back to article Dell BIOS update borks PCs

Dell's latest BIOS update is bricking some machines – apart from a power light, they refuse to boot up at all, say users. The Texan tech titan's own support forums are filling up with frustrated users who took the support assistant’s advice to download the latest program. Many of those who installed the update now cannot boot …

  1. Frank N. Stein

    WOW. This sort of thing usually happens with Lenovo. Not Dell. Was this Bios Update recommended by outsourced techs? That would explain it.

  2. Steven Raith

    Frank,

    Another said, "Let's hope Dell fixes it for free, the Dell Update software that was prepackaged, might I say, reminded me to update constantly. So I did... Well, I am not very happy with the update, so 2 stars out of 5."

    So it sounds like it was Dells own update software that mandated the update happened.

    Steven R

    1. Natalie Gritpants

      Wonder what they have to do to get zero stars?

      1. theblackhand

        Used Dell update manage to update my PC.

        It ran up huge online gambling debts on all my credit cards, burnt my house down as part of an insurance scam and ran off with my wife.

        0.5/5 - updates installed very quickly.

        1. Anonymous Blowhard

          @theblackhand

          Yorkshireman: You were lucky...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @theblackhand

            >Yorkshireman: You were lucky...

            Ey, mine were left in't shoebox, in't middle o'road underneath a lake. Bloody Amazon deliveries.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @theblackhand

              Cardboard box? You were lucky

        2. tony2heads

          So to get zero stars

          Wipe out the entire human race and turn planet earth to a blackened cinder?

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: So to get zero stars

            But then they'd be getting zero stars by default, because nobody would be able to give them any, so that would be cheating.

            1. Toltec

              Re: So to get zero stars

              "But then they'd be getting zero stars by default, because nobody would be able to give them any, so that would be cheating."

              Not so, as there would be no one to observe the number of stars the quantity would be in a state of uncertainty.

              1. VinceH Silver badge

                Re: So to get zero stars

                @Toltec

                Schroedinger called. He wants his cat back.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: VinceH

                  Quote of the week, sir!

                2. Archtech Silver badge

                  Re: So to get zero stars

                  "Schroedinger called. He wants his cat back".

                  Maybe.

                  1. mynciboi

                    Re: So to get zero stars

                    Day 5: Cat rang bell, Dell f*cked off.

          2. Alan J. Wylie

            Re: So to get zero stars

            turn planet earth to a blackened cinder

            That would be a Class 6, to totally eliminate the stars would be an X3

          3. LaeMing Silver badge
            Go

            Re: So to get zero stars

            Zero stars is when the Dell Tech (not their cat, even*) uses the keyboard as a litter box.

            * cat litter box still gets 1 star.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        "Wonder what they have to do to get zero stars?"

        Indeed. Wonky update bricks the machine, won't boot, no sort of fix, may be expected to pay for a repair. And that gets two stars?!?

      4. boltar Silver badge

        "Wonder what they have to do to get zero stars?"

        Revert the system to Windows 8? At least an orange power LED looks nicer! :)

  3. Richard Gray 1
    FAIL

    Not the first time

    I remember a long time ago Dell sent out a server update for Netware that assigned all network cards the same MAC address.

    Fortunately a colleague spotted it before the rest of the firm applied it....

    Glad to see somethings never change...

    1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Re: Not the first time

      Dell network drivers for 2900/2950 Windows servers, if you picked the wrong version from their site you had to do some serious registry hacking or rebuild the server.

  4. Mr Dogshit

    Rhymes with hell.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. James Ashton
        FAIL

        Ding Dong Dell

        Seems more apt than usual at this time.

        1. LaeMing Silver badge

          Re: Ding Dong Dell

          Ding Dong Dell

          BIOS patch from Hell.

          Who put it in?

          ...

  5. Alan J. Wylie

    Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

    It is generally acknowledged that BIOS updates should only be applied to fix a known issue. In this case, however, for some Dell systems, the issue is the Intel AMT remote security vunlerability: CVE-2017-5689

    This affects at least one laptop to my personal knowledge: Dell XPS 15 9560

    1. handleoclast Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

      I think you can safely say that affected systems are no longer vulnerable to the Intel AMT remote security vulnerability. So full marks, Dell. Five star rating from me.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

        It will also prevent infection from wcry and other nasty cryptolockers...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

      > BIOS updates should only be applied to fix a known issue

      And even then only after you have properly tested the floppy controller and the drive, and made sure the disk is new (and not a freebie), there's no guarantee that you won't end up killing the machine.

