From time to time, it may be necessary to update the BIOS on your computer. Typically, this is not a problem—you download the latest version from the manufacturer’s website and follow the instructions on how to flash it. In these cases, you will have to find a way to get the BIOS onto an external storage device.
The flash drive size to use for a BIOS update should have a capacity of 32 GB or less, formatted as FAT16 / 32 MBR. Flash drives with larger capacities can work but your BIOS or UEFI software might not recognize it.
This article will discuss minimum recommended flash drive sizes for BIOS updates and practical considerations when choosing your size. These instructions are written with Windows PCs in mind, but they could be applied to other operating systems.
Choosing Flash Drive Size for BIOS Update
BIOS is an abbreviation for Basic Input/Output System, the software responsible for configuring and controlling your computer’s hardware. It allows your system to start up when you turn the power on. If you have ever needed to update your BIOS, you know how scary the prospect can be. You never know if the process will go smoothly or if you’ll have to spend days restoring your computer to its previous state.
Consider a Bootable Medium
When you’re updating your system BIOS, it’s important to make sure you have a bootable medium to do so. A bootable medium is a storage device with the correct configuration to let your computer know how to load the BIOS update. The most popular bootable media types are USB (Universal Serial Bus) and CD/DVD (Compact Disc/Digital Versatile Disc).
You should avoid using large-capacity sticks if your aim is for your flash drive to be compatible with the BIOS / UEFI software. An example of this is when using a large-capacity flash drive in UEFI mode that you want formatted with FAT32.
The USB 2.0 vs. 3.0 Factor
Two factors affect how fast a BIOS update can be transferred to a USB flash drive:
- The speed of the USB port.
- The speed of the flash drive.
The USB port on your computer is either USB 2.0 or 3.0. The speed of the USB port on your computer depends on what kind of motherboard you have. If it is older than five years, it will be a slower USB 2.0. If it is newer than this, it will most likely be a USB 3.0 port.
Does a Flash Drive Have To Be Empty for Bios Update?
Your flash drive should be empty for a BIOS update. This is so the BIOS can access them without going through the computer’s hard drive. This means you must have a blank USB flash drive of at least 2GB in size (1GB for Windows XP and older) to use it for this process.
Here’s how you can do a BIOS update:
- Download the latest version of the BIOS update file from the manufacturer’s website and save it to your computer’s hard drive.
- Put an empty USB flash drive into your computer’s USB ports. Select it as your boot device in the boot order section of the BIOS settings screen (usually accessed by pressing F10 when starting up).
- Right-click on the downloaded file and select Extract All from the menu that appears to extract all of its contents onto your computer’s hard drive. The extraction will take a few minutes, depending on the file size.
- Open up Windows Explorer (or whichever file explorer program came with your OS) and navigate through your hard drive until you find where all of those extracted files are located—usually at C:\BIOSUpdate\
- Double-click on the folder named update to start the installation process. You’ll be prompted to restart your PC and let it finish updating the BIOS.
- When your computer restarts, you’ll be prompted to enter the BIOS menu to finish updating your BIOS.
For a visual explanation of how to use a USB flash drive for BIOS updates, have a look at this YouTube video:
Why BIOS Updates Are Necessary
It’s important to keep your BIOS up to date for two reasons:
Updated BIOS Comes with Improved Features
Newer versions of the BIOS will have been tweaked specifically for compatibility with newer systems and newer versions of software. This includes things like graphics cards, sound cards, and hard drives. As new computers are released and software evolves and improves, so do the requirements for ensuring compatibility.
If you’re running an outdated version of the BIOS that was designed for an older version of your operating system, you may experience problems running newer software or hardware on your computer.
BIOS Updates Improve Security
Newer versions of the BIOS contain additional security measures that may help protect against malicious attacks. If you’re running a computer connected to the internet, you must keep your BIOS updated to protect your computer from potential attacks.
How Long Should a BIOS Update Take?
The average time for a BIOS update should be around 1-2 minutes. Most of this time will be spent waiting for Windows to load and run the update program (though if there are any errors or problems with the update, you may need to wait much longer).
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make sure that you’re updating your BIOS in the quickest possible time:
- Always ensure that your BIOS update comes from a legitimate source, primarily from your laptop’s manufacturer’s website.
- If you have an old computer with limited resources such as RAM or CPU power, consider updating your BIOS when you’re not using your computer for long periods.
- Although not a big deal, since BIOS updates are usually 16-32 MB, ensure that your computer has enough hard drive space for the update size. This way, you won’t run out of space while your system updates the BIOS.
- Although usually not necessary, make sure you have access to a working internet connection before beginning the process of updating your BIOS. This will let you download any necessary files beforehand so your computer can perform this update when needed.
When the time comes for you to update the BIOS in your laptop or computer, make sure that you go with a smaller flash drive. The main thing is to not format it as NTFS and choose 32 GB or less for the capacity.
Note that you can make your own bootable flash drive using Rufus if you prefer that method.