How to update your PC's BIOS

Only update your BIOS if you have a clear, concrete reason!

IDG

IDG

A tiny BIOS chip lurks inside every computer, sitting on your motherboard to breathe life into your system when you press the power button. BIOS stands for basic input and output system, and the BIOS chip initializes all the other devices in your PC, like the CPU, GPU, and motherboard chipset.

A few years ago, motherboard manufacturers—in partnership with Microsoft and Intel—introduced a replacement for traditional BIOS chips dubbed UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). Almost every motherboard shipping today has a UEFI chip rather than BIOS chip, but they both share the same core purpose: preparing the system to boot into the operating system. That said, most people still call the UEFI the “BIOS” because of the familiarity of the term.

Why you should (or shouldn’t) upgrade your BIOS

Understanding your UEFI is important so you can understand how (and if) to take advantage of the feature updates and bug fixes that come with the BIOS updates offered by motherboard manufacturers.

amd ryzen 1800x build 7 Brad Chacos

New chip and motherboard platforms often receive numerous BIOS revisions early in their lifecycle, to work out bugs.

Your motherboard likely uses whatever firmware revision that the motherboard manufacturer was on back when it was built. Over the life span of a motherboard, manufacturers release new firmware packages or BIOS updates that will enable support for new processors and memory, or solve commonly reported bugs. The only real reason to update to a newer firmware revision is to solve a bug in your UEFI or to swap in a CPU that’s newer than your motherboard.

Some people like to regularly check for and update their UEFI firmware packages just to stay up to date. This is a risky practice given that the firmware updating process can potentially brick your motherboard in the same way that flashing a custom ROM on to Android phone can brick the device. It’s best not update your UEFI firmware unless there is something specifically that the updated firmware offers that you happen to need.

That said, you probably want to stay on top of BIOS updates if you’re on a chip or motherboard platform that’s fresh out of the gates. Several mother BIOS updates were released over the first week that AMD’s disruptive new Ryzen chips were in reviewers’ hands, and each provided additional performance and system stability. Expect for those to continue as AMD works the bugs out of Ryzen.

update bios system info Brad Chacos

Before you upgrade your BIOS, make sure you’re actually installing a new version. The easiest way to find your BIOS version is to open up the System Information app by typing msinfo into the Windows search bar. In the window that opens your BIOS version should show up on the right, under your processor speed. Record your version number and date, then compare it to the latest version available on your motherboard’s support page on the manufacturer’s website.

How to upgrade your PC BIOS

When you boot up your PC, you’ll see text that informs you which button to press to enter the UEFI BIOS. Press it! (The exact button needed, and the design of every motherboard’s actual UEFI control panel differs, so these instructions will be more guideposts than step-by-step instructions.)

Although not all motherboards offer this feature, on certain models you can boot into the UEFI control panel and use a built-in update utility to connect to the Internet and flash the latest firmware from the manufacture’s server. This extremely nice feature makes updating to newer firmware revisions as painless as possible.

update bios 1 Brad Chacos

The process is a bit more involved for motherboards that don’t support this feature. First you’ll need to find your motherboard’s support page on the manufacturer’s website. The latest BIOS update should be in the support and downloads section. You’ll need to download and unzip the file, dump it onto a USB flash drive, and reboot your computer into the UEFI control panel.

From there, you’ll need to launch the UEFI’s firmware update tool or flashing tool and back up your PC’s existing firmware to your flash drive—just in case something goes wrong. Then use the same UEFI utility to select the new firmware image that you downloaded from its location on the flash drive. Running the firmware update utility should take just a couple of minutes but make sure not to shut off your PC during this process. This is critical.

Once the flashing process finishes, restart your computer and your updated PC BIOS is ready to rock.

Some manufacturers offer utilities that can update your UEFI chip from directly inside Windows by running an .exe file, but we strongly recommend using one of the two methods above to avoid any unnecessary risks.

Again, updating your PC’s BIOS can provide many benefits, but it's important to understand the risks. Don’t touch it if there isn’t a clear, compelling reason to update your UEFI firmware. That said, if you want to drop in a newer CPU into an older motherboard, then it's clear that a BIOS update lies in your future.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Thomas Ryan

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?