HOWTO do a DOS-based BIOS upgrade without Windows

Wow, I can’t believe I still have to do this in 2007 — Taiwan really needs to discover FreeDOS! Here’s how to run a DOS BIOS update on a PC without using Windows (in my case, it’s a Dell laptop).

  gunzip FDSTD.288.gz
  sudo mount -t msdos -o loop `pwd`/FDSTD.288 /tmp/bootiso
  • ensure there’s enough space, and copy the app into the disk image:
  df /tmp/bootiso
  sudo cp ME051A10.EXE /tmp/bootiso
  • Then make an ISO, using mkisofs’ “-b” option to ensure it’s bootable:
  mkdir /tmp/floppycopy
  cp -Rp /tmp/bootiso/* /tmp/floppycopy
  cp -p FDSTD.288 /tmp/floppycopy
  mkisofs -pad -b FDSTD.288 -R -o /tmp/cd.iso /tmp/floppycopy
  • And burn it:
  sudo umount /tmp/bootiso
  sudo cdrecord dev=0,0,0 -pad -v -eject /tmp/cd.iso
  • Now, take the burned CDROM, and boot it.

Answer “N” to all questions when booting, otherwise you’re likely to see an error like “Cannot operate in Protected environment” when you run the BIOS update.

Thanks to the Motherboard Flash Boot CD from Linux Mini HOWTO; very helpful. I hope the next time I have to do this, they just issue a bootable ISO image instead…

Update, Sep 2013:

Wayno Guerrini emailed to say: ‘I used your recipe to update the bios on a old Dell Dimension 8400. Worked like a champ, with a couple of modifications. I am running 64 bit debian wheezy.

apparently the mkisofs has been replaced by genisoimage. Syntax the same.

instead of cdrecord I had to use wodim: sudo wodim dev=/dev/sg1 -pad -v -eject /tmp/cd.iso

Thank you. Recipe worked very well. I will point people to this article, but add the changes as appropriate to my website.’

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11 Comments

  1. Posted April 23, 2007 at 16:49 | Permalink
  2. Posted April 23, 2007 at 16:57 | Permalink

    For such task, we use System Rescue CD:

    http://www.sysresccd.org/Main_Page

    Another Linux distro worth mentioning is Trinity Rescue Kit, but I had not have time to play with it:

    http://trinityhome.org/Home/blog.php?blog_cat_id=2&b_node=2

  3. Posted April 23, 2007 at 18:40 | Permalink

    Padraig: that’s simply terrifying. ;) way to brick my laptop!

    Antonio: does System Rescue CD offer a way to run DOS applications, such as BIOS reflashers?

  4. Posted April 24, 2007 at 00:19 | Permalink

    You can’t really brick a system, unless you mess with the jumpers (if even present), to allow writing to the first part of the BIOS

  5. Posted April 24, 2007 at 00:59 | Permalink

    Yes. You can create you custom system rescue CD or you can run the reflasher from a floppy once the PC booted from SystemRescue. In the company we also sell PC customer support and we did it a lot of times.

  6. Liam Bedford
    Posted April 24, 2007 at 13:22 | Permalink

    Some dell desktops have linux bios flashing software now (the precision series are the ones I’ve dealt with). They may extend that to the rest of the dell ranges over time, now that they’re slightly more linux friendly.

  7. Robert Lippmann
    Posted August 4, 2007 at 19:29 | Permalink

    Thanks for the tip!

    Worked like a charm when my Dell laptop BIOS flash was failing under XP. The backup method was to create a boot floppy, except for the fact you can’t get a floppy drive (I don’t think) for the newer Dells.

  8. Rob
    Posted February 22, 2008 at 05:05 | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been going nuts trying to update my Dell BIOS, and this worked like a charm.

  9. Posted February 22, 2008 at 10:42 | Permalink

    Rob, Dell provide tools to update their BIOS, and there is also the possiblity of flashing directly from linux, as I’ve mentioned in a previous comment. Details on both are here:

    http://www.pixelbeat.org/docs/bios/

  10. Shuker
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 20:52 | Permalink

    i’m trying to flash my dell inspiron 1564 with BIOS A10 which is 6.5 MB and i can’t copy it to my bootiso directory because of : No space left on device Is there a way to increase this directory?

  11. Andy
    Posted July 5, 2011 at 16:09 | Permalink

    I’ve spent a day and half trying to do this before I found your site, then it was done within 10 minutes.

    I have a motherboard you can’t update from linux (zotac ionitx f-e), so I’m stuck with creating a dos disk and doing it that way.