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DanPhilpott
Bronze

DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

I am having a problem with updating my BIOS from DOS. I followed the directions to flash from DOS but ran into the same "This program cannot be run in DOS mode" error message. On these forums I found other threads discussing this topic but found no resolution beyond some rather extraordinary Windows installation to USB key or CD workarounds. Just a wee bit of a kludge.

On investigation for why I can't run the BIOS update from DOS I found that there's a good reason, the executable archive which houses the BIOS image file and flash utility is built for and will only execute in 32bit Windows. So this contradicts the BIOS update instructions which state it can be run from DOS. I tried running the BIOS update on a Vista system (not the Inspiron) and it unpacked the archive. Looking at the flash utility (Phoenix Technology's WinPhlash) I found that it is also a 32bit Windows executable. So no joy in Mudville for BIOS updates on non-Windows systems. My next step was to find a DOS BIOS update utility.

Last night I chatted online with Dell support. After explaining all the particulars the representative investigated and told me that Dell had no utility that could flash in DOS. I found this hard to believe. But no matter what I said I didn't seem able to escalate this to second tier tech support for investigation. I have to suspect that the representative's emphatic assertions that if she couldn't find the utility it didn't exist at Dell was first line tech support bravado. I have additionally given the Dell support site a reasonably thorough search and am unable to find a Phoenix TrustedCore/Inspiron 1501 DOS BIOS flash utility.

So has anyone had any luck with flashing BIOS from DOS? I know there are some universal BIOS flash utilities and I could probably find a copy of a newer Phoenix flash utility somewhere on the interwebs. Historically Phoenix Technology's BIOS updater utility for DOS is phlash16.exe but as this TrustedCore BIOS is a whole new architecture they may have whole new utility names.

I'm disappointed that Dell doesn't make both the Windows and the DOS flash utilities available. What's more disappointing is that Dell's instructions indicate this should work when any technical review of the update would show it couldn't. Quality Assurance was asleep at the wheel here. I can't help but wonder how many customers have discovered the problem through frustrating experience.
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14 Replies
pcgeek11
Platinum

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

Just to throw more confusion into the game. There is another option. Bart PE bootable CD. This will give you a relatively safe windows environment to flash from using the windows executable.
 
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RingerDaMan
Copper

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

I'll give you one better. I just got my Inspiron 1501 out of the box. Went through the update website. Downloaded the Bios update because it was given the "important" tag. System reboot, and voila... no monitor at all. Black screen right from start up. It's dead in the water and I've had it for 5 minutes. I just spent 50 minutes on the phone doing all sorts of power cycles and key punches that the tech told me it was the video card. I'm no genius but I am pretty sure when all you've done on a brand new system is install the new bios, THAT would be your problem. I get to mail my system back and wait for another 2 weeks to get another system.
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DanPhilpott
Bronze

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

Thank you for bringing up the PE software. This is one workaround for the BIOS updates but that's all it is, a workaround. For an advanced user it's a time consuming option to achieve the goal. For a less advanced user it is a study in frustration in the navigation of arcane computer technologies with only a slim chance of success. For both users this is a workaround not supported by Dell. A simpler and Dell supported workaround would be to deliver the DOS BIOS flash utility they already describe as a method for BIOS updates.

A solution would be to deliver a FreeDOS or Linux boot image which includes the BIOS update and BIOS flash utility that can be burned to CD/DVD, USB drive or floppy.

I will most likely go the PE route to resolve my immediate need. But I am an atypical user who has about 7 years experience building bootable NT kernel images on disc. That said, even I hesitate at the headaches involved in this kludge.

One nearly comical note to the Dell DOS BIOS flash instructions is that they keep referring to providing bootable floppies for the installation then running the update from the floppy. The executable is 3.6MB. Must be a very big floppy.
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DELL-Chris B
Platinum

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

DanPhilpott:

Thanks for your feedback in regards to the verbiage on our support site. I've escalated this issue internally, and hope to the pages updated as soon as possible.

