What Is a Beta BIOS?
By Jason Artman
A motherboard's Basic Input/Output System controls system-level interactions between the components of the computer. Occasionally, manufacturers may release BIOS updates that improve motherboards by increasing performance and reliability or resolving hardware incompatibilities. A beta BIOS is an update that may improve a motherboard's performance or resolve a severe problem but has not yet undergone thorough testing. These downloads are intended only for advanced computer users.
Various issues can lead to the release of a beta BIOS. Several motherboard manufacturers released beta BIOS updates in 2011. Gigabyte released a beta BIOS for the GA-Z68XP-UD3P motherboard in 2011 that resolved compatibility issues with Intel Smart Response Technology and Marvell RAID controllers. ASRock released a beta BIOS for the P67 Extreme4 motherboard that resolved a problem that occurred when the motherboard was used with a SteelSeries Xai mouse. Asus released a beta BIOS that allowed its AM3 motherboards to support AMD's "Bulldozer" processors. If you enjoy tweaking your computer for best performance or have an issue with a certain hardware add-on, you may be able to resolve it quickly by downloading a beta BIOS rather than waiting for the manufacturer to perform thorough testing.
A computer cannot start without a functioning BIOS. Therefore, a BIOS update that fails for any reason such as power loss or a corrupted download can render the computer unusable. In addition, it is possible that a beta BIOS released to resolve a certain issue may introduce a new problem the manufacturer has not yet detected. Therefore, it is wise to confirm that your motherboard has the ability to downgrade to an older BIOS version before performing an upgrade. If your motherboard does not permit you to downgrade, you may find yourself stuck with the beta BIOS until the manufacturer releases another update.
Downloading a Beta BIOS
If a beta BIOS is available for your computer's motherboard, you may be able to obtain it from the manufacturer's support website. However, you may also wish to familiarize yourself with the manufacturer's user forum; in some cases, a manufacturer will release a beta BIOS for the enthusiast community for testing and feedback rather than posting it on the general support website.
Installing a Beta BIOS
Because few modern computers include floppy diskette drives, many motherboard manufacturers provide BIOS update applications that work within a Windows environment. In other cases, you may be able to copy the beta BIOS to a USB flash drive and press a key while the computer starts to install the update. Check the manufacturer's website for instructions explaining how to install a BIOS update for your motherboard model.
Jason Artman has been a technical writer since entering the field in 1999 while attending Michigan State University. Artman has published numerous articles for various websites, covering a diverse array of computer-related topics including hardware, software, games and gadgets.