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Interesting BIOS Flash Experience

I’ve got an Asus EeePC 1000HE netbook, and this weekend I went through a machine refresh for the Windows 7 Professional installation on that machine (I could run Windows 7 Starter on this box, and very well might if I had to pay retail for my Windows OSes, but I like the ability to use RDP to remote in from my primary desktop when I’m working at home). I finally got around to reading the Asus Windows 7 “Self-Upgrade” guide and learned that I should update my BIOS and some drivers to get the best performance from this unit. Along the way, I also learned some interesting lessons, and made some equally interesting observations.

Asus offers a ROM-driven EZ Flash utility on its notebook and netbook PCS — and for all I know, for its motherboards, too…goes off to look, and yes it applies to some, but not all Asus motherboards as well — that lets you simply copy a BIOS update to the root of a UFD and use it at boot time to flash the BIOS. Interestingly, this utility only works with UFDs formatted in the FAT16 format. I tried a FAT32 formatted UFD, and while the utility found the file and said it was reading it, it hung without changing anything until I switched the formatting over to FAT16 (described simply as FAT in the Microsoft Format tool)


How the Win7 Format Utility Reports FAT16: It Appears as Plain “FAT” format

And, of course, to format a UFD to FAT/FAT16, it must be 4 GB or smaller in size (Windows won’t let you format a larger UFD to FAT16 because 4GB is its absolute file/volume size limit). Once I figured this out, everything went pretty smoothly with the BIOS update, and when installed it did shave about 22 seconds off my previous boot time, as reported in Soluto for that machine.

I also learned that while some 1000HE models support AHCI for speedier SATA access, my machine isn’t one of those (and that dampens my enthusiasm for installing an SSD in that box because it will limit its performance as well). I went through a few interesting contortions to get all the right drivers installed too, particularly the x86 PC ACPI driver that the 1000HE needs to enable use of its various control and function buttons. The “key” to that problem was to find and install a Windows 7 “EeeInstantKey” utility which not only provided programmatic access to key management functions, but the necessary Windows 7 driver as well (it doesn’t show up in Device Manager so it’s not directly accessible for update through more conventional techniques).

For a while, during the period when all the new drivers and software changes were taking root, my boot time zoomed from around 2:35-2:45 to a whopping 8 minutes. But after all the installs and refreshes took hold, the boot time dropped to 2:08-2:15. I’m not sure the results justify the efforts that went into obtaining them, but I did get to learn quite a bit along the way.

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