What Does Flash BIOS Mean?

by James Red

Flash BIOS is a term used to describe the process of updating a computer's motherboard. It is usually done to increase compatibility or increase the performance capabilities of a computer. While it become an easier process to perform over the years, some computer experts do not recommend novices attempt it without assistance, as it can permanently damage a computer if done using improper methods.

BIOS Definition

BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System. It is the firmware program for a computer, and comes pre-installed on all motherboards that are used for home PCs. It is the first things that loads up when a computer is turned on, checking to make sure all the components of a computer are properly running before turning over control of the computer to the operating system. The BIOS of a system can be accessed during the boot process, and is usually done to change the boot order of drives, enable/disable certain hardware components, or tweak things like computer fan speed.

Effects

All computers come installed with BIOS on their motherboards, but many times during the life cycle of a motherboard the BIOS may be updated. These updates may increase the performance capabilities of a computer, add compatibility for new devices or fix bugs that might have gone unnoticed during the initial release. BIOS updates are motherboard-specific and not universal. One BIOS update for another motherboard will not work for another. Attempting to flash the BIOS of a motherboard with the wrong BIOS can cause serious errors.

Process

The process of flashing BIOS starts by first getting the updated BIOS. These files can usually be found at the motherboard manufacturer's website. In addition to downloading the new BIOS, a person must also download a special program to flash the BIOS. Many modern motherboards can be flashed while still in Windows. Older motherboards require a user to download special tools that can only be used when booting a computer into DOS. Then special text commands must be entered for the BIOS to be uploaded to the motherboard.

Warning

If a computer's BIOS is flashed incorrectly, or if something like a power disruptions interrupts the flashing process, it can severely damage a computer-usually making it impossible to properly boot. If a BIOS flash goes wrong a user will usually have to manually open up their computer and change their motherboard's "jumpers." These small switches can be used to undo a BIOS flash and set a computer's BIOS settings back to their factory defaults.

Expert Insight

While flashing a computer's BIOS has become easier in recent years thanks to Windows tools that can complete the process, it is still something that many computer experts don't advise others do unless absolutely necessary. If a computer is working properly and does not need any BIOS upgrades to be compatible with new hardware or software, then it probably doesn't need to be upgraded at all.

About the Author

Residing in Pittsburgh, Pa., James Red has been a writer for over 10 years. He has work appearing in various magazines, newsweeklies and popular websites including "Wizard Magazine," "Big Shot" and Bullz-eye.com. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Point Park University and another in film studies from Bowling Green State University.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera motherboard image by dinostock from Fotolia.com