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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats (video ads) or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.