Tip: never flash a BIOS from within Windows!

This much I have learned: never, and I mean *never*, flash your computer’s BIOS from within Windows.

I’ve done it before and never had a problem, but my luck ran out when I recently tried to flash the BIOS of an Acer TravelMate 6410 using the “WinPhlash” tool downloaded from the Acer website. The tool ran, backed up and erased the old BIOS, then crashed at block 5 of 16 when flashing the new BIOS. Result: a computer that won’t even POST, nevermind boot.

If you really want to flash your PC’s BIOS then make a bootable floppy disk containing something like minidos, the tools needed to flash the BIOS from DOS and the BIOS file itself. Then flash the BIOS by booting from this disk and running the BIOS flash tools from the command line. Trust me, its worth the extra hassle, because a failed BIOS flash is a nasty thing to recover from, and could even brick your computer.

As an aside, in my case the Acer was covered by a 3 year extended warranty that includes accidental damage. You’d think that, as the BIOS is a hardware chip, then a broken BIOS would be a hardware problem and therefore covered under the warranty. However, a call to Acer revealed that they believe it is a software problem and therefore not covered. I don’t wish to get into semantics, but in my opinion a BIOS is not “software” as it is a physical component of the motherboard. Perhaps the BIOS software itself is best referred to as “firmware” rather than software. Moreover, if a BIOS flash fails due to software that they publish on their own website then I would fully expect them to honour the warranty!

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