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Ubuntu - Boot Disk for BIOS Update

So your PC/Laptop manufacturer provides you with a BIOS update that requires you to boot from a DOS floppy disk to perform the BIOS update. Uh, it's 2013. If I'm not mistaken, the last operating system that let you create a boot disk was Windows 95, that's 13 years ago now.  And who still has a floppy drive in their PC?  Microsoft still doesn't let you download a free DOS boot disk image.  So whether you're running Windows 7, Windows 8, or like me, Ubuntu or some other flavor of Linux, what do these PC manufacturers expect you to do with the BIOS updater?

Thankfully, the open source community has provided some solutions.  There are now free versions of DOS-like operating systems that we can use to create a bootable USB thumb drive to update our BIOS. The great news, if you're running Ubuntu, is that all the tools you need are built right into Ubuntu.  I believe these tools are available on other popular Linux distributions as well.

Getting the Tools/dev/sdb1 on /media/myThumbDrive 

OK, we need to install a few pieces of software.  Open a terminal and type the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unetbootin gparted

Answer Y to any questions during the install.

Preparing the Thumb Drive

Now, let's get our thumb drive ready.  Insert a thumb drive into a USB port.  It's likely that your thumb drive already has a formatted partition on it, so it will likely auto-mount, which is normally what you want, but not this time.  We need to unmount it.  To do this, open a terminal and type the following commands:

sudo bash

A list of mounts should be displayed.  At the bottom of the list, you should see your thumb drive mounted, probably on a subdirectory of the /media directory.  If your PC has a single hard disk, it's likely that your thumb drive has been assigned the device name /dev/sdb (your hard disk's device name is /dev/sda, if you have two hard drives, your thumb drive might be /dev/sdc, and so on).  The first partition on the device is /dev/sdb1, or /dev/sdc1, and so on.  The mount entry might therefore look like this:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/myThumbDrive 

To unmount it, type:

umount /dev/sdb1

OK, now we will create a fat16 partition on the thumb drive for our DOS boot partition.  Launch gparted (this will be located under Systems Tools), and perform the following steps:
  1. In the upper right corner, select the thumb drive device (probably /dev/sdb). 
  2. Select Device - Create Partition Table - this will wipe all existing partitions on the thumbdrive.
  3. Right-click the unallocated space and click new.  
  4. Set the new size to something reasonable, say 140 MB, we just need space for our BIOS update file. 
  5. Set the file system to fat16.
  6. Click the green check icon to apply the changes. 
  7. Right-click the new fat16 partition and select Manage Flags - check boot and then close.  
  8. Exit from gparted.
Now, we've got our thumb drive partitioned and marked as bootable, but we don't have any OS on it yet.  Before the next step, we need to mount the new partition.  The easiest way to do this is to simply remove and reinsert the thumb drive.

Installing DOS on the Thumb Drive

Now launch unetbootin (also locatged under System Tools), and perform the following steps:
  1. Select distribution FreeDOS
  2. Select our thumbdrive partition (probably /dev/sdb1)
  3. Click OK.
  4. When the installation is complete, click Exit.
      Final Steps

      OK, lastly, we simply copy our BIOS updater onto the thumb drive.  When we reinserted the thumb drive earlier, it should have mounted, and we should either have a window that popped open or a link in our file manager for the drive.  Simply drag and drop your BIOS update EXE onto the drive.

      Now reboot.  You may have to interrupt the boot process (maybe by pressing F12 ?) to get your PC to boot from the thumb drive.  Once you boot to FreeDOS, you will be confronted with a series of two menus.  The first menu has only one choice, so you must select that one.  The second menu provides multiple choices.

      Don't select "Install FreeDOS onto your hard drive"!!!  Select the Live CD options.

      You will land at an A:\> prompt.  Type C:

      If you then type dir you should see your BIOS updater in the list.  Type the name of your BIOS updater and off you go!  As usual, be careful when updating your BIOS.  If you were to power off your PC in the middle of a BIOS update, your PC could end up permanently broken beyond repair, a condition that we call bricked.  My advice? 

      Don't turn your PC into a brick.  

      If you're working on a laptop, make sure it's plugged in so that it doesn't run out of battery life during the BIOS update.  Good luck!


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