      After swapping out and checking everything, the primary suspect was the floppy controller having one last spurious fit before failing completely at exactly the worst possible moment, revenge for hardly ever being used.

      AC, because the shame of needlessly killing an Alpha will haunt me for the rest of time without all the inevitable "helpful" suggestions.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

        "And even then only after you have properly tested the floppy controller and the drive,"

        WTF? It's too hard to load the data, then perform a CRC check to ensure it loaded correctly before trying to dump it into the Flash? What is this, the '90s?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

          FFS RTFPost "the floppy controller having one last spurious fit before failing completely"

          Sometimes things fail even after verification and after a dummy run, and this was one of those, very much the point of what was said.

          But thanks for the remarkably insightful comment, you can get off your horse now.

      2. Benno

        Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

        Meh, I blew up a brand-new Alpha because I forgot to switch the PSU voltage from 110V -> 230V prior to turning it on. Thankfully the expensive bits lived!

        Still think I aged 10-years though...

      3. LesB

        Making Flippy Floppy

        Been a while since I've seen a BIOS update on a floppy. Or a BIOS update that would fit on a floppy, come to think of it. Or a floppy[1], for that matter.

        [1] Which is absolutely not a cross reference to any railway-related topics on El Reg today

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Making Flippy Floppy

          I remember one of our feeder schools buying a hundred school PCs from dell. Each one had a switchable PSU (sold by their school divison). Their IT teacher phoned me up after a week due to each one blowing up, I advised him to glue gun the switches next time.....

      4. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

        "And even then only after you have properly tested the floppy controller and the drive"

        I'm sorry, the what now? If I can find any PC of any make that has a floppy drive within 100 yards of me, I will be mighty surprised.

        1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

          Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

          Oh! F*#&ING Dell!

          What?

    3. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

      On dells, HP, IBM(lenovo) when an authorized repair out replaces the MB they are suppose to flash the bios. It's part of putting the service tag in the bios. Doing this has bit me in the ass with and IBM desk top. I flashed the bios and poof. You could no longer boot of a SATA drive. Went through 3 boards before some at IBM figured out it was an bios issue not a defective SATA controller.

      Oh and if I didn't flash the bios with our permission and some found out I would not get paid.

    4. jamesmacwhite

      Re: Dell BIOS update may be a security fix

      It is, same for the slightly older 9550 model, though I applied the BIOS update only a few days ago and everything went OK.

  6. Alistair Mann

    >frustrated users who ... download the latest programme.

    Well, there's the problem: BIOS needs firmware, not a copy of "Cheggers Plays Pop"

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge
    WTF?

    So who pays if you don't have the smarts yourself ?

    I would assume most people reading this would be capable of using another source to Google to read up on how to fix it, and apply it (although I have to say I have idea how to recover a borked BIOS).

    What about your man on the Clapham Omnibus who has to take a Clapham Omnibus to his local PC repairshop, and be charged by them to implement the fix ? Which could easily rack up to £100 before blinking.

    This is on top of the fact that any time anyone loses on this isn't recoverable in UK law.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang them I say

    Yours

    Mr David Mail.

  9. adam payne Silver badge

    "Dell's initial reaction was to tell customers they needed to buy new motherboards."

    Sorry but if Dell Command Update offers you a BIOS update that then bricks the chip it is your responsibility to fix it Dell.

    Just did a BIOS update on a E5470 and that is still working.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Dell's initial reaction was to tell customers they needed to buy new motherboards."

      Sorry but if Dell Command Update offers you a BIOS update that then bricks the chip it is your responsibility to fix it Dell.

      Presumably it was someone on work experience who gave out that advice. One hopes the grown-ups took over after that.

  10. James 51 Silver badge

    The updates Dell releases don't affect the system
    Then what is the point of them? If Dell borked the machines with an update they should be making good on the damage they have caused.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe just another mercenary marketing strategy?

    Like Win10?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New business model innovation!

