BIOS Savior for A8N-SLI

Discussion in 'Asus' started by milleron, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. milleron

    milleron Guest

    Asus' Crash-Free BIOS notwithstanding, the most elegant protection
    against BIOS-flashing disasters is the BIOS Savior by IOSS in Taiwan.
    Unfortunately, they don't seem to have updated their Web site and
    compatibility list for about four years. Nevertheless, the BIOS
    Savior is still for sale. Mwave has a 4MB version,
    http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewspec.hmx?scriteria=BA09803
    but there's no compatibility table there, either.
    Is it possible that this version would work with the 4MB BIOS on the
    A8N-SLI?


    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 8, 2005
    #1
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  2. milleron

    Paul Guest

    Updates stopped here with the A7N8X.

    http://www.ioss.com.tw/web/English/RD1BIOSSavior/CompatiblityList/ASUS.html

    This chart is based on the user identifying the part number on
    the BIOS chip itself:

    http://www.ioss.com.tw/web/English/RD1BIOSSavior/SelectionSheet.html

    See if your chip part number matches something in the chart.

    Paul
     
    Paul, Jun 8, 2005
    #2
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  3. milleron

    J&SB Guest

    Indeed, I have the same question. This kit sounds like good insurance for
    about $25. Please post if you find out more.
     
    J&SB, Jun 8, 2005
    #3
  4. milleron

    J&SB Guest

    J&SB, Jun 8, 2005
    #4
  5. milleron

    milleron Guest

    Hey, thanks. The second table is one I had not yet seen at IOSS.
    Unfortunately, I can't tell anything about the BIOS because I haven't
    purchased the board yet. I'd like to install a BIOS Savior as I'm
    building, so I wanted to purchase it at the same time I bought the
    motherboard. Perhaps someone who already has an A8N-SLI could tell us
    if the Award BIOS matches any part number on the list.
    I'm hoping.

    BTW, I can't remember ever reading a post about a bad flash where the
    CrashFree BIOS did anyone any good. Why doesn't it seem to work as
    advertised?

    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 10, 2005
    #5
  6. milleron

    milleron Guest

    Do you already have an Asus NForce 4 board? If so, can you report on
    the part number?
    Like you say, for $25, it's a good solution, so good that if I can't
    ascertain compatibility for certain, I'm probably going to buy a
    RD1-PCM4 and try it. I don't think it could damage the original BIOS
    because I believe that there's no electrical connection between the
    two. it appears that the most one would have to lose is $25.

    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 10, 2005
    #6
  7. milleron

    Paul Guest

    The Crashfree concept is to take a single physical flash chip and
    partition it into two separate virtual flash chips. For this to
    work properly, the "boot block" should never be erased. I suspect
    the people who report here, that their upgrade failed, and
    Crashfree didn't help them, probably are using the flash tool
    to erase the boot block as well as the main code block. That could
    account for the failure rate. The tools and instructions don't
    make it clear what options to use, to make Crashfree a useful
    feature.

    If Asus wants to use Crashfree as a beneficial concept, they
    should ship the first BIOS with a well tested boot block.
    Then, erasing and reprogramming the boot block would not be
    necessary. And Crashfree would stand a better chance of working,
    as it lives inside the boot block.

    Paul


    Paul
     
    Paul, Jun 10, 2005
    #7
  8. milleron

    milleron Guest

    The DOS flashing utilities don't give the option of leaving the boot
    block intact. How does one flash a BIOS without including the boot
    block?


    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 11, 2005
    #8
  9. milleron

    Paul Guest

    Hmmm.

    There used to be command line switches for that stuff. /sb used to
    stand for "skip bootblock".

    http://groups-beta.google.com/group/alt.comp.periphs.mainboard.abit/msg/e5502ac080bedea1

    http://groups-beta.google.com/group/fr.comp.os.os2/msg/52f32644968bdb0d

    Now, when I test the program, the command line options are not offered.
    There is still evidence of them inside the program, but I guess they've
    been turned off somehow. It looks to me, like awdflash got rewritten
    at some point, and judging by the English used, by people for whom
    English was a second language. To quote a text string inside the program:
    "Please to confirm input correct file"

    I guess this is progress. This is an older version of the flash program.
    I don't think there is any reason for you to want to download or look at
    this, because it will undoubtedly reject any new BIOS file you feed it.
    This is a sample of what the program used to look like. It is about
    4KB smaller than the new version, so perhaps the new version has
    just tacked a shell onto the front of the program.

    ftp://ftp.asus.com.tw/pub/ASUS/mb/socka/nforce2/a7n8x-deluxe/awdflash.zip

    In any case, it looks like the user has no control any more with this
    program. Either this means Asus is not updating the boot block, or
    they are paying lip service to the concept of CrashFree (i.e. it is
    updated every time).

