Updating the BIOS on a Supermicro Motherboard

Supermicro provides BIOS upgrades for its motherboards and some particular models’ upgrades require the use of a DOS-based environment to be applied. If you’re reading this, you’ll already have noted that the README supplied with the upgrade .zip file isn’t overly helpful on getting set up with a suitable environment to safely run the BIOS upgrade. Likewise, if you’ve tried to actually run the included FLASH.BAT file, you’ll probably have found it doesn’t quite work. Hence, these instructions to guide you.

  1. Before we get started, bear in mind that flashing your BIOS will delete all of your settings, boot ordering and your administrative password. Take a note of everything before you start.

  2. Download FreeDOS (I used the v1.2 Lite USB file) and flash this bootable image to a USB stick (I use either Etcher or Rufus)

  3. Download the bios upgrade from Supermicro and extract this zip archive onto the USB stick you just created. If your FreeDOS partition only takes up the first few MBs of the USB, then just create a second partition after the FreeDOS one - to be supported in DOS, it will need to be small (I just picked 128MB), be FAT formatted and have a small sector size (16KB is fine).

  4. Insert your FreeDOS USB drive into your computer’s motherboard and boot from it.

  5. At this point, you’ll be prompted to install FreeDOS, so exit out of that - you’ll return to a C:\> prompt.

  6. Change to the drive/directory where your BIOS upgrade is located. In my case, this is D:\, as I had to create a second partition.

  7. Run FLASH.BAT BIOSname#.###, where BIOSname#.### is the name of the BIOS image, named for your motherboard’s model and the release date (which in itself is confusingly ambiguous, using a single digit for the year and single digit for month).

  8. FLASH.BAT sets your motherboard up to enter “flash mode” and then unhelpfully tries to automatically reboot the machine and in order to re-run itself on next boot by creating and/or modifying an autoexec.bat file. Unfortunately, it makes no attempts to figure out where FLASH.BAT is actually running from, so when your computer does reboot, the autoexec will fail.

    Oh, and here the big thing to remember - since you’re manually booting into this USB stick, when your computer reboots you must ensure you boot back into the FreeDOS USB.

  9. So, now you’re back in FreeDOS after the reboot and autoexec.bat has failed. Change back to the drive/directory where your BIOS upgrade is located.

  10. Run the exact same FLASH.BAT BIOSname#.### command again and your BIOS upgrade will begin this time as your hardware flags are set correctly to allow flashing to occur.

  11. Let the process complete and when done, press Control + Alt + Delete to reboot.

  12. This first bootup will take a little longer than expected (about a minute or so) - I imagine this is performing detailed hardware or other tests now that the BIOS memory was cleared.

That’s it - all done. If you’re interested in what happens under the hood, or you hit some sort of other problem, FLASH.BAT is a quick read and running the individual flash commands is possible too if you had to.

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