[rescue] flash failure

Jonathan C. Patschke jp at celestrion.net
Tue Jan 1 03:17:10 CST 2008

On Mon, 31 Dec 2007, Curtis H. Wilbar Jr. wrote:

> Looks like the flash is soldered to the mobo, and the manual does not
> mention any sort of floppy recovery procedure...

Gigabyte says:


So there may or may-not be a feature there to restore the firmware
image.  I've no clue how you'd activate it, but it's called "Xpress BIOS

I recently had the same problem with a Tyan S2696 (not a low-end board
by any reasonable definition).  The flasher only works from within DOS
(because everyone runs 16-bit single-tasking OSes on their 8-way 4-bit
SMP servers, right?), and only works if booted from a floppy (I had no
luck with booting from a CDROM, and PXE booting[0]--and of COURSE
everyone uses floppies still, right?) and doesn't properly detect when
it's cocked up (and forces a reboot anyhow).  Not only was there no
recovery mode, but the BIOS images from Tyan were encrypted so that I
couldn't even write it to the flash device myself.  I had to order a
replacement chip through BIOSMAN.  When I got that chip, I made a backup
copy myself.

I praise Dell for very very little, having had my hands on literally
thousands of their craptastic little demon-boxes in the last year, but
they have firmware updates that -work-.  Flash from Linux, flash from
Win32, flash from PXE, flash from USB keys, flash from CDROM, it doesn't
matter.  If you run the standalone "flasher", it just copies the image
to a known address above the 1MB mark, and the existing firmware does
the actual installation (assuming the new image passes a sanity check).

The rest of the industry could do a lot worse than to pay Dell to
license their firmware update code.

[0] PXE and El Torito booting do largely the same thing when emulating a
     floppy disk.  They redirect the BIOS calls for frobbing the floppy
     so that they access memory above the 1MB mark, where the disk
     image has been loaded.  My guess is that the Phoenix flash loader
     also uses memory > 1MB for something and the memory area used for
     the disk image was stomped-upon.  The CD-ROM load just failed a
     checksum, but the PXE load trashed the firmware rather completely.
Jonathan Patschke
Elgin, TX

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