HOWTO: Make a bootable USB key... (for BIOS flash, firmware update, etc)

Discussion in 'Motherboards' started by NoxTek, Jun 13, 2007.

  1. NoxTek

    NoxTek The Geek Redneck

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    Need to flash your BIOS but don't have a floppy drive handy? Don't waste a blank CD/DVD on attempts to make a bootable MS-DOS DVD, use my method instead!

    ----------------------------------


    HOW TO: Create a bootable MS-DOS USB key


    This post explains how to:

    • Create a bootable (MS-DOS) USB key
    • Copy necessary flashing files to the USB key
    • Boot to the USB key


    You will need:
    • Access to a PC with Installed operating system: Windows 2000, Windows XP (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows 2003 (32-bit or 64-bit), or Windows Vista (32-bit or 64-bit)
    • A USB storage device of some kind. Common examples are: USB thumb drive, USB MP3 Player, USB memory card reader w/ memory card, etc
    • HP USB Drive Key Software[CLICK TO DOWNLOAD]
    • DOS Boot Disk Files [CLICK TO DOWNLOAD]

    NOTE: The files above are hosted on my personal server, and are meant for the [H]ardForums & BadassGeeks only.




    Making a bootable DOS USB Key

    1. Extract and then install the HP USB Drive Key program you downloaded earlier.

    2. Extract the DOS boot files somewhere, anywhere. Just remember where you extracted them. For the purposes of this howto let's say we extracted them to C:\bootme\

    3. Now you need to run the HP Drive Key program by clicking the icon in your Start -> Programs menu. VISTA USERS: You need to start the HP Drive Key Program as an administrator by RIGHT CLICKING the icon and selecting "Run as Administrator" from the context menu.

    [​IMG]


    4. Insert a USB storage device of your choosing and wait for it to be recognized by Windows and the HP Drive Key utility. (once recognized it will appear in the first pulldown menu). For our howto I'm using my favorite busted-ass solid state 256MB MP3 player, but it could be anything with any memory size really. Just remember that anything currently on the USB drive will be sent to data heaven, so make sure to copy anything you don't want to lose from it before continuing. Here is the old and busted MP3 player I'm using as my USB key:
    [​IMG]



    5. Choose FAT as the filesystem. Set the volume label to anything you want, doesn't matter. Under "Format Options" check the box next to "Quick Format" and "Create a DOS startup disk" . Choose the button next to "Using DOS system files located at:" and click the little browse button "..." next to the blank and navigate to C:\bootme (or wherever you extracted the DOS boot files earlier). Click OK.

    Now click "Start" and the HP Drive Key utility will turn your USB device into a bootable DOS disk! (It will popup a window asking you to confirm!)

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    So let's check out what's on our USB drive now:
    [​IMG]

    Well now, what you have here is a bootable USB drive with the few basic files needed to start a basic DOS session. When selected as a boot device this baby will boot your PC to a classic DOS prompt perfect for flashing that motherboard BIOS, updating firmware on your CD/DVD drive, or even flashing your video card BIOS!

    So later in this howto I want to flash my motherboard's BIOS and I have the files I need already downloaded. I just drag them from my download location to the USB flash drive (in my case drive G: ).




    Booting to DOS with your new bootable USB key

    OK so let's get going:

    1. Insert your bootable USB key and reboot your machine. With any luck (ie the correct BIOS settings) after the POST screen you will see your DOS prompt:
    [​IMG]


    If you don't see a DOS prompt and instead your PC boots directly to Windows again, you may need to enter your motherboard's boot device selection menu. Most AWARD and AMI BIOS for current motherboards have an on-the-fly boot selection menu that you can get to via hotkey at the POST screen. For most AWARD BIOS based systems you press the ESC key at the POST screen. For most AMI (American Megatrends) BIOS based systems it's another hotkey like F8 or F11. On my motherboard the magic hotkey is F11, so let's try that.

    Here's my POST screen - quick press F11!
    [​IMG]

    Pressing F11:
    [​IMG]

    Well lookie there, a nice menu to select my boot device. Cool eh? 95% of people don't even know they can actually do this. :D
    [​IMG]

    So I make sure the USB key is highlighted in the menu and press enter, and I get:
    [​IMG]


    But on the rare odd motherboard, there is no on-the-fly boot menu. Instead you must enter the BIOS and look for a setting that controls boot order. Here's an example of those settings on my motherboard - see how the USB device is set first?
    [​IMG]



    OK so by now you've booted to your DOS formatted USB key and have a nice basic DOS prompt waiting for your input:
    [​IMG]





    AN EXAMPLE: Using your bootable USB key to flash (update) your motherboard's BIOS

    So what can you do with your new bootable USB key? Well you now have a handy way to flash your motherboard's BIOS without having to install and use one of those 'ancient' floppy drives. A USB memory key is a hell of a lot more reliable than a floppy diskette anyway.