    Got a warehouse full of obsolete parts and a risk of missing your quarterly earnings statement targets?

    1) Release 'accidentally' corrupt BIOS update for all your out of warranty laptop models

    2) Charge customers $250 a pop for a replacement motherboard

    3) PROFIT!

    Thanks Dell :D

  13. Bryan Hall

    The solution is SIMPLE. Have the update software check:

    IF

    the machine is in warranty period + 7 days (7 for a reasonable time for the user to get with support)

    THEN

    warn user that the update could brick the computer, but it will be covered under support if reported before the end of the warranty period which is XX.

    ELSE

    IF

    the machine is outside the warranty period - 6 months - 7 days

    THEN

    warn user that the update could brick the computer, and if so, Dell will sell them a new motherboard at a slight discount but they have to install themselves (or pay to have it installed), if reported before XX.

    ELSE

    warn user that the update could brick the computer, and if so, Dell will sell them a new motherboard at full cost and they have to install themselves (or pay to have it installed).

    END IF

    END IF

    Copyright Bryan Hall... :-)

    I doubt many users, especially those out of warranty, will click OK - saving everyone time and effort.

  14. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Dell BIOS update borks PCs

    Who wrote the BIOS update?

    Who signed off on the release of the BIOS?

    Is the BIOS on Dell PCs socketed or soldered in?

    --

    NoScript filtered a potential cross-site scripting (XSS) attempt from [https://forums.theregister.co.uk]. Technical details have been logged to the Console.

  15. Duffaboy

    1st rule of IT support is

    Never ever update BIOS or drivers unless you are sure it will be of a benefit

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: 1st rule of IT support is

      Drivers - no biggie, update them and if something b0rks, just uninstall and reinstall the previous version. Usually happens when a driver gives issues, but if it works, why fix it?

      BIOS - I leave it well alone. Why fix it if it ain't broke?

      1. Duffaboy

        Re: 1st rule of IT support is

        If a device has been working as expected for months then why would any sane person update them, you are asking for trouble. I stick by my statement if it has no proven benefits then leave it alone

        1. Infernoz Bronze badge

          Re: 1st rule of IT support is

          Unfortunately security and stability issues, and other bugs do occur, and the BIOS can need updates to better support functionality of embedded or plug-in hardware, but upgrades must be done by competent people, and preferably checked on one device first, if a multiple devices may need it.

          I've never had a firmware update issue which bricked a device, but have rarely needed to roll-back some upgrades which contained unhelpful changes.

          I can't say I've been impressed by any Dell kit I've used; it seemed expensive and dull.

  16. boltar Silver badge

    Why change the entire motherboard?

    Are the EEPROMS now SMDs or are they still pluggable? If the latter why can't they just ship new EEPROM chips out?

    1. fobobob

      Re: Why change the entire motherboard?

      Almost completely assured they're SMD chips, due to size (Inspiron laptops). One would think they'd have a chip clip to reflash the BIOS chip without total disassembly, but their support infrastructure might be better equipped to just replace the motherboards and get them back out.

    2. Infernoz Bronze badge
      Meh

      Re: Why change the entire motherboard?

      Sockets cost extra for parts and production, and can reduce reliability; flash/ROM parts can often be in-circuit programmed, probably on a similar rig to that used to electrically test the PCB.

      It's probably more cost effective for Dell to just scrap the motherboards, because all PC components are commodity parts, often with thin margins, which are replaced regularly, to attract more customers via redesigns and new Intel etc. chip-sets.

  17. aks Bronze badge

    I saw a suggestion by a user on the Dell support site to try booting from a USB stick.

    I'd also suggest booting from a DVD or other device.

    Disconnect all attachments. Normally, this is a suggestion suitable for driver-level problems.

    Since the power light comes on, somebody's home. I suggest adding an external screen (VGA, HDMI, DP etc) in case it's simply failing to reach the laptop screen.

    Delving deeper, plug in a simple working hard-drive in place of the built-in one.

    It's certainly the responsibility of Dell but that takes time and effort.

    A replacement or re-flashed BIOS chip should fix this, rather than a new motherboard. Swapping a motherboard is a non-trivial task.

    What's the second-hand market for such machines?

