How to Flash BIOS Settings on Windows PCs

Your computer’s BIOS is an integral part of making sure your PC starts and runs correctly. If you’ve been experiencing issues with starting up your computer, you may have read that you should flash the BIOS. What does it mean to do this? Is it safe?

Here is what you need to know about this task and whether you even need to do it at all. It might be that you simply need to replace your CMOS battery (read how to do that here) or you may need to replace a corrupted driver. If you do need to flash the BIOS, we can help. Read on for tips to get you up and running again.

What does it mean to flash a BIOS?

For your computer to start up (also known as "booting up"), it needs instructions. These instructions are stored in the Basic Input/Output System, or BIOS. If your BIOS isn't updated, it's possible that your computer could have difficulty performing basic tasks, such as interacting with your hardware and making sure the operating system runs quickly and without bugs - especially upon startup.

If you run into issues getting your computer to boot up properly, it may be a BIOS problem. “Flashing the BIOS” is a term used by computer-savvy people to describe the process of updating the BIOS.

Is it safe to flash BIOS?

If you know what you’re doing or are relying on automatic updates from your PC manufacturer, this can be an easy and effective way to get a buggy PC working smoothly again. If you’re not confident with manually adjusting the BIOS settings or are unsure if your problem is related to the BIOS, you may want to leave the manual update to an expert. There’s also a danger to your computer if you experience a shut-down or frozen PC during the BIOS update. A BIOS update that isn’t complete can cause more harm than good.

Getting familiar with your BIOS menu and settings is a practical first step to learning how to flash BIOS. Note that Mac computers do not have a BIOS.

Flashing BIOS through an automatic update

Fortunately, most HP computers will update the BIOS as part of their regular updates. To see if your computer needs an update, do the following:

  • Search for the HP Support Assistant and open it
  • Click on the My devices tab
  • Find your computer and choose Updates
  • Choose Check for updates and messages
  • If you need a BIOS update, a checkbox will appear next to the BIOS update field. Check it, along with any other updates you want to be done, and choose Download and install

How to check BIOS version for manual updates

What about computers not made by HP®? Flashing a BIOS merely means updating it, so you don’t want to do this if you already have the most updated version of your BIOS. But how can you tell what you have? You can check the BIOS version you are running in one of the following ways:

  1. Click Windows+R to open the run box, type “msinfo32,” and hit Enter. The system information window will open for you to see the BIOS version/date number in the System Summary
  2. Open a Command Prompt window by typing “cmd” in the Windows search box. When opened, type the following: wmic bios get smbiosbiosversion (The current version will appear)

How to flash computer BIOS

If your BIOS version isn’t the newest one and you’ve decided that manually flashing the BIOS will resolve your issues, there are basic steps you can take to get the job done. These directions may be slightly different for different computers, and they depend on the Windows operating system and the computer manufacturer:

  1. Go to the website of your motherboard or computer manufacturer and look for the page that offers support. They should have your BIOS version (found via the steps above) listed for you to find supporting information. Download the most recent fix or version
  2. Go to the file. If it is a ZIP or compressed file, extract the contents using your Windows ZIP software. Look through the contents of the unzipped file for the BIOS file. It is usually the only file that is not a .txt file. Make note of the location of this individual BIOS file
  3. The other file or files in the compressed folder are likely directions. Look carefully through any files named “Read Me” or similar. They will give you additional directions for updating the BIOS, specific to your manufacturer
  4. The Read Me file should give tips for which outside storage device to save the BIOS file to. A thumb drive is a common choice. Save the BIOS file to the outside device now, before entering the BIOS flash process
  5. Ensure that your computer is plugged in or that your laptop is fully charged and plugged in. Restart your computer
  6. Immediately upon restarting, enter the BIOS screen by pressing the key indicated by the manufacturer’s instructions for a BIOS update. This may be F2, Delete, F8, Esc, or another key
  7. Once in the BIOS screen, start the update process depending on your computer brand. For many, you will access the Boot tab and ensure your USB thumb drive shows up as an option. Enable any “Flash” options in the menu before selecting Start. Some computers will detect the flash drive upon entering the BIOS Boot Menu and will prompt you to update automatically. Follow the steps to complete the process
  8. The BIOS flash can take a few minutes or up to a few hours. Once the BIOS update is complete, your computer will restart. It is very important not to disrupt power to the computer. Any interruption can corrupt the BIOS and make your computer inoperable

Do I need to flash my BIOS?

If you flash your BIOS and it doesn’t solve your problems, it was most likely never the BIOS in the first place. Thankfully, most computers are designed to perform important tasks automatically, including BIOS updates. By opting into automatic software updates from Windows and your PC manufacturer, you’re more likely to be covered and won’t have to manually flash the BIOS anytime soon.