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BIOS support on Motherboards

While building my new rig I came across a problem I’ve experienced before, but for some reason has never been seen by anyone else here at pcGameware, which quite surprised me.

Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to document what happened and how I went about resolving the issue. This problem has been around for quite a while now when building new rigs which contain a new Motherboard with an up to date CPU, so read on for more details as you may have come across the same problem!

So one day you decide to upgrade your PC, or maybe you have even decided to switch platforms from Intel to AMD or vice versa for whatever reason, just like I did. This means you need to buy an appropriate motherboard which is suitable for your given socket type and also an appropriate CPU to go with it. In my case I purchased the following:

 

Asus M5A97 Pro AMD FX-4100

 

At the time, all I knew was that the CPU I had purchased was supported by the motherboard and I thought nothing else of it. Of course when it came to assembling my rig I came across a problem I had seen before which I totally forgot to think about when using a latest CPU, but this didn’t however become apparent until I actually tried to boot the PC!

So I was happy with the way the build had gone and it was time to power up the PC. Pressing the power switch the fans came on and I waited and waited. Nothing happened! This is where you start to panic and think that one of the components you have purchased i.e motherboard, CPU or memory is faulty as the PC won’t POST.

Usually the motherboard has some sort of on-board diagnostics which you can use to diagnose the fault, and in this case each component has an LED next to it which is supposed to light/flash while the component is being checked, but there was nothing. This made me wonder if the motherboard was at fault at first as no LED was being lit next to the CPU, which should in theory be the first component to be checked.

I didn’t have a spare rig to test the CPU or memory as this was a completely new build on a new platform and nobody at pcGameware was running on an AMD platform. At that point I thought I was going to have to send something back, as obviously something was at fault. I then decided to re-check that the CPU was indeed compatible with the motherboard so I went to Asus to check again. Funnily enough my range of processor was the only one that had a different BIOS revision and this made me wonder if that is what the issue was. Had my motherboard been shipped with the older BIOS as the processor was indeed quite new? There was no indication on the packaging as to what revision the motherboard came with and even if there was, I doubt the vendor would check to make sure they weren’t sending older revisions out to customers.

So I was faced with a few options as to how I could proceed down this path:

  • Return the motherboard to the manufacturer
  • Return the motherboard to the seller
  • Take the motherboard to a computer shop and have them update the BIOS
  • Obtain a CPU which was supported by an older BIOS revision and update it myself

I wasn’t sure if the manufacturer would update the BIOS, I know some do but the turnaround would be quite long. Returning the motherboard to the seller was an option but again this was going to take time to get a replacement, time which I did not have. After contacting a local computer shop, they wouldn’t provide this service without also selling me a CPU as well as charging a fee, as they couldn’t just charge for updating the BIOS, as the CPU would then be classified as being used! I mean what computer shop doesn’t have spare used CPUs lying around surely! So the only option left was to buy the cheapest CPU on the list (AMD Sempron 145 2.8GHz at £29) and have it delivered by next day post.

When the CPU arrived, an older Sempron, I promptly installed it and again tried to get the PC to POST. It did indeed, proving that the motherboard was indeed shipped with an older BIOS, which was confirmed when the BIOS revision was displayed on the screen. I promptly updated the BIOS with the latest revision via USB and then replaced the old processor with the new.

I then turned the PC on for the final time, to check that it would POST now with the latest CPU. It did indeed and all the motherboard diagnostic lights lit up as well confirming that the motherboard, CPU and memory were also fully functional now.

So the lesson to be learned from this, is that if you plan on upgrading and you’re going to be replacing the motherboard or CPU and don’t have a spare compatible CPU lying around, double check with the seller that the motherboard being shipped to you has the latest revision of BIOS that is required for you to be able to POST. Otherwise you’re either going to incur more cost to yourself or have the hassle of having to send everything back to be replaced!

