).

    Further reading:
     
  5. E.B.E.

    E.B.E. NBR Procrastinator

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    Caution! Users of newer ASUS laptops (N71JQ, for instance) report that placing the BIOS file on a harddrive partition and then updating from there results in a failed flash and a "bricked" computer. Please DO NOT place the BIOS file on a harddrive partition, but use a USB key instead. The guide will be shortly updated to reflect this change.

    Note that I have thoroughly tested all the procedures described below with my ASUS V6J. This must be a new bug ASUS introduced in their later models...
     
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