Regards,
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DanPhilpott
Bronze

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

If the solution to this issue is to redact the installation instructions I'd suggest making a clean sweep of it for all affected products. This should include any products using the Phoenix TrustedCore BIOS. I believe the systems affected are:

Inspiron 1501
Latitude 131L
Vostro Laptop (1000?)

This response won't help me but may save others a bit of frustration.

Message Edited by DanPhilpott on 11-28-2007 11:33 AM
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pcgeek11
Platinum

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

Maybe some of you can explain to me the overpowering urge to update the BIOS everytime they come out with a newer version. ???
 
I have seen countless people on here and other message boards that I read that have killed and an untold number of PCs attempting to update a BIOS on a Computer that wasn't giving them any problems to begin with.
 
I have done numerous flashes for customers but only with them understanding that I am not responsible if it goes south.
 
On my own systems ( beleive me I have had many ) I have never flashed the BIOS as I have never seen the need of taking the risk involved or had problems that needed a BIOS flash to take care of it.
 
Maybe I am just lucky?
 
pcgeek11
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DanPhilpott
Bronze

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

The urge in this case can be stated in the single compelling line:

pci=nomsi

In general the reasons you update BIOS are the same reasons you patch any software; security, stability, known problem resolution, new features, optimization, etc.

Personally I have never shied away from flashing. There is always a risk that you will brick a system but in my experience if you control the environment (e.g., have a stable power supply, don't allow the system to be manipulated during flash, ensure all hardware is stable) you don't have that problem. Of the hundreds of systems I've flashed over the years I've never had a brick. But I'd not trust my anecdotal evidence to be statistically significant.

The BIOS dictates how the operating system interacts with the hardware. And when an OEM configures a BIOS image for a system they are generally operating with zero real world experience with that hardware and a limited installed base in the testing lab. Usually it takes a few iterations to come up with a good version. With a good BIOS you can have trouble free operation and optimized access to your hardware. With bad BIOS you can have unusable hardware, hard to diagnose problems, crippled capabilities and halitosis. Okay, maybe not halitosis.

In this instance a review of available update notes shows some of the problems being addressed:

A01:
1.Support AM29LV081B , MX29LV008CB , STM29W008EB EEPRom flash part.
2.Display CMOS checksum failed if MFG mode is 01.
A03:
1. Changed Boardcom Lan IRQ from 0Bh to 0Ah.
A06:
1.Support Master HDD password reset function.
1.Update system information.
A07:
1. Fixed S3 resume without AC issue.
2. Change Boot order while enable Manufacturing mode Bit 6
(1. PXE, 2. Hard Drive - USB KEY 3. Hard Drive - SATA HDD 4. Removable
A09:
1.Enhance Vista OS S3 resume for battery mode.
A11:
AMD logo posting support.
A14:
1. Update the AMD errata
2. Enhance S3 resume funtion

These aren't the best examples of BIOS updates . First, their was no cumulative change log in the release notes. Next, the descriptions don't adequately describe the problems being addressed (i.e., why the fix was implemented) or the actual modification. Finally, as you can see from the release numbering not all the releases are represented.
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pcgeek11
Platinum

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

Dan,
 
My post was actually more directed at RingerDaMan who has bricked his brand new notebook after way less than an hour out of the box. 
 
I know that sometimes a flash is needed and or wanted for enhanced features but Most ( not all ) of the people that have bricked their system is because they made an unrequired  BIOS Flash and went into it without having any idea of what or why they were doing it. Sorry if you took it wrong.
 
Your statement about pci=nomsi is that in reference to a PCI Express or a Hypertransport issue? The only problems I have seen where I needed this was loading Suse Linux on a notebook. As far as I know the Inspiron 1501 doesn't have an issue with messaged interrupts. Of course I am running BIOS Version 2.6.1 A14 so if the problem existed before that I don't know??
 
pcgeek11
 
 
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RingerDaMan
Copper

Re: DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

pcgeek The reason I did it is because Dell's website has it labeled "Urgent". Perhaps there should be a bit more testing to make sure it works before telling people that it's so important to use.
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