    So as an example let's flash the BIOS on my motherboard, an MSI P6N SLI Platinum. Please keep in mind that the routine and utilities for BIOS flashing will vary by motherboard manufacturer. In my case we are using a recent version of the AMI BIOS flash utility (AFUD408.EXE) and the latest beta BIOS for my P6N SLI Platinum. Those of you with award BIOS will need the Award BIOS flash utility (usually AWDFLASH.EXE) and of course the updated BIOS binary file for your motherboard.

    YOU MUST OBTAIN THE APPROPRIATE BIOS UPDATE FILE AND UTILITY FOR YOUR MOTHERBOARD - WHAT YOU SEE BELOW IS AN EXAMPLE PROCEDURE ONLY

    Oh did I mention that if you flash the wrong BIOS you could render your motherboard inoperable? Yup, it's about time for a bold print WARNING, so listen up:

    WARNING
    Flashing your BIOS can be DANGEROUS! If you don't know what you are doing you can render your PC useless, fuck up your neighbors cable reception, cause your wife to start her period early, let the dogs out, or cause a rip in the space-time continuum. I cannot and will not be held responsible if you break your shit. Understand? Comprende? Capiche? :)


    At this point you should have made your USB drive bootable, figured out how to boot to it, and copied the files you need to update your BIOS. On with my example...

    So let's boot to our DOS bootable USB key again:
    [​IMG]



    So let's refresh our memory, whats on this disc again? Type "DIR" and press enter to get a list of files on the drive:
    [​IMG]


    Oh yeah that's right. So here you see:

    AFUD408.EXE - The BIOS update utility for my motherboard
    A7350NMS.134 - The actual BIOS update file for my motherboard. In your case this might end in .BIN or .ROM. In my case it ends in 134 because it's BIOS version 1.34 and.... well.... that's how MSI named the file.

    So now I'm going to update the BIOS on my motherboard using the commands specific to the flash utility I'm using. My command:

    AFUD408.EXE A7350NMS.134 /P /B /C

    Starts the AMI BIOS Update utility and tells it to program the BIOS on my board with the data in the file A7350NMS.134, and afterwards to clear the CMOS settings. (I'll have to re-enter them when I reboot after the BIOS update). Here is an example of how a sucessful BIOS update might look:
    [​IMG]


    So now all that's left to do is reboot and re-enter all my BIOS settings. You'll have to do that on your own since that's a little out os the scope of this howto, and plus I'm tired of typing. :)


    Feel free to ask questions, make comments, etc. I'll do my best to answer anything I can. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2010
  2. HAF72

    HAF72 1337 :)

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    wow, great job with the write up, very use full.
     
  3. Cyant

    Cyant Gawd

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    You should clean your keyboard now and then if you are gonna post picture of it on the internet =)
     
  4. Riddlinkidstoner

    Riddlinkidstoner [H]ardness Supreme

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    Woot, I love how its in the panties file.
     
  5. NoxTek

    NoxTek The Geek Redneck

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    Ugh I know... I really need to take the thing apart for a good cleaning. :p
     
  6. rbanzai

    rbanzai Limp Gawd

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    Thank you very much for this guide.

    Last time I needed to boot off of a floppy I had to dig until I found an old Win 98 boot disk. I will try this when I get home. :p
     
  7. Willsonman

    Willsonman [H]ard|Gawd

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    any ideas on how to do this to trick an XP installation for RAID drivers?
     
  8. Unknown-One

    Unknown-One [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It was an even better joke back on Amiga OS, where "folders" were instead called "drawers" :p
     
  9. ziddey

    ziddey [H]ardness Supreme

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    nice. I remember using the bigger hp utility that loaded whatever you put on virtually afterl oading linux.

    I used to keep a w98 box so that I could easily format usb drives to be bootable.
     
  10. kirbyrj

    kirbyrj [H]ard as it Gets

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    Thanks for the How to. Good info and thanks for the links ;).
     
  11. rbanzai

    rbanzai Limp Gawd

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    Any suggestions for utilities that should go on this drive?
     
  12. haadij404

    haadij404 2[H]4U

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    should be a sticky, bios updates are very tricky....
     
  13. 3degree

    3degree [H]Lite

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    Thanks for the links. Nicely laid out tutorial and very easy to follow!