    Paul
     
    Paul, Jun 13, 2005
    #9
  10. milleron

    milleron Guest

    Do you think they're actually overwriting the boot block with every
    flash? If so, I presume that this means that the boot block has the
    potential to become corrupted with each flash, and, as soon as it
    does, then bye-bye CrashFree.

    I'm still going to buy the only BIOS Savior that IOSS makes and see if
    it works. If it doesn't, then it should be a fairly simple matter to
    remove it and plug the original BIOS back into its original slot.
    I've never done this before, though, so I'm wondering how great a
    likelihood there is of damaging the mobo or BIOS chip using the
    chip-extracting device supplied with the BIOS Savior. Anybody know?


    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 13, 2005
    #10
  11. milleron

    Paul Guest

    I have extracted a couple hundred chips from PLCC sockets. Basically,
    on a given socket, it gets easier the more chips have been in and out
    of the same socket. So, the first one will be a little tougher to
    remove. (Take note of the pin 1 marker or any other orientation info,
    so you put the device back the way you found it. It is easy to rotate
    some of these PLCC packages, and the "magic smoke" will escape if
    that happens. I remember a poster remarking about a glow that was
    coming from a couple of pins on his BIOS flash chip, and that was
    the power supply pins on the chip frying. In that case, the BIOS
    chip was inserted by his supplier, and apparently the board was
    never tested afterwards.)

    I've used a pointed object, working diagonally on the chip corners,
    easing it out a bit on each side, until it popped free. Occasionally
    I've get a slightly bent socket pin by doing that, so there is some
    risk. There are various extractor tools, and the objective is to
    pull the chip equally on all side, so there is no side force on
    the pins. The extractor tool is certainly a better way to do it,
    if you have one. (A lip on the end of each extractor leg, is used
    to pull up on the bottom of the chip.)

    As for experimentally determining what is flashed, when you flash
    a BIOS, you can use the backup function to take snapshots of the
    chip contents at any time. The first time that the BIOS runs,
    it will likely update certain segments of the BIOS chip, like
    DMI/ESCD with hardware inventory, and a section referred to as
    NVRAM by some of the BIOS messages. On Intel motherboards, you
    may find microcode cache segments in the BIOS chip. So, you cannot
    expect a BIOS image to stay the same for very long. The boot block
    could be nearer to the end of the file, than near the beginning.
    But I cannot say with any certainty, as to what delimits the boot
    block area. There should be some kind of JUMP instruction in there
    somewhere, that jumps to the boot block, as the boot block should
    be the first piece of code to run.

    Paul
     
    Paul, Jun 13, 2005
    #11
  12. milleron

    FG Guest

    My advice : contact them by e-mail, stating the type and number of
    your BIOS. They usually answer rapidly. My guess is that as long
    as the BIOS is the same size it will work.

    As long as you disconnect your computer and proceed with care,
    your board will not be damaged.
     
    FG, Jun 14, 2005
    #12
  13. David F. Mishiwiec Sr., Jun 15, 2005
    #13
  14. milleron

    milleron Guest

    I've just downloaded the latest AWDFLASH, 8.24B, and it DOES still
    show the /sb switch under it's own help menu, so I presume that it IS
    still enabled.
    Do you know more about using it? If using it would increase the
    chances of recovering from a bad flash by using CrashFree, then I'd
    like to do so. If there's the slightest chance that it could
    interfere with the current flash, I wouldn't. Any more help or
    information?
    This site,
    http://www.cybertechhelp.com/html/tutorials/tutorial.php/id/65 points
    out that the /sb switch may not be enabled for all boards, but the
    fact that this version of awdflash.exe includes switches specific for
    nVidia makes me suspect that it is applicable for the nForce
    motherboards. The tutorial contains the proviso "use with caution."

    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 19, 2005
    #14
  15. milleron

    milleron Guest


    FG,
    You were correct. The size of the RD1-PMC4 is the same size as the
    A8N-SLI BIOS, I did not damage anything, and it DOES WORK!

    The use of the included BIOS-chip extractor was not well documented,
    but once I figured it out, it popped the original BIOS out almost
    effortlessly. Installation was a breeze -- thirty seconds flat.

    I am thrilled to finally have a computer with a working BIOS Savior
    installed. I can flash new BIOS versions at will without having to
    fear that I'll screw anything up.

    VERY, very importantly, I could not program the BIOS Savior with
    AWDFLASH.EXE, the newest version available for download at Asus, ver.
    8.24, I believe. It gave a checksum error and refused to proceed.
    HOWEVER, I then tried the built-in Asus EZFlash (ALT-F2 during POST),
    and it copied the original BIOS file, 1004, to the BIOS Savior just
    as though it was writing to the regular BIOS chip. I could then leave
    the BIOS Savior set to RD1 and reboot. It's perfectly transparent. I
    cannot recommend the BIOS Savior highly enough. I'll report this
    success to IOSS, but it seems like they're no longer updating their
    compatibility pages. I deduce that they don't care if they sell this
    product any longer or else their marketing department should all be
    fired en masse.

