BIOS Recovery

A couple of months ago, I was looking at a friend’s laptop. It had definite motherboard problems and a dead HDD. As part of the service, I updated the BIOS. Unfortunately, it died mid-flash.

I tried the local Fujitsu-Siemens service center, but they said the motherboard had to be replaced. On an aging laptop, that’s just not worth it. New HDD, yes. New Mobo, no.

I asked around UCT everywhere, looking for someone with a PROM programmer, but the only one I could find was an ancient device attached to a 286. The “new” programmer (not much newer) was broken… I waited a couple of months, but it still isn’t fixed.

So, I tried a mail-order BIOS flashing service, They found a compatible chip, programmed it (with the update I’d been trying to install), and put it in the (registered) post within 24hrs. 2 weeks later, I’ve got it, and it installed it in the laptop.

It works!

Usually this kind of kind of thing means the laptop is written off. (Desktops normally have some kind of bad-flash recovery procedure, but it’s rare in laptops, and not foolproof anyway). I’m very impressed with for only €15, the machine is no longer a brick.

Now to replace that HDD

BIOS Flashing with memdisk

I’ve just discovered memdisk. It’s part of the syslinux package on Debian/Ubuntu, and hides in /usr/lib/syslinux/memdisk.

Memdisk lets you boot a floppy image, via grub or pxelinux. In this modern era of computers without floppy drives, it means you can do BIOS updates without having to go through the whole procedure of turning a floppy image into a bootable CD.

In PXELINUX, the config file would look like this:

DEFAULT memdisk initrd=FILENAME.img

In Grub, like this:

title     Bios Flash
kernel    /boot/memdisk
initrd    /boot/FILENAME.img

Thanks ThinkWiki for the idea.

Caveat emptor: apparently some flash tools don’t like memdisk, so YMMV

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