    But Help.... I've tried 2 different USB sticks of diff capacities and all I get is the blank screen, no DOS files on either one of them! :<
     
  14. Sasiki

    Sasiki 2[H]4U

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    I need to take this one step further and add cd-rom support. I think if I were to copy the rest of the files off of a win98 boot disk, it would work. Anyone have any ideas?
     
  15. NoxTek

    NoxTek The Geek Redneck

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    I notice you have the MSI P6N board. Make sure that both IDE channels are enabled in the BIOS. If they aren't for some reason DOS won't boot... it's weird, I know....
     
  16. NoxTek

    NoxTek The Geek Redneck

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    It will work if you do that.

    All the HP utility does is write a boot sector to the USB drive and then copy the COMMAND.COM and a couple of the necessary .SYS files. You can easily copy all of the files on a normal Win95/98/ME boot floppy and those usually have the autoexec.bat and config.sys setup to load a universal CD-ROM driver as well as MSCDEX.EXE to mount the optical drive. Be warned that some newer DVD drives won't work with the generic driver on the Win9x boot floppy images.

    Just have to try it and see.
     
  17. Gatticus

    Gatticus [H]ard|Gawd

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    In explorer do you have the option to show protected operating system files on? You won't be able to see those files if you don't. It's under Folder Options/View.

    @Blue Falcon, Thanks for the tutorial. I've never made a bootable thumb drive before as I always have a floppy drive installed but I just made one now in case I ever need it.
     
  18. divve

    divve n00b

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    For whatever reason I couldn't get the HP tool to work. It wouldn't see my USB sticks. As an alternative I can recommend mbrtool. It's a simple util that makes your stick bootable through a format. No additional files required.

    http://www.marlow.dk/tech/src/mbrtool.zip

    Confirmed to work with W2K and XP. Doesn't work in Vista. Stick must be smaller than 256MB. It installs a FreeDOS kernel with FAT32 support.

    Note: autoexec.exe file on a USB stick formatted by this app renders for whatever reason invisible in Vista. You still can see it through your command line and open it in a text editor by typing the full file name however.
     
  19. 3degree

    3degree [H]Lite

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    It's not a matter of it booting even yet....... NO files show up on the USB drive! And I have the show hidden protected files enabled in the view menu.... (This is in WinXP)



    I ended up copying the files directly from a MSDOS startup floppy on another machine.


    Now to try booting from them.....
     
  20. Bio-Hazard

    Bio-Hazard 2[H]4U

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    Been doing this for a while noew, but nice write up for those that didn't know.
     
  21. kawasaki747

    kawasaki747 Limp Gawd

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    Someone sticky this. This is the best write-up on this I've seen. A++
    <-runs to find usb drive :)
     
  22. satosphere

    satosphere n00b

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    Good post - for a sticky.
    I tried this a while back and it worked.
    Just one question, will I be able to access the hard-disk partitions if I boot through the USB key?
     
  23. Bio-Hazard

    Bio-Hazard 2[H]4U

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    Nope, NO CD support either, if you want other support you'll need to add the drivers your self.
     
  24. forrehmmnd

    forrehmmnd [H]ard|Gawd

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  25. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

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    nice write up. I'll be making me one of those soon.
    Can this be used to load XP Sata Drivers during system install on a machine with no floppy?
     
  26. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Nope, the windows install environment (which you've used to boot up before starting the install) will only recognize a floppy... Slipstreaming the CD w/the drivers is the only other option.

    I'm kind of a masochist and always went thru the process of hooking up a floppy drive when I installed Windows on my system (the A8V's sideways floppy connector is jammed up against a drive cage in my tiny Lanboy, makes it quite a pain)...

    It's really worth the time to learn how to slipstream the CD instead, someone had posted a good guide for that on this thread but the reply must've gotten nuked when they rolled back the forum database
    , it's not hard to Google tho.
     
  27. Cyant

    Cyant Gawd

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    You could always copy the windows install cd files to the USB key and install it from there so you don't have to have the CD with you but you'd still need to slipstream the drivers to the setup files or use a floppy. But the upside is you would not have to burn a cd everytime new drivers are released, just slipstream the latest version to the USB stick. The other up side is no seek time like on a CD so the speed of the install should be much better.
     
  28. NoxTek

    NoxTek The Geek Redneck

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    You can't do that with Win2k/XP/2k3, at least not easily. When the Real Mode installer starts the USB ports are reset and the install won't work.

    However, that method WILL work with Windows Vista.
     
