How to find and install BIOS updates on your computer
The recently discovered Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities can only be patched fully with BIOS updates. Depending on your system, you may have installed the operating system, web browser and other software updates already to reduce the attack vector of potential attacks targeting the vulnerabilities.
It is necessary however to update the BIOS as well. While BIOS updating improved over the past decade, it is usually not as easy as using an automatic update system to install updates.
Here is the rough outline if steps when it comes to BIOS updates.
- Identify the manufacturer and model of the motherboard and BIOS.
- Search the manufacturer's website for BIOS files.
- Find out how the installation process works and install the update.
Identify the maker and model of the motherboard
You have a couple of options to identify the motherboard. You can check out the motherboard ID in the BIOS (usually), by opening the PC and looking on the motherboard directly, or by using a software program like Speccy.
Note: Speccy does a good job usually but if you want to be 100% certain, open the case and locate the motherboard ID on the motherboard.
Download the portable version of Speccy and run it after download and extraction. A 32-bit and 64-bit are provided, and motherboard information is displayed on the start screen of the application directly.
The screenshot above shows the name of the motherboard (MSI Z170a Gaming Pro Carbon) and the ID (MS-7a12). It is the ID that you need when you search for BIOS updates.
Search the manufacturer's website for BIOS files
Now that you know the ID you use it to find out whether BIOS updates are available. Either visit the manufacturer's website directly or use search terms such as ID BIOS update to find specific support and download pages directly.
You end up on a page like this. The MSI support page serves as an example for the remaining procedure. Check the release date of the latest BIOS release. MSI has not released an updated BIOS, yet that addresses the vulnerabilities.
The BIOS update is available for other Z170A motherboards already, however, for instance, the Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium. But, you cannot use those.
Download the latest BIOS file to your local system. If an update is not available yet, bookmark the page and return to it regularly to download it once it is released.
Tip: use the BIOS updates listing over at Bleeping Computer for easier access to BIOS updates for many major manufacturers.
Find out how the installation process works and install the update
The next step depends largely on the manufacturer. MSI uses a system called M-Flash that is part of the BIOS. Instructions on updating the BIOS are usually provided on the support page or as a text document that is included in the BIOS download.
The MSI support page links to a PDF document with detailed installation instructions and a video on YouTube.
- Extract the downloaded archive and copy the files to a USB Flash Drive.
- MSI users need to boot into BIOS. How that is done is listed at the start of the system. For MSI motherboards, it is the Delete-key that you need to press to enter the BIOS usually. Monitor the screen to find out the right key for your system.
- Select M-Flash when you are in the BIOS.
- Pick "Select one file to update BIOS and ME."
- Select the USB storage that you copied the BIOS files to.
- Select the BIOS file that you want to be installed (there should be only one).
- Wait for the process to complete. Don't remove the USB Flash drive or power off the system while the upgrade is in progress.
- The machine is reset automatically.
- Enter BIOS again and check the BIOS version to verify that the update was applied correctly.
You may also Flash by booting into DOS and installing the BIOS file from there. This depends on whether the necessary DOS executable files are supplied with the BIOS file or available elsewhere on the manufacturer's website.
The process may be different if your machine's motherboard is from a different manufacturer or uses a different BIOS type.
Now You: Have you updated your machine's BIOS already?Advertisement