What is BIOS and How to Update the BIOS on Your Dell System

What is BIOS and How to Update the BIOS on Your Dell System

Want to know more about System BIOS and how to Check and Update the BIOS on your Dell System? This article will show you how.

Note: For information regarding Resetting or Clearing your system BIOS, please see the KB article:

Table of Contents:

  1. What is the System BIOS?
  2. Why Should You Update the System BIOS?
  3. Check Your System BIOS Version
  4. How to Update Your System BIOS Within Windows
  5. Flashing the BIOS from the F12 One-Time boot menu
  6. Updating BIOS on Systems With BitLocker Enabled
  7. How to Update Your System BIOS Using a USB Flash Drive
  8. Updating the Dell BIOS in Linux and Ubuntu Environments
  9. Useful Links

1. What is the System BIOS?

BIOS is an acronym that stands for Basic Input Output System. Also know as "System Setup", the BIOS is software that is contained on a small memory chip on the PC's Motherboard, typically referred to as the CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor). It acts as an interface between the computer's hardware and its operating system, e.g. Windows, allowing the software to control the PC's hardware.

The BIOS also contains instructions that the PC uses to perform basic instructions, such as whether to Boot from Network or Hard drive, which drive to Boot from first.

BIOS is also used to identify and configure hardware components in a computer such as the hard drive, floppy drive, optical drive, CPU, memory, Plug and Play devices etc. This is called the ESCD (Extended System Configuration Data) and this is usually stored in additional non-volatile memory also referred to as NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random Access Memory)

Over the years as technology has changed people still refer to the BIOS as both CMOS and NVRAM, however they are subtly different. The CMOS contains the BIOS and its settings, the NVRAM contains the ESCD, updating the BIOS will not clear the NVRAM.

You can enter the system BIOS or Setup on a Dell PC by pressing F2 at the Dell loading screen. (Figure 1)

Figure 1: BIOS Loading Screen

BIOS Loading Screen

Or by pressing F12 and selecting BIOS Setup from the menu. (Figure 2)

Figure 2: One Time Boot Menu

Boot menu

Caution: Be careful when altering BIOS settings. The BIOS interface is designed for advanced users, you can change a setting that could prevent your computer from starting correctly and you could suffer potential loss of data.

Here is an example of what the BIOS system set up screen looks like: (Figure 3)

Figure 3: OptiPlex 990 BIOS Screen

BIOS Screen

Back to the top

2. Why Should You Update the System BIOS?

Dell recommends updating the BIOS as part of your scheduled update cycle. Like Operating System and driver revisions, the update contains feature enhancements or changes that will help keep your system software current and compatible with other system modules (hardware, firmware, drivers and software) as well as providing security updates and increased stability.

Unlike Windows and Anti-Virus program updates which are usually automatic, BIOS has to be updated manually.

Dell provides an easy to use self installing update package that allows this task to be performed relatively easily.

Caution: Always backup your data before attempting to update the BIOS as an error can result in a potential loss of data.

Back to the top

3. Check Your System BIOS Version

There are several ways to check your BIOS version but the easiest is to use System Information.

On the Windows 8 and 8.1 "Metro" screen, type run then press Return, in the Run box type msinfo32 and click OK.

On Windows 10 type msinfo32 into Search and press Return

On earlier Windows versions, to view the System Information screen, click on the Start Button and click Run, in the Run box type msinfo32 and press OK

Once the System Information window opens, make sure System Summary is highlighted in the left navigation window, and look for BIOS Version/Date in the right summary window (Figure 4)

Figure 4: System Information


You can also check the BIOS version from the command prompt.

  1. Click Start. In the Run or Search box, type cmd, then Click on "cmd.exe" in search results.

  2. If the User Access Control window appears select Yes

  3. In the Command Prompt window, at the C:\ prompt, type systeminfo and press Enter, you will find the BIOS version in the results (Figure 5)

Figure 5: Command line systeminfo


Back to the top

4. How to Update Your System BIOS Within Windows

It is important to keep your System BIOS up to date. Newer releases of BIOS can provide improvements to Hardware compatibility, improved Diagnostics, as well as Security updates and Increased stability.