  29. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

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    Well, I ordered myself one of those USB floppy drives since a slipstreamed CD will only work with whatever board the drivers are for, correct?
     
  30. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Basically, altho you can include more than one set of drivers and just pick one within the Windows setup screen when it asks you to... You don't really have other options with any flavor of Windows older than Vista tho (besides just hooking up the actual floppy drive).

    I never thought about using a USB floppy drive (namely because I don't have one), I guess that'd work tho, probably depends on the BIOS.
     
  31. NoxTek

    NoxTek The Geek Redneck

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    Not at all. The CD would behave as a normal Windows XP installation CD and would work for any machine a normal WinXP CD would. In fact if done correctly you could have a CD slipstreamed with drivers for every motherboard/chipset in existance although it wouldn't be very practical.

    You shouldn't even NEED to install SATA drivers during the Windows XP installation, only in very rare cases - those being:

    A. If you're using 2 or more SATA drives in a RAID setup. This usually requires the RAID SATA drivers to be loaded off of a floppy during the initial Windows format/install procedure.

    B. If you're using a controller or motherboard with a really odd proprietary SATA chipset.

    One of the whole ideas of SATA is to look and act like a normal IDE/ATA controller to the operating system. Unless you're running a special hardware setup the SATA controller should function perfectly using Windows built-in ATA controller drivers.
     
  32. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Uhh... I dunno about you but my drives won't even show up if I don't provide the setup w/a driver and it won't cough up one by itself at all.

    Maybe it's because I'm using the on-board Promise controller instead of the one on the VIA chipset (KT800)? (Promise one handles OC'ing better) /shrug Can't be that rare a scenario though...
     
  33. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

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    thanks for the info guys.
    I ordered 3 machines with SATA drives (one has a SATA DVD-RW) and hopefully XP will load just fine.
     
  34. annaconda

    annaconda [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Thanx man, i have been looking for this.
     
  35. jkeener71

    jkeener71 n00b

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    I got an AMIGA A500 when I was stationed in Germany while serving a 3 year tour of duty in the U.S. Army. It was my first computer and it is what got me into computers. Man I kinda still miss it.

    Great write up btw. Thank you!
     
  36. WickedWeasel

    WickedWeasel Limp Gawd

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    Thanks for the Sticky write-up.

    I ran the HP program and 3 files were transferred to the Kingston Data Traveler 1 G USB Stick. I changed the Gigabyte BIOS to boot from USB FDD, but it didn't work. Then I changed it to USB HDD and it brought up a page indicating windows did not boot up successfully.

    USB CD-ROM and USB-ZIP BIOS selections also did not work.

    Could it be the USB stick?
    BIOS is setup to run AHCI SATA Hard drive. Must AHCI be disabled?
     
  37. NoxTek

    NoxTek The Geek Redneck

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    Possibly, you may need to play around with the settings until it works. Did you try using the boot menu directly instead of changing the boot order settings in the BIOS? The gigabyte board should have an 'on-the-fly' boot menu. Try hitting ESC, F8, or F11 at the POST screen (it's usually ESC).
     
  38. WickedWeasel

    WickedWeasel Limp Gawd

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    I made the changes in the BIOS, and I also tried it using the F12 boot menu. It didn't work. I will try again with a different boot disk.
     
  39. Blacklash

    Blacklash [H]ard|Gawd

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    You rock Blue,

    Thanks.

    I hate floppy disks and do own a USB flash drive I got a while back to try ready boost with Vista. Anywho, Intel's Express BIOS Update does not work properly under a x64 OS.

    What you detail is a nice way around that.

    BTW here's Intel's official page on Iflash and updating with a USB device:

    http://www.intel.com/support/motherboards/desktop/sb/CS-023358.htm
     
  40. mercyground

    mercyground Limp Gawd

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    somewhat late but here's some links

    For making XP fully SP'd up and all available Windows Updates slipstreamed in - http://www.ryanvm.net/msfn/

    For updating your now security updated CD to use updated drivers - http://driverpacks.net/DriverPacks/
    That will update the CD to add drivers to XP to enable you to load on newer chipsets and sata based drives. Add what you like or leave it out.

    * DriverPack Chipset
    * DriverPack CPU
    * DriverPack Graphics A
    * DriverPack Graphics B
    * DriverPack Graphics C
    * DriverPack LAN
    * DriverPack MassStorage
    * DriverPack Sound A
    * DriverPack Sound B
    * DriverPack WLAN

    I personally use the Chipset, CPU, LAN, MassStorage, WLAN. Graphics change too fast and should really be updated live i feel. This should give you an XP cd to reload any system.