How to Determine if BIOS Update is Needed

Do you need to update the BIOS on your computer? Probably not, but in this article I’ll walk you through the process of determining whether or not there is an update for your BIOS or UEFI firmware and whether or not you need to install it.

Just because there is an update for your BIOS does not mean that you should necessarily install it. It’s a myth that BIOS updates somehow make your computer faster or run better. In some rare instances, a BIOS update can fix a motherboard issue that might make your computer perform better, but it’s usually not related to speed.

For example, a BIOS update may help solve an overheating issue. Also, many BIOS updates are released that simply support new hardware like a new CPU model or graphics card. If you specifically need this new hardware, then it’s probably worth taking the risk to install it. If not, then you should simply stick with your current BIOS because the new BIOS won’t make any difference and could actually cause more problems.

bios

Unlike the operating system, the BIOS is low-level software that is stored on a chip on the motherboard of the computer. In order to update this low-level software, you normally have to “flash the BIOS“, which will replace the old software with the new version. If you bought a computer from Dell, HP, etc, you normally just have to download an EXE file and run it to flash the BIOS.

If you built your own computer, you will either need to download a BIOS update program from your motherboard manufacturer or you will need to manually perform the flash, which normally entails using a USB stick and booting into DOS.

Each motherboard model requires its own BIOS version and this is where the problems can occur.

  1. Firstly, if you use the BIOS for a different motherboard or even a slightly different revision of the same motherboard, major problems can occur. Your computer may not power up at all or you may get strange error messages when it boots.
  2. Secondly, if the computer loses power or something else goes wrong during the update itself, it can brick your computer and cost hundreds to repair.
  3. Thirdly, not all BIOS updates are tested as thoroughly as the one that came with your computer, so a new BIOS version may cause boot problems, etc.

Note that the PC manufacturer remedies some of these problems for you. For example, a BIOS update from Dell will be packaged into an executable file that will not only check to make sure the version of the BIOS you are installing is compatible with your system, but will also go ahead flash the BIOS without you having to manually do it.

Now that I’ve explained the reasons for and against updating your BIOS, let’s talk about how to figure out whether there is an update for your BIOS.

The first thing you’ll need to do is check the current version of your BIOS, which I have already explained previously in the linked article.

registry system bios

Take note of the version and the date of the release. Now you have to visit the PC manufacturer’s website and go to their support section. Search for your particular computer model and you should see a section called Drivers and Downloads or something similar. Here is an example from Dell.com.

dell bios update

Always read the release notes or details to see what is actually being updated. You can click View details on Dell’s website to see this information.

bios release notes

As you can see, this update fixes some USB keyboard/mouse issue and upgrades ePSA to the latest version. So should you install this update? Well, if you don’t have any keyboard or mouse issue and no other problem with your system, it’s probably not necessary.

For custom built PCs, you will need to visit the motherboard manufacturer website and download the drivers from there. This is an example from the MSI website below.

msi bios update

It also gives you a description of what the update includes. Improved memory compatibility means the motherboard simply supports more RAM chips from different manufacturers. If your memory is fine, then that’s not a reason to upgrade. There’s also a fix for a Realtek LAN card, but only if you disable it. Lastly, it has some VBIOS and GOP driver updates, which Intel says you only need to update if you are having graphics issues.

Of course, you may need to Google some of the technical terms in order to understand what they are talking about. Check the version and date of the BIOS listed on the website and compare it to the one on your system. If you decide there is an update you would like to install, there are several possible ways.

Firstly, download the BIOS file, which will usually be in archive format like .ZIP. Open the archive and look for a Readme.txt file. This file will usually explain exactly what you need to do to perform the upgrade. There are three main paths:

  1. Download the BIOS file, copy it to USB, boot to the BIOS and find the option in the BIOS itself to flash the BIOS
  2. If your BIOS doesn’t support flashing, then you might have to create a DOS based live USB drive with the BIOS file that you boot from
  3. Download Windows flashing tool and run the executable file

The last option is the easiest and is normally what you will always get from big PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, etc. For a custom PC, you should use option 1 or 2, if possible, as it is less risky. Updating the BIOS while logged into Windows can cause problems and cause the update to fail. Once you have updated the BIOS and restarted your computer, you’ll be using the new BIOS immediately. If you have any questions, post a comment. Enjoy!

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