How to Update Video Card BIOS

by John Machay

With an unprecedented number of graphics-intensive games and programs on the market today, the need to improve upon a computer’s integrated graphics has never been greater. Sometimes, though, even high-end video cards begin performing poorly over time. If you feel you’re being slowed down by an increasingly sluggish video card, don’t run out to purchase a new one just yet; the problem could lie within the card’s Basic Input/Output System, or BIOS. Because manufacturers are constantly fixing bugs and tweaking settings in video cards’ BIOS to keep up with increased graphics demands, installing an update might be all it takes to make your video card run like it did when it was first installed.

Preparation

1

Identify your video card’s manufacturer. While this may seem simple enough, it should be noted that the card’s chip manufacturer – which was likely the most prominently displayed name on its package when you purchased it – isn’t always the same as the company that produced the card. If you can’t figure it out, proceed to the next step.

2

Shut down your operating system, turn off your computer and unplug the power cord. Disconnect the monitor cable from the computer.

3

Open the computer’s case and carefully remove the video card from its slot. Depending on the type of computer you’re working with, you may need a Phillips screwdriver to accomplish this.

4

Locate the video card’s FCC ID, which is a 17-character code printed somewhere on the card. Write it down. Note that the FCC ID differs from the FCC REG, which you may also find printed on the card.

5

Insert the video card back into its slot, close the computer case and reconnect the monitor cable and power cord. Turn on the computer.

6

Open your Web browser and visit the Hardware Secrets website.to search for your video card’s manufacturer using the FCC ID.

7

Visit the video card manufacturer’s website and download the BIOS upgrade for your specific model. There are also a number of third-party sites that offer selections of video card BIOS upgrades.

8

Visit the Tech Power Up website and download a flashing utility, such as ATI Winflash, ATIFlash or NVFlash. Flashing utilities for ATI cards differ from those for Nvidia cards, so make sure you download the right one.

9

Visit the CNET website and download the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool and follow the instructions for installation and creating a bootable USB drive.

10

Copy the BIOS upgrade and the flashing utility to the USB drive. Remove the USB drive.

11

Restart your computer and open its BIOS settings. As the computer is powering up, an onscreen message will tell you which key to press to do this.

12

Navigate to the “Boot Order” menu using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard and press “Enter” to reveal a list of bootable drives. Navigate to “USB” and select the “Plus” symbol to move it to the top of the list.

13

Insert the USB drive into a USB port on your computer. Save your changes and exit the BIOS settings. In most computers, this can be accomplished by pressing the “F10” key. The computer will automatically restart and boot from the USB drive. A command prompt will appear onscreen. If you’re upgrading an ATI card, continue to the next section. If you’re working with an Nvidia card, skip ahead to "Upgrading Nvidia BIOS."

Upgrading ATI BIOS

1

At the command prompt, type the exact program name of the flashing utility you’ve copied to the USB drive followed by a space. Then type:

-s 0 oldbios.bin

Include the spaces as shown.

2

Press the “Enter” key. Your PC’s current video card BIOS will be copied to the USB drive in case you want to restore it later. You’ll be returned to the command prompt.

3

Enter the name of your flashing utility, followed by “-p,” a space, “0,” a space and the exact name of the new BIOS file. For example:

flashrom -p 0 Abit.X800NP.256._050224.bin

4

Press the “Enter” key. Your video card’s BIOS will be replaced with the new BIOS.

5

Reboot your computer and enter the BIOS setup once again. Return your computer's main hard drive to the top of the boot order list. Save your changes and exit. Your computer will restart with the video card’s new BIOS in place.

Upgrading Nvidia BIOS

1

Reboot your computer from the bootable USB drive. At the command prompt that appears, type the name of the flashing utility you’ve copied to the USB drive followed by a space. Then type:

-b oldbios.bin

Include the spaces as shown.

2

Press the “Enter” key. Your PC’s current video card BIOS will be copied to the USB drive in case you want to restore it later. You’ll be returned to the command prompt.

3

Enter the name of your flashing utility, followed by “-f,” a space and the exact name of the new BIOS file. For example:

nvflash -f Acer.9600GT.1024.081007.bin

4

Press the “Enter” key. Your video card’s BIOS will be replaced with the new BIOS.

5

Remove the USB drive, restart your computer and enter the BIOS setup. Return your main hard drive to the top of the boot list. Save your changes and exit. Your computer will restart with the video card’s new BIOS in place.

Tip

  • check If you expect to update your video card's BIOS regularly, you can save a lot of time in the future by creating a hard drive partition that includes the tools you put on your USB drive.

Warnings

  • close If you receive a warning that says the new BIOS file does not match your video card, double check to make sure you’ve downloaded the right one. If you’re absolutely sure you haven’t made a mistake, you can force BIOS replacement by typing the following: “(your flashing utility) -f -p 0 (your new BIOS)” for ATI cards, or “(your flashing utility) -p -u -f (your new BIOS)” for Nvidia cards.
  • close As with any PC settings change, if you don't feel comfortable upgrading your video card's BIOS, enlist the aid of someone with experience in such matters. Performing the procedure incorrectly could render your video card inoperable.

Items you will need

About the Author

John Machay began writing professionally in 1984. Since then, his work has surfaced in the "West Valley View," "The Sean Hannity Show," "Scam Dunk" and in his own book, "Knuckleheads In the News." His efforts have earned him the Ottoway News Award and Billboard magazine honors for five straight years. Machay studied creative writing at Columbia College in Chicago.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images