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DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501


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DOS BIOS updates for the Inspiron 1501

  • I am having a problem with updating my BIOS from DOS. I followed the directions to flash from DOS but ran into the same "This program cannot be run in DOS mode" error message. On these forums I found other threads discussing this topic but found no resolution beyond some rather extraordinary Windows installation to USB key or CD workarounds. Just a wee bit of a kludge.

    On investigation for why I can't run the BIOS update from DOS I found that there's a good reason, the executable archive which houses the BIOS image file and flash utility is built for and will only execute in 32bit Windows. So this contradicts the BIOS update instructions which state it can be run from DOS. I tried running the BIOS update on a Vista system (not the Inspiron) and it unpacked the archive. Looking at the flash utility (Phoenix Technology's WinPhlash) I found that it is also a 32bit Windows executable. So no joy in Mudville for BIOS updates on non-Windows systems. My next step was to find a DOS BIOS update utility.

    Last night I chatted online with Dell support. After explaining all the particulars the representative investigated and told me that Dell had no utility that could flash in DOS. I found this hard to believe. But no matter what I said I didn't seem able to escalate this to second tier tech support for investigation. I have to suspect that the representative's emphatic assertions that if she couldn't find the utility it didn't exist at Dell was first line tech support bravado. I have additionally given the Dell support site a reasonably thorough search and am unable to find a Phoenix TrustedCore/Inspiron 1501 DOS BIOS flash utility.

    So has anyone had any luck with flashing BIOS from DOS? I know there are some universal BIOS flash utilities and I could probably find a copy of a newer Phoenix flash utility somewhere on the interwebs. Historically Phoenix Technology's BIOS updater utility for DOS is phlash16.exe but as this TrustedCore BIOS is a whole new architecture they may have whole new utility names.

    I'm disappointed that Dell doesn't make both the Windows and the DOS flash utilities available. What's more disappointing is that Dell's instructions indicate this should work when any technical review of the update would show it couldn't. Quality Assurance was asleep at the wheel here. I can't help but wonder how many customers have discovered the problem through frustrating experience.
  • Just to throw more confusion into the game. There is another option. Bart PE bootable CD. This will give you a relatively safe windows environment to flash from using the windows executable.
  • I'll give you one better. I just got my Inspiron 1501 out of the box. Went through the update website. Downloaded the Bios update because it was given the "important" tag. System reboot, and voila... no monitor at all. Black screen right from start up. It's dead in the water and I've had it for 5 minutes. I just spent 50 minutes on the phone doing all sorts of power cycles and key punches that the tech told me it was the video card. I'm no genius but I am pretty sure when all you've done on a brand new system is install the new bios, THAT would be your problem. I get to mail my system back and wait for another 2 weeks to get another system.
  • Thank you for bringing up the PE software. This is one workaround for the BIOS updates but that's all it is, a workaround. For an advanced user it's a time consuming option to achieve the goal. For a less advanced user it is a study in frustration in the navigation of arcane computer technologies with only a slim chance of success. For both users this is a workaround not supported by Dell. A simpler and Dell supported workaround would be to deliver the DOS BIOS flash utility they already describe as a method for BIOS updates.

    A solution would be to deliver a FreeDOS or Linux boot image which includes the BIOS update and BIOS flash utility that can be burned to CD/DVD, USB drive or floppy.

    I will most likely go the PE route to resolve my immediate need. But I am an atypical user who has about 7 years experience building bootable NT kernel images on disc. That said, even I hesitate at the headaches involved in this kludge.

    One nearly comical note to the Dell DOS BIOS flash instructions is that they keep referring to providing bootable floppies for the installation then running the update from the floppy. The executable is 3.6MB. Must be a very big floppy.
  • DanPhilpott:

    Thanks for your feedback in regards to the verbiage on our support site. I've escalated this issue internally, and hope to the pages updated as soon as possible.

  • If the solution to this issue is to redact the installation instructions I'd suggest making a clean sweep of it for all affected products. This should include any products using the Phoenix TrustedCore BIOS. I believe the systems affected are:

    Inspiron 1501
    Latitude 131L
    Vostro Laptop (1000?)

    This response won't help me but may save others a bit of frustration.

    Message Edited by DanPhilpott on 11-28-2007 11:33 AM
  • Maybe some of you can explain to me the overpowering urge to update the BIOS everytime they come out with a newer version. ???
    I have seen countless people on here and other message boards that I read that have killed and an untold number of PCs attempting to update a BIOS on a Computer that wasn't giving them any problems to begin with.
    I have done numerous flashes for customers but only with them understanding that I am not responsible if it goes south.
    On my own systems ( beleive me I have had many ) I have never flashed the BIOS as I have never seen the need of taking the risk involved or had problems that needed a BIOS flash to take care of it.
    Maybe I am just lucky?
  • The urge in this case can be stated in the single compelling line:


    In general the reasons you update BIOS are the same reasons you patch any software; security, stability, known problem resolution, new features, optimization, etc.

    Personally I have never shied away from flashing. There is always a risk that you will brick a system but in my experience if you control the environment (e.g., have a stable power supply, don't allow the system to be manipulated during flash, ensure all hardware is stable) you don't have that problem. Of the hundreds of systems I've flashed over the years I've never had a brick. But I'd not trust my anecdotal evidence to be statistically significant.