Once you have established that you require a BIOS update you can download the newer version from the Dell support page www.dell.com/drivers

The video below will give you a visual guide on how to Update your system BIOS.

Video (English Only)- Update your System Setup (BIOS) (2:07)

Note: When updating the BIOS on a Laptop or Portable, the battery must be present and the AC adapter plugged in.
  1. Open a web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc) and go to www.dell.com/support/drivers

  2. If you are asked to "Identify your product", then either enter your Service tag, or select "Browse for a product" to select manually.

  3. If the system shown is incorrect, click on "View a different product" and again either enter your Service tag or Browse manually

  4. After the correct system is selected, you may have to click on the tab that says "Find it Myself" then look further down the page, where it says "Refine your results:". In the pull-down Category menu, choose BIOS. This will refine the results to show only the BIOS category.

  5. If there is more than one file listed, Click on "View details" on the most recent version of the BIOS. Then click on "Important Information".

Note: On some occasions you may need to install an intermediate BIOS version before updating to the latest version. This is called BIOS dependency; when a intermediate update is required before installing the latest version. This information is usually found in the "Important Information" section. To locate other BIOS versions you can try and find the version download by navigating through the links located at https://downloads.dell.com
  1. Click Download File to begin the download

  2. Save the file to your Desktop

  3. Once downloaded, you can double click the icon on your desktop.

  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation (Figure 6). This will reboot your system and perform a BIOS update

Figure 6: BIOS Flash Update Continue Prompt

BIOS update

The above screen may vary depending on version and system type.

Back to the top

5. Flashing the BIOS from the F12 One-Time boot menu

Most Dell systems built after 2012 have the ability to be updated from the F12 One-Time Boot Menu. This process can be executed if you have a USB memory stick formatted to the FAT32 file system and the BIOS executable file that you downloaded from the Dell Support Website and copied to the root of the USB key

For more information on this process, please see the following article:

Back to the top

6. Updating BIOS on Systems With BitLocker Enabled

Caution: If BitLocker is not suspended before updating the BIOS, the next time you reboot the system it will not recognize the BitLocker key.

You will then be prompted to enter the recovery key to progress and the system will ask for this on each reboot.

If the recovery key is not known this can result in data loss or an unnecessary operating system re-install.

For more information on this subject, please see Knowledge Article:

Back to the top

7. How to update your System BIOS using a USB Flash Drive

If the system cannot load into Windows but there is still a need to update the BIOS, download the BIOS file using another system and save it to a bootable USB Flash Drive.

Note: You will need to use a bootable USB Flash drive. Please refer to the following article for further details:
  1. Download the BIOS update .EXE file to another system

  2. Copy the file e.g. O9010A12.exe onto the bootable USB Flash drive.

  3. Insert the USB Flash drive into the system that requires the BIOS update.

  4. Restart the system and press F12 when the Dell Splash logo appears to display the One Time Boot Menu.

  5. Using arrow keys, select USB Storage Device and press Return

  6. The system will boot to a Diag C:\> prompt

  7. Run the file by typing the full filename e.g. O9010A12.exe and hit Return

  8. The BIOS Update Utility will load, follow the instructions on screen (Figure 7)

Figure 7: DOS BIOS Update Screen


Back to the top

8. Updating the Dell BIOS in Linux and Ubuntu Environments

If you wish to update the system BIOS in a Linux environment such as Ubuntu, then you can get some help by following the link below:

Back to the top

9. Useful Links

The following articles cover other topics related to BIOS which you may find useful depending on the task you are undertaking/information you need.

Back to the top

If you require further assistance, please contact Technical Support

Contact Us

Article ID: SLN284433

Last Date Modified: 09/20/2019 10:43 PM

Rate this article

Easy to understand
Was this article helpful?
Yes No
Send us feedback
Comments cannot contain these special characters: <>()\
Sorry, our feedback system is currently down. Please try again later.

Thank you for your feedback.