    Disclaimer: I've been very pleased with all my support from them in the past.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      If the BIOS craps out in the POST

      If the BIOS craps out in the POST (Power On Self Test), it will not boot whatever you do.

      If replacing the BIOS chip requires the motherboard being removed (laptops are not designed to be easily maintained), then replacing the motherboard will be a quicker and possibly cheaper fix (for Dell). Also replacing surface-mount components is far from easy.

      Normally the BIOS resides in flash memory nowadays (rather than EEPROM). It used to be that there was a small amount of ROM that could act as a failsafe to allow you to reflash a corrupt BIOS, but I suspect that if that code is still included, is resides in a different partition in the same flash memory chip. If the flash memory gets completely wiped, then you've lost the failsafe as well.

      Certain mobo manufacturers (Gigabyte come to mind) used to have a Dual BIOS feature, where if you updated the BIOS, you only did one side, and you had the unchanged other side to fall back to if it failed. That gave you a way of proving a new BIOS without bricking the system.

      Some boards also have I2C or SMBus (or other) ports that may allow the flash to be reprogrammed in situ, but often the headers are not soldered on the board to allow it to be used.

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: If the BIOS craps out in the POST

        Gigabyte still does.

  18. kain preacher Silver badge

    How hard is it to have a dual bios. MB have had them for ages. One bios writable the other is not. You use a jumper to switch between the two.

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      Dual BIOS is the way to go - as you say, some systems do this already. Its not difficult to test in the BIOS if the image is valid before booting it, to check if it booted successfully last time or to have a keypress that forces to the alternative bios image for this / next reboot.

      As to Jumpers and replacing chips - do you really expect a user to be able to disassemble their laptop and do this ?

      Dual BIOS removes all this pain at the cost of a larger device that can support both images.

      1. Walter Bishop Silver badge
        Linux

        Dual BIOS is the way to go?

        I thing the way to go is to eliminate the BIOS, the Intel x86 architecture and that leaky tub of an Operating System.

        > Dual BIOS is the way to go - as you say, some systems do this already. Its not difficult to test in the BIOS if the image is valid before booting it

  19. albegadeep

    Had Apple do this to us once.

    OS X major update caused the hard drive access to run at <1% of former speed - but with no read/write errors. I copied the whole drive over the network to my desktop, took 3 days. Apple claimed, with a straight face, that OS updates "often" caused previously undetected problems to show up. Took it to the GEEEnius bar, they ran their HD diagnostics, said it was a failed hard drive. They showed me the results - there was literally only one single word, "FAILED" in giant red letters. Charged us $150 for a new hard drive. Came back to pick it up after, and they wanted $200 instead. We made a scene, manager came in and gave it to us for the originally-quoted $150. Got it home and it was a bigger drive than agreed; I suspect they were out of the smaller ones and upgraded us without permission.

    Meanwhile, my 7+-year-old desktop, assembled by me and running Ubuntu, continues to chug away... Wife hasn't updated OS X or her iPhone since...

  20. Carmen1943

    Dell BIOS

    My system, Inspiron 20, did the same thing. Window came up, said upgrade now or later, I clicked, Now. That was the end of my system. It happened Friday, May 12; I contacted Dell on Monday, 15. They proceeded to state it was my equipment and the warranty was out, therefore I would have to pay $259, plus shipping and handling. I told them it was their software, they said NO. You can guess who won. I even went to their web page, posted a photo my pc and stated the problem, said I would never recommend or purchase a Dell again. They contacted me thru Messaging, basically going thru the whole thing again. But I kept a printout of the conversation in case I ever need to use it, but I threw my PC away. I don't know about anyone else but I bought this one new July 2016 don't have the funds to replace it. Not at 74 years old.

  21. JonShaw
    Thumb Up

    Thank you commentards, my day has been chuckalicious thanks to you all :o)

  22. DellCares

    Dell Inspiron 20 3052 All-in-One BIOS Issue

    Dear Customers,

    Dell is aware that a recent BIOS release (version 3.8.1) for the Inspiron 20 3052 All-in-One has caused some systems to fail to boot. Dell has stopped the push of the affected BIOS version and urges impacted customers to contact Dell Tech Support or on Twitter @DellCares.

    Thank you,

    Dell Support Team

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