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

Summary: This article explains what system BIOS is and how to update BIOS on a Dell system

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How to Update BIOS or System Setup

Duration: 02:32
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BIOS is an acronym that stands for Basic Input Output System. Also known as "System Setup," the BIOS is embedded software on a small memory chip on the computer motherboard. This chip is referred to as the Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS). It acts as an interface between the computer hardware and operating system, allowing the software to control the hardware.

The BIOS contains instructions that the computer uses to perform basic instructions, such booting from a network or hard drive, or which drive to boot from.

BIOS is also used to identify and configure hardware components in a computer. These include the hard drive, floppy drive, optical drive, processor, memory, and Plug-and-Play devices. This is called the ESCD (Extended System Configuration Data), and is stored in additional nonvolatile memory known as Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM).

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, thus updating the BIOS does 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

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

Figure 2: One Time Boot Menu

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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 setup screen looks like: (Figure 3)

Figure 3: OptiPlex 990 BIOS Screen

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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, a BIOS update contains feature enhancements or changes that 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 automatic, BIOS has to be updated manually.

Dell provides an easy-to-use self-installing update package.

Caution: Always back up your data before attempting to update the BIOS as an error can result in a potential loss of data.
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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 Start, then click Run, and 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

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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, locate the BIOS version in the results (Figure 5)

Figure 5: Command-line systeminfo

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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, and 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.

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, or Edge) 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 "View a different product" and again either enter your Service tag or Browse manually

  4. After the correct system is selected, click 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 refines 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 "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 an intermediate update is required before installing the latest version. This information is found in the "Important Information" section. To locate other BIOS versions, you can try and find the version download by navigating through the links that are located at https://downloads.dell.com.
  1. Click Download File to begin the download

  2. Save the file to your Desktop

  3. Double click the icon on your desktop.

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

Figure 6: BIOS Flash Update Continue Prompt

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

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Flashing the BIOS from the F12 One-Time boot menu

Most Dell systems built after 2012 can 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 about this process, please see the following article:

 

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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 are prompted to enter the recovery key to progress and the system asks for this on each reboot.

If the recovery key is not known, this can result in data loss or an unnecessary operating system reinstall.

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

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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 must use a bootable USB Flash drive. 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 boots 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 loads, follow the instructions on screen (Figure 7)

Figure 7: DOS BIOS Update Screen

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Updating the Dell BIOS in Linux and Ubuntu Environments

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

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Useful Links

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

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Article Properties


Affected Product

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Last Published Date

12 Mar 2021

Version

5

Article Type

Solution

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