Realistic expectations of recovery from a failed BIOS flash?

Discussion in 'BIOS Mods' started by Computer Fixer, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. Computer Fixer

    Computer Fixer MDL Member

    Jan 5, 2010
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    I've read about the inherent dangers of flashing our BIOS’s with modded bins, but I always thought- well, there's always the BIOS recovery programs from the three major BIOS vendors on floppy that will save me if things go horribly wrong. If this sounds familiar to you… read on….

    Recently I flashed a perfectly good 100% brand new BIOSTAR N68S3+ motherboard with a SSV3 modded SLIC 2.1 bin. Upon reboot- motherboard was bricked. No beeps from the system speaker, no activity from floppy, no keyboard activity, nothing- just PSU and CPU fans running. Tried all the AMIBIOS flash recovery tricks- but with no keyboard input and no floppy activity it was not happening. Tried SATA optical and IDE optical drive as well as USB flash recovery- nothing. BIOS was damaged beyond the ability of the AMIBIOS flash recovery program to recover. Tried for six hours then finally gave up!

    Luckily, in my case this particular motherboard had a socketed EEPROM. So I purchased a second identical motherboard pulled it’s BIOS IC and did a dangerous “Hot swap” BIOS re-flash to my bad BIOS IC with the BIOS IC from the new motherboard. Surprisingly, it worked 100% perfect and I was up and running again with the original BIOS IC back in the original motherboard. But, it cost me $60 and a few days waiting for the new motherboard to arrive. Lucky for me it wasn’t a $160 motherboard- or even worse one that was out of production or had a soldered in EEPROM IC.

    In the meantime, I ordered a Willem programmer ($30 on Ebay) so I could re-flash socketed EEPROM’s out of the motherboards- not relying on the motherboards ability to boot up with a bad flash in order to run the BIOS recovery procedure from floppy disk.

    Now that I had the Willem programmer- I had no worries and did some experimentation with the BIOS EEPROM.
    First I dumped the bin from the working BIOS EEPROM and using Hex Workshop simply took a full line of code (28 bytes) from a random spot in the middle of the bin and filled it with zeros. Saved the bin, erased the BIOS EEPROM, then wrote the “bad” bin to the BIOS IC. When I placed it back in the motherboard- it didn’t even give my the customary “beep” on boot- tried all the same AMIBIOS recovery tricks as I did with the original bad SSV3 modded bin- but again- no keyboard input and no floppy activity.
    Pulled the BIOS IC again, erased it, then wrote another “bad” bin to it- this time I only wrote 8 bytes of bad data to the bin. Again no “beep” on bootup and no availability of using the keyboard & floppy for AMIBIOS recovery. So, finally I modded the factory flash by only one byte- and wrote that to the BIOS EEPROM. Once again- on bootup no availability of using the keyboard & floppy for AMIBIOS recovery.
    Finally pulled the BIOS EEPROM, erased/flashed it in the Willem with the factory bin and then the motherboard booted up 100% perfect again.

    Tried the same procedure with an Award BIOS- same results- with the corruption of just one byte from the BIOS code the ability to recover from floppy/keyboard was rendered useless and required pulling the BIOS EEPROM and re-flashing in the Willem programmer.

    So, in the end- what I came away with is that you have to be pretty lucky to be able to use the standard BIOS recovery via floppy, USB, etc in order to recover from a bad BIOS flash. It will certainly make me think twice before modding non-socketed EEPROMS that’s for sure because it only takes one bad byte to brick the BIOS beyond the ability to recover.
     
  2. sebus

    sebus MDL Guru

    Jul 23, 2008
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    Easy, you going to scare some members here!

    It is not all as bad as this

    sebus
     
  3. Computer Fixer

    Computer Fixer MDL Member

    Jan 5, 2010
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    That was my intent.... not fun to brick a $100+ mb or $500+ laptop, think long and hard before flashing....
     
  4. Computer Fixer

    Computer Fixer MDL Member

    Jan 5, 2010
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    It's not all gloom & doom....
    The good news for those with socketed BIOS EEPROMs- for about $10-20 you can find a pre-flashed replacement drop-in chip on ebay, and if they don't specifically list your motherboard model- they can custom flash one for you. Just search for "bios chip" under "computers and networking" category.
     
  5. uuufo

    uuufo MDL Novice

    Mar 12, 2010
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    #5 uuufo, Jul 21, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
    was just wondering if you ever successfully modded a N68S3+ bios to slic 2.1? if so what procedure did you use? Thanks!

    EDIT: OK SSV2 method works fine
     
  6. en4rab

    en4rab MDL Novice

    Oct 27, 2009
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    The flip side to this is you have seen how easy it is to fix a badly flashed bios, the motherboard isnt bricked, you just need a cheap willem programmer, or if its an SPI flash some wires and a printer port.