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Your system BIOS is software, but updating it regularly may not be appropriate. Updating it to fix a bug, of course, would be.

I just updated/upgraded my computer this past February. New motherboard, cpu, ram, etc. There are a couple items from my older computer also. I like to keep my software, utilities, anti-virus, and so on, up-to-date; generally when a new update/version is issued. My question is this. Since my computer is fairly new and appears to be operating normally, is it necessary to update the BIOS, motherboard chip-sets, and so forth? My BIOS is at or less than 6 months old. I mean, I know that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"! But I just want to be alright with either keeping what I've got or update it.

It's an interesting question that I hadn't really thought about before. We certainly go to great lengths to stress how important it is to keep your system software up to date with the latest patches and the like. Even applications these days frequently self-check and notify you automatically when updates are available.

But what about your BIOS?

The BIOS (or Basic Input/Output System) is the software that's "hardwired" into your computer. It's the software that runs when you first turn on your machine, the software that does a little self-check at first, and then knows how to load other software like your operating system.

The BIOS can also be used by the operating system to access hardware on your machine.

You've actually captured my opinion on BIOS updates: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Unlike your operating system or even your application software, the BIOS rarely represents a vulnerability to your system. In fact, BIOS bugs, while they do happen, are typically infrequent and of low impact.

"You've actually captured my opinion on BIOS updates: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

But as I said, they do happen, and absolutely if a fix for a problem you're experiencing is a BIOS update, then I would take it.

BIOS updates are kind of funny, since they're actually updating the firmware on your motherboard. As such there's a slight risk: if the update fails for some reason you may not be able to reboot your machine. Scary, but infrequent. And many motherboards now include some kind of reset mechanism to restore a BIOS to some original default.

But in the long run, it's just not a hassle, or a risk, that I feel is called for unless you're fixing a specific problem.

Article C3010 - April 30, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
dave b
April 30, 2007 6:30 PM

I used to be a BIOS junkie... I admit it. I'd flash whenever a new version was available. I've only flashed my current machine twice - once, when I first built in two years ago, and once about two months ago. The first flash was to overcome a bug in the v1.0 firmware that slowed everything down dramatically. The second flash was to support Athlon 64x2 (dual core) processors. I stopped flashing more often than necessary a couple of years ago after an update left my machine unusable. I was able to find a previous BIOS version and restored the machine to a working state. Now I only update when necessary... still, my precious calls to me...

Greg
May 1, 2007 10:13 AM

I have to agree with Leo. Computer users seem caught in a neverending cycle of upgrading and patching when it comes to software. Buf if the patch/upgrade isn't for security purposes or to fix a bug that could well affect you... consider letting it go. If everything is running well, why upgrade?

Again, I must stress, if the patch/upgrade is security-oriented or fixes bugs, install it. Otherwise... eh.

skyline
August 17, 2008 12:08 PM

right i have this motherboard MSI 6787 VER2. now the problem is when i connect the dvd rom to the white IDE conntect,, in the bios it just shows funny lettering and will not boot from cd rom. so i connected my 40GB hard drive to the white IDE connecter again it just shows funny lettering and only picks it up as 6GB. now the other IDE connecter works fines pick eveything up as it should. my question is do i need a bios upgrade to fix this problem.

Bryan Elias
April 9, 2011 8:53 AM

If you have a motherboard with something like Q-Flash then it's easy, and if you have dual bios. I know you mentioned a bios reset, which is what a dual bios does, but a lot of times as a person that overclocks I need to keep the bios updated for stability.

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