April 07, 2012, 7:35 AM — Your PC doesn't immediately launch into Windows when you first turn it on; first it must run a more rudimentary bit of code called the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System). The BIOS code is stored on a chip on your motherboard, so it's more precisely described as firmware. The BIOS works by identifying all of your computer's components and letting Windows know how to work with them.
Motherboard manufacturers periodically release new BIOS versions to fix bugs, increase performance, or to support new hardware (think USB 3.0 or an SSD). Updating your BIOS to a new version could increase its performance and capabilities--but if the update is done incorrectly, it could brick your PC. Here's how to do it safely.
Note: It bears repeating that updating your computer's BIOS is not without risk. If something goes wrong, you could render your PC unable to boot. Before you proceed, you should check the user manual for your computer (or your motherboard if you've assembled the system on your own) to see if the manufacturer has built in fail-safe recovery features, such as a backup BIOS chip on the motherboard. These are common feature on newer hardware. If you don't have the user manual, you should be able to find a PDF copy on the manufacturer's website.
1. Identify Your Current BIOS Version
Type the letters "cmd" (without the quotation marks) in the Windows 7 search window and hit the Enter key. When the command line interface appears, type "systeminfo" (again, without the quotation marks) and hit Enter. After a moment or two, Windows will report a host of information about your system, including which BIOS version is installed. For example, our test system reported that the motherboard was running BIOS version F6 (and the most current version available was F11).
2. Find The Most Current BIOS
Although most PC manufacturers don't actually build the motherboards they use, they do maintain libraries of BIOS updates. So pay a visit to your PC manufacturer's website to see if there's a newer version available. Jot down the model number you own and go to the Support or Downloads area of the site. If you've built your own PC, go directly to the motherboard manufacturer's site. You can get the model number of your motherboard in step one, above. In either case, you should also download any readme files or other documentation related to the BIOS update.
3. Read The Manual