    Anyway, spread the gospel. BIOS Savior RD1-PMC4 is compatible with
    the A8N-SLI series.


    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 23, 2005
    #15
  16. milleron

    FG Guest

    Was it a new BIOS savior. If not I wonder if the
    BIOS from another card already present in the Savior
    could not damage the motherboard with the switch
    in the wrong position.

    I wonder if there is a way of clearing it before
    iunstallation.
     
    FG, Jun 23, 2005
    #16
  17. milleron

    J&SB Guest

    Say Ron,
    Now that you've identified the right BIOS Savior, would you mind going
    through your installation and flashing procedure step-by-step for us who
    walk with trepidation when it comes to this sort of thing? Thanks in
    advance. I'd really like to get one of these and rest easier.
    Jim
     
    J&SB, Jun 24, 2005
    #17
  18. milleron

    milleron Guest

    Mine was brand new. There doesn't seem to be any way to clear a
    previously used one, but that shouldn't be necessary since you would
    be overwriting the entire chip when you install it and start to use
    it. You'd just be positive that you had the switch set for "ORIGINAL"
    the first time you POST after installation. I rather imagine that if
    the switch were accidentally left on "RD1" that the computer would
    simply not POST. I can't imagine that it could damage anything.

    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 24, 2005
    #18
  19. milleron

    milleron Guest

    Sure.
    1 -- Before I installed my motherboard, I used the neat little
    BIOS-chip extractor supplied by IOSS to remove the PLCC BIOS chip.
    Just like CPUs, these things go in only one way, and it's easy to tell
    because one corner of the chip and socket are not square. The
    instructions illustrate how to keep things in alignment.
    2 -- plug the BIOS Savior into the motherboard socket vacated by the
    original BIOS.
    3 -- keeping the alignment in mind plug the original BIOS chip into
    the identical socket on the top of the BIOS Savior. At this point,
    the original chip is plugged into the Savior, and the Savior is
    plugged into the mobo. There is NEVER an ELECTRICAL CONNECTION
    between the EPROM in the BIOS Savior and the original BIOS chip
    mounted in the BIOS Savior.
    4 -- with the BIOS Savior switch set on ORG (for "original"), boot the
    machine with a bootable floppy containing awdflash.exe in the drive.
    5 -- run awdflash.exe and elect to save the original BIOS to the
    floppy, giving it any name you wish.
    6 -- flip the BIOS Savior switch to "RD1."
    7 -- run awdflash again, this time telling it that you want to
    reprogram the BIOS. Type in the name you gave the SAVED original
    BIOS, and let it write that BIN file to the BIOS Savior's chip.

    In my case, AWDFLASH gave a checksum error when trying to flash the
    BIOS Savior. I had saved the original BIOS as ORIGINAL.BIN, so I set
    the Savior to ORG, hit ALT-F2 during POST, and used Asus EZFlash
    instead of awdflash.exe. After EZFlash was running, I set the BIOS
    Savior to "RD1," and proceeded with the flash. EZFlash had no trouble
    flashing the BIOS Savior. Now I have the same version of the BIOS in
    both the Savior and the original chip. The data stored in CMOS is
    therefore appropriate for both, and I can POST with the switch set in
    either position.

    After you get this far, you can leave the switch on either setting:
    A -- you can leave it set on RD1. This leaves your pristine original
    BIOS sitting there unused, while you run day-to-day from the BIOS
    Savior's chip, keeping the original in reserve. You might even want
    to remove it and put it somewhere else for safekeeping.
    B -- you can set the switch back to ORG, running day-to-day from your
    original BIOS, and using the BIOS Savior as a backup. If you get a
    badflash, simply clear the CMOS, flip the BIOS Savior switch, and boot
    from the known good backup.
    C -- a development engineer could have different versions of the BIOS
    in the Savior and the original chip and switch back an forth from one
    boot to the next. I suspect that you'd have to clear CMOS to do that.
    Not sure.
    D -- you can use the BIOS Savior as a flashing device, something like
    they do at badflash.com. If a friend had a messed-up BIOS, you could
    extract the chip from his computer and then plug it into the BIOS
    Savior. You'd then simply boot to a floppy, flip the switch, and
    reflash his bad BIOS.

    This really takes the fear and worry out of flash a BIOS. If it goes
    bad, just flip a switch, and you're back in business.

    Ron
     
    milleron, Jun 24, 2005
    #19
  20. milleron

    J&SB Guest

    Thanks for the detailed run-down. I'm going to get one of these for my
    A8N-SLI Deluxe. I think the price is a bargain for the peace of mind that
    you get. What other boot device would support this procedure? I'm one of
    those guys with a relatively new rig, and they just don't put floppies in
    them any more.
    Thanks,
    Jim
     
    J&SB, Jun 24, 2005
    #20
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