    The BIOS dictates how the operating system interacts with the hardware. And when an OEM configures a BIOS image for a system they are generally operating with zero real world experience with that hardware and a limited installed base in the testing lab. Usually it takes a few iterations to come up with a good version. With a good BIOS you can have trouble free operation and optimized access to your hardware. With bad BIOS you can have unusable hardware, hard to diagnose problems, crippled capabilities and halitosis. Okay, maybe not halitosis.

    In this instance a review of available update notes shows some of the problems being addressed:

    1.Support AM29LV081B , MX29LV008CB , STM29W008EB EEPRom flash part.
    2.Display CMOS checksum failed if MFG mode is 01.
    1. Changed Boardcom Lan IRQ from 0Bh to 0Ah.
    1.Support Master HDD password reset function.
    1.Update system information.
    1. Fixed S3 resume without AC issue.
    2. Change Boot order while enable Manufacturing mode Bit 6
    (1. PXE, 2. Hard Drive - USB KEY 3. Hard Drive - SATA HDD 4. Removable
    1.Enhance Vista OS S3 resume for battery mode.
    AMD logo posting support.
    1. Update the AMD errata
    2. Enhance S3 resume funtion

    These aren't the best examples of BIOS updates . First, their was no cumulative change log in the release notes. Next, the descriptions don't adequately describe the problems being addressed (i.e., why the fix was implemented) or the actual modification. Finally, as you can see from the release numbering not all the releases are represented.
  • Dan,
    My post was actually more directed at RingerDaMan who has bricked his brand new notebook after way less than an hour out of the box. 
    I know that sometimes a flash is needed and or wanted for enhanced features but Most ( not all ) of the people that have bricked their system is because they made an unrequired  BIOS Flash and went into it without having any idea of what or why they were doing it. Sorry if you took it wrong.
    Your statement about pci=nomsi is that in reference to a PCI Express or a Hypertransport issue? The only problems I have seen where I needed this was loading Suse Linux on a notebook. As far as I know the Inspiron 1501 doesn't have an issue with messaged interrupts. Of course I am running BIOS Version 2.6.1 A14 so if the problem existed before that I don't know??
  • pcgeek The reason I did it is because Dell's website has it labeled "Urgent". Perhaps there should be a bit more testing to make sure it works before telling people that it's so important to use.
  • The Inspiron 1501 does have the pci=nomsi issue. Not sure which BIOS revision fixed this. But it's a problem I would prefer to never have had to deal with.

    MSI is a newish PCI/PCI Express way of handling interrupt requests (IRQ). The early BIOS versions boggled many (most?) Linux installation media which prevented them from booting completely. I ran into it with Gentoo but I've seen people running Ubuntu and Fedora complain about it. So in order to boot you would have to load the kernel with the pci=nomsi argument to prevent it from trying to use MSI at all.
  • The BIOS A14 Ver 2.6.1 does in fact work. I have installed it on several notebooks.
    Urgent is a relative term, but I agree about the misleading use of the term.
    Advice: If it isn't broke don't fix it.
  • Hey
    Unfortunately I have made a mistake to flash, I clicked the file by mistake, that I have in my drivers/software partition on my 1501.
    It was upgrading from 2.1.6 to 2.1.4. so I tried to cancel it. The laptop unfortunately froze when I tried to cancel.
    I have no warrenty or service tag, so tried dell phone support and it was useless. Some guy who couldn't really understand english. Anyway after half an hour he told me to hold the line then hung up on me.
    My inspiron 1501 has a blank screen, a churning disc annd harddrive upon start up and the fn and F2 or fn and F10 and Fn and F 12 buttons don't do anything. Changed the hardware slightly to see if there was a change no such luck.
    Need a new motherboard apparently am quoted £100 - £200 approximately for repair. If anyone knows how to flash the BIOS without windows or a harddrive being read, with no system BIOS showing then I request your help. Thanks
    Not to fond of ATI technology I think I will go back to Intel based computers, however they Inspiron 6400 I can get for approximately £400 but only with 1.86Ghz even though on the overview it says configuratable to 2.16Ghz.
    My inspiron 1501 had a 2.00 Ghz processor so wanted something of the same speed or similar. Even though most of the parts of the 1501 and 6400 are the same, I still need to purchase a puny harddrive, puny ram modules and a disc drive etc, also a charger and battery that I have for  the 6400/1501 that I don't need was on dell presales asking for a 6400 without these components she was most useless, so if anyone knows where I can get the 2.16Ghz with xp media centre edition (which she also said I couldn't get even though my sister got her 6400 with an oem xp media centre edition) or no operating system (without the components I already have) please tell me thanks. I do not see it worth paying £200 to get my system fixed when I can buy a 6400 for £400.

    Philip Yip


    Windows Reinstallation Guide and Related Wikies See here for other wikies such as Customising and Using Windows 8.1, Dell Wireless Cards and Unofficial Drivers.

  • As you know now. You should never cancel Bios Flash, as it will disable the motherboard for good.
    Link below is where you can buy a new motherboard, then take your computer to a local shop for installation.
    Inspiron 1501, TL-50, 2gigs of RAM
    Seagate Momentus 7200 RPM HD 160 Gigs
    Windows XP Media Center & Vista Home Premium
  • Thanks don't think its worth me getting the motherboard replaced.
    Will get an inspiron 6400 which is intel based, am not a big fan of ATI or AMD.

    Philip Yip


    Windows Reinstallation Guide and Related Wikies See here for other wikies such as Customising and Using Windows 8.1, Dell Wireless Cards and Unofficial Drivers.