Maybe one day motherboard manufacturers will be able to get round this issue, but until then we will have to rely on the processor manufacturers giving them the up to date information they require prior to shipping the product, or for us to continue going through this whole process yet again…

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  1. JonG
    June 8th, 2012 at 18:36 | #1

    I’m wondering if this is my problem – I’m doing virtually new build with an Asus Mobo with Z68 chipset, and a new i5 Ivy Bridge CPU. Complete POST failure, with no bleeps and repeating on-off power cycles. If I remove the memory I get proper no memory bleeps, and it stays on without any CPU telltale lights, so I suspected the motherboard. Today I’ve tried the replacement, with just the same result.
    Asus’ website says it is compatible with Ivy Bridge with a BIOS which is not the latest one available. On the box it says “PCIe 3.0 ready – full PCIe performance requires a 22nm CPU” – ie an Ivy Bridge CPU, as I understand it. But it made me realise that I’ve never seen an indication with a motherboard of what BIOS it has. I can’t imagine that that would be too difficult to arrange.
    Like you, I’ve not got any suitable bits to test too much – I’ve already bought a cheap stick of RAM to rule out that as at fault, looks like I might have to spend another £30 on a cheal Celeron to try and check the BIOS – I can’t expect suppliers to keep changing bits when it might be the BIOS at fault! All a bit of a pain.

  2. David
    June 8th, 2012 at 20:19 | #2

    I would suspect that indeed you might have fallen foul of the same issue, especially if it looks as if the Motherboard is not doing anything and appears faulty. (Although of course the MB could be, but I doubt it is as they are usually quite robust).

    I don’t know what Asus Motherboard you are using, but I guess it’s on this list http://event.asus.com/2011/mb/pcie3_ready/ which also shows what BIOS revision is required for 22nm CPU support? You did also say that support was implemented in an earlier BIOS revision and not the latest, but without knowing how old they are it’s hard to tell whether you were shipped an older BIOS revision or not. In my case the CPU support was in the latest revision, but with the introduction of Ivy Bridge I am unsure if
    they might have released a few revisions in a short space of time.

    Sadly the quickest thing you can probably do to try and resolve the issue, as you say, is to try your other processor when you have it. All these problems and extra expense would go away if the manufacturers just printed the BIOS revision on the box, as I’m sure there are a lot more people out there suffering from the same problems also!

  3. JonG
    June 8th, 2012 at 22:54 | #3

    Well, that link does rather imply that it should be ready. I’ve got the P8Z68-V/Gen3 board. Their list says it supports 22nm from BIOS 3201, there is clearly an 0301 BIOS and the latest is 3402 but that is only dated 29/5/12, so I Know I’ve not got That one.

    Am now regretting buying different parts from different suppliers to save a few pounds – I can’t tell one single supplier that it is a problem with Something they’ve supplied!

  4. David
    June 9th, 2012 at 02:12 | #4

    When I bought the Asus M5A97Pro, the version of the BIOS that came with it was dated 27th May 2011 (this is almost a year prior to when I bought it!). Support for my CPU was later added to the BIOS on the 15th November 2011 which is still 6 months prior to when I bought the Motherboard, but yet I did not get this revision on my Motherboard.

    Maybe you have received a Motherboard with the 0301 revision which is dated 10th October 2011, and since 3201 (released 24th Feb 2012) was when support was added you have ran into the same problem of getting a Motherboard with an original BIOS?

  5. JonG
    June 11th, 2012 at 19:39 | #5

    An that is what has happened – got the 0301 BIOS, as revealed by using a Celeron.

    Tech support at CCLonline, who are fortunately near enough to drive to, very kindly offered to flash the BIOS if I bought the board in, even though it wasn’t their sale, just the CPU (or both now!) They were rather surprised that the BIOS revision wasn’t stated on the sticker on the box, but it definitely is not on either board I’ve got. As I buy a new motherboard every five years or so, I just don’t know if this is common or not, but it seems from your experience that it is.
    Anyway, another learning curve scrambled up – assuming I don’t brick the board flashing the new BIOS – and in another few years it woll be something else which catches me out, I’m sure.

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