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Thread: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400 without battery

  1. #1
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    Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400 without battery

    SOLUTION: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.p...3#post12884863
    _____________
    My father's laptop is running Windows XP which is going to be unsupported in a matter of months. I want to upgrade the BIOS of the laptop as the current BIOS version can't run any newer Windows version. I know I can upgrade the BIOS using Windows but it requires a battery (ours is dead) to upgrade.


    But I found this guide to help me upgrade the BIOS: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DellBIOS


    I am a bit familiar with Linux command line interface, so following this guide isn't a problem for me, but I have some questions:
    1. How risky is it to perform a BIOS upgrade? By the way I will upgrade the BIOS using Dell's "biosdisk" and "syslinux memdisk".
    2. Does the BIOS upgrade through Ubuntu need a battery?
    3. Is it fine to perform the upgrade from a live CD or I have to install Ubuntu on the HDD for that?
    Last edited by eDFPxpX; December 28th, 2013 at 12:40 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    Quote Originally Posted by eDFPxpX View Post
    My father's laptop is running Windows XP which is going to be unsupported in a matter of months. I want to upgrade the BIOS of the laptop as the current BIOS version can't run any newer Windows version. I know I can upgrade the BIOS using Windows but it requires a battery (ours is dead) to upgrade.


    But I found this guide to help me upgrade the BIOS: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DellBIOS


    I am a bit familiar with Linux command line interface, so following this guide isn't a problem for me, but I have some questions:
    1. How risky is it to perform a BIOS upgrade? By the way I will upgrade the BIOS using Dell's "biosdisk" and "syslinux memdisk".
    2. Does the BIOS upgrade through Ubuntu need a battery?
    3. Is it fine to perform the upgrade from a live CD or I have to install Ubuntu on the HDD for that?
    1. If you get a power cut or glitch then without the battery you will brick the laptop
    2. I would guess that as you are going to use Dell's software it makes no difference whether it's run in Windows or an emulator
    3. All the examples in your link are from people who have installed Ubuntu, it won't work from a Live CD because you need to reboot at some point and the DOS disc image will be lost.

    Buy a new battery and backup the laptop before trying to update the BIOS.

  3. #3
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    1. It's pretty risky, given that if something goes wrong, it can brick the machine. The BIOS disk sounds like a bad idea, in view of the following from the wiki you've linked to:
    NOTE that biosdisk hasn't been updated in almost a year and appears to be broken as of this writing (May 2012). See the "Updating the BIOS without without using biosdisk" section above for an alternative method.

    biosdisk is a utility maintained by John Hull at Dell. There isn't an official Ubuntu package yet but the provided downloadable archive has an installer which can be used to upgrade your BIOS from Ubuntu. It also doesn't appear to work at all for Ubuntu.
    2. There is no such thing as a "BIOS upgrade through Ubuntu". A more correct question would be - "Does Dell's BIOS disk require a battery?" or "Does BIOS update with FreeDOS require a battery". Good question. You are about to find out.
    3. For What you've indicated, a proper installation of Ubuntu would be required. A Live CD is ok for testing, but whatever changes you make to the system will be gone after a reboot.

  4. #4
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    Cool Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    Upgrading the BIOS on a Dell system is a whole lot easier with Windows than without Windows. That said, one the the things Microsoft recently notified me about (due to the fact that I am a Microsoft Technet Subscriber) is that a 90 day Trial of Windows 7 Enterprise Edition will soon be posted on Microsoft's Technet Website free of charge!
    Dell Inspiron 15 3521 Laptop with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.
    Dell Inspiron 400 HD Desktop with a 120 GB Crucial SSD and Lubuntu 14.04.

  5. #5
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    You could try creating a bootable USB stick with Freedos and the new BIOS setup file. If it works it's a quick and easy task, and if it does not you will get an error message and you will not be worse off.

    I have upgraded many Dells, and it was always a smooth process.
    About problems due to upgrading
    Bringing old hardware back to life.
    Please visit Quick Links -> Unanswered Posts

  6. #6
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    That 90-day trial sounds like a good idea.

    I have tried creating a bootable USB stick with Freedos, and that did not work for my 7520 Inspiron. The Bios updater exe just spit out an error under Freedos.

    Fortunately (for me) - the successful method I found, was creating a bootable ISO using WinPE, but even that was not straightforward. I had to use the Windows Deployment Kit to customize the WinPE image, and I had use the x64 image. (the bios updater for my laptop would not run in 32-bit WinPE, either).

    The Windows Deployment Kit is free, but you can only run it (and consequently, build the bootable WinPE disk with the BIOS files) on Windows. There may be a way for someone smarter than me (and more time on their hands) to figure out how to extract the necessary tools, and write them to a disk using Linux tools.

    This complexity may have been an artifact of the weird configuration of my laptop. (it has EFI; so maybe that's why the bios updaters don't run in FreeDOS). So this may not be the case for your laptop.

  7. #7
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    Oh no... I can't update as I don't have the battery. I used FreeDOS.
    Last edited by eDFPxpX; December 27th, 2013 at 12:51 PM.

  8. #8
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    Is there is any way I can perform a BIOS update without a battery?

  9. #9
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    Most likely not.
    It's a safety feature. If the power cord is pulled out during a BIOS upgrade without battery backup the BIOS might go FUBAR.
    About problems due to upgrading
    Bringing old hardware back to life.
    Please visit Quick Links -> Unanswered Posts

  10. #10
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    Re: Upgrading BIOS version on a Dell Inspiron 6400

    Quote Originally Posted by mrgs View Post
    Most likely not.
    It's a safety feature. If the power cord is pulled out during a BIOS upgrade without battery backup the BIOS might go FUBAR.
    Weird, I believe there must be an option to disable this for people who understand the risks of doing this. Buying a new battery for such an old laptop isn't worth it.

    One more question (might be a stupid one ) : When I tried to upgrade the BIOS through Windows (when I had the dead battery), it refused to install the BIOS as battery isn't above 10%. If I found the battery and tried to repeat the upgrade, can FreeDOS know the battery's level if it is above or below 10%?
    Last edited by eDFPxpX; December 27th, 2013 at 06:24 PM.

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