As regular readers will know, we’re big fans of ASUS motherboards here at WGS. I’ve built quite a few PCs, HTPCs and home servers using ASUS boards and have found them to offer a great blend of performance and quality. They’re not the cheapest around, but there’s certainly a wide range of choice to suit most budgets.
For me, a big reason for choosing ASUS motherboards over competitors is their ease of use – they’re packed with features that make building a PC simple and those features continue when it’s time to upgrade.
Today, I’m upgrading my Gaming PC with a motherboard BIOS update. The PC is built on an ASUS Maximus Hero Alpha motherboard (check out our review) which has now had a few BIOS updates released. I’m generally not one for recommending that anyone rushed to update their motherboard BIOS unless they’re experiencing instability – while my gaming rig has mostly been running well, I have had a couple of unplanned resets that I’m hoping this latest update will squash.
Many ASUS motherboards offer a feature called BIOS Flashback. It allows you to upgrade the motherboard BIOS without the need to delve into the UEFI BIOS interface. Indeed, you can flash the BIOS during your initial build with just a PSU installed – no CPU, RAM or any other hardware is required. Just plug a USB drive holding the BIOS update into a specific port on the motherboard, hit a button on the rear of the PC and you’re off and running.
While this certainly offers convenience, the real benefit of BIOS Flashback is PC recovery. In the event that a BIOS upgrade goes wrong or, for some reason, your PC simply fails to enter the UEFI BIOS for an unknown reason, you can still upgrade the BIOS (or revert to an older, proven release) to recover the PC. Bricking, be gone!
Let’s walk through the BIOS Flashback experience.
Step 1: Download the BIOS Update
You can use an ASUS tool like ASUS Ai Suite 3 to hunt down the latest BIOS release, or simply head over to the company’s support website to download the software. Find the support page for your motherboard, head to the BIOS section and download the release.
At the time of writing, the latest BIOS release for my motherboard is version 1601, dated April 1st 2016 (no April Fools gags, please!) I’m current running version 1402, from January 2016. I did try the last revision, 1504, on the motherboard a few weeks back, but found that my PC refused to boot with it on board. Thanks to BIOS Flashback, I was up and running again with 1402 in a matter of minutes.
Step 2: Rename the BIOS Update File
The onboard BIOS Flashback tool on the motherboard identifies the update stored on a connected USB drive by its filename. That means you must rename the downloaded file to something specific to ensure it works. Each motherboard required a different filename, which is mentioned in your motherboard manual. In our example today, we havr to rename the file from MAXIMUS-VIII-HERO-ALPHA-ASUS-1601.CAP to M8HA.CAP.
Step 3: Copy the BIOS Update File to a USB Drive
Once the file is renamed, it can be copied over to a USB drive. Most BIOS updates are reasonably small files, so even small capacity drives will be fine.
Step 4: Insert the USB Drive in the BIOS Flashback Port
If you haven’t already, insert the USB drive in the specially labelled USB BIOS Flashback port on the rear of the PC.
Step 5: Power Down and Update
Once the USB drive is connected, power down the PC. On the rear I/O Shield, you should notice a BIOS button with two arrows in a circle. This button initiates the BIOS update process. Don’t get this button confused with the button above it, with a single, circular arrow – this clears the BIOS settings!
Hit the BIOS button and you’ll see an LED indicator begin to flash. Leave the process running for a minute or two while the update completes.
Step 6: Boot the PC
Once the BIOS button stops flashing, the update is complete. Remove the USB drive and boot the PC – as long as the update worked, your PC should boot with the latest and greatest BIOS update. If not, you can try the update again, or simply flash back to an earlier release.
That completes today’s “how to” – BIOS updates have never been easier!