Saturday, October 31, 2015

Updating Dell BIOS using WinPE blog recently posted his interesting situation.

Short post shorter, after a recent hardware change, issues were encountered on a Dell system until the BIOS was updated.

I’ve been seeing an increased pattern of issues after hardware is replaced or upgraded on Dell systems. They usually clear up after the BIOS gets updated.

Unfortunately, Dell seems to only be offering BIOS update files for most systems via an EXE deployment solution.

The idea is that you would download the Dell BIOS EXE update file to your Windows system, run the file, then the system reboots and the BIOS gets flashed/updated.

That makes sense unless you are sitting on a system (or hundreds) that don’t yet have a Windows OS installed, or have replaced the HDD in the system and don’t have an OS on it. Or maybe you do have a flaky system with a Windows OS but can’t keep it stable enough to run the BIOS EXE update file.

This week I had that very problem and wondered if I could perhaps deploy the BIOS EXE file via a WinPE environment and bypass the “installed” Windows need totally.

In my case…for the particular Dell systems I was working on, I could, I did, and it worked perfectly.

Your mileage may vary, proceed at your own risk, etc.

The “trick” seems to be that you have to use an x86 WinPE OS architecture build, rather than a x64 WinPE flavor. More details on “why” here if you are curious.

If you already have a working WinPE build and want to confirm (maybe you didn’t build it yourself) just run the following command in your loaded WinPE environment from a command prompt:

wmic OS get OSArchitecture

Sadly, the Dell LTI bootable flash drive I had was running a x64 version.

Luckily I still had one of my trusty custom WinPE CD disks I built a long time ago and I had built it using the x86 package so I was set.

So here is what I did to flash the Dell BIOS with no loaded HDD:

  1. I downloaded the BIOS update needed for my specific Dell system from Drivers & Downloads | Dell US using another system after confirming by entering the system’s ServiceTag/Serial number on the page.
  2. I copied it to a USB drive.
  3. I booted the target Dell system with my (x86) WinPE boot CD and had the USB flash drive with the BIOS update file also connected to the system.
  4. Once WinPE had loaded, I navigated to the BIOS EXE file on the USB drive and ran it.
  5. It executed with no errors and the system rebooted, applied the update, and rebooted again.
  6. I hit F12 and confirmed the BIOS version updated, the hardware was detected in the BIOS, and that the ePSA diagnostics all ran normally.


That saved almost 1.5 hours of otherwise deploying (if I could) an image to the system and getting it configured enough to be operational for just a BIOS EXE deployment run.

I’ve posted a lot of write-ups here on GSD blog regarding custom WinPE disks. You can go crazy or super-simple.

If you don’t feel like reviewing all those posts, here are some tools or basic steps in building your own WinPE boot tool:

It’s been quite a while since I built a WinPE disk/USB. The ones I’ve made in the past still keep on loading and working for my off-line system booting needs I really haven’t had a need to update them at all.

I think the last one I built was based on a pre-release WAIK version for Windows 8 (WinPE 4.0).

I might need to add making a fresh Win10 WAIK-based WinPE build to my considerable “to-do” list so I can try out the changes to WinBuilder and some of these other “newer” WinPE building tools that have come along since I last fiddled with things.

Hope this helps.


Claus Valca

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