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Identifying your Motherboard with the BIOS

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What is a BIOS?

BIOS is an acronym meaning Basic Input / Output System. It is stored in a chip called ROM (read only memory). Most of the latest motherboards now use EEPROM's (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) (also called "Flash" BIOS) which can usually be upgraded by the user. (The earlier versions of the BIOS had to have the chip physically removed and replaced with a another chip programmed with a later BIOS version.) When you switch on your computer the BIOS is the first program to run . It initializes and tests the hardware in your computer (called Power On Self Test or POST). When everything is running, the BIOS program initiates and loads the operating system. The information in the BIOS can be changed by running Setup (sometimes called CMOS Setup). A set of routines called Run-Time Services, which is also a function of the BIOS, help operating systems and application programs to manage the hardware.
If you really want to go deeper into how the BIOS works have a look at Phil Croucher's site - he is the author of the very informative "The BIOS Companion" and you can get additional setup information there.

BIOS Manufacturers

Here are a list of the main BIOS manufacturers. They are listed in alphabetical order NOT preference!

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1. American Megatrends (AMI)

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2. Award Software International Inc.

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3. Microid Reseach Inc.

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4. Phoenix Technologies Ltd.

American Megatrends Inc. (AMI)

AMI has been around for quite a while now and has earned itself a name (with me anyway!!!) as one of the easiest to use BIOS's because of usually great documentation supplied by the motherboard manufacturers. (These are admittedly USA and European manufacturers - but a few 'Far East' companies (like Fujitech / Octek of Singapore) have excellent BIOS manuals!) Identifying your motherboard from an AMI BIOS is relatively easy if you take a look at the section at AMI's site called just that!! You can also get a similar but slightly simplified version of this page from Wim's BIOS Page.
A lot of Intels' motherboards use the AMI BIOS and details about how they are identified (as well as some of the OEM's who use Intel motherboards) are in the Intel section below


Award state on their BIOS page - "Do not contact Award Software for BIOS upgrades or BIOS technical support" - but a lot of useful information can be gleaned from their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) on their Web site. They also have a how to identify your motherboard section from an Award BIOS number for motherboard manufacturers worldwide. Again you can get a similar but slightly simplified version of this page from Wim's BIOS Page
For all end-user technical support and BIOS upgrades for Award Software BIOS products contact Unicore Software Inc.. Their e-mail address is support@unicore.com.


Microid Research Inc. manufacture the MR BIOS for variuos chipsets and are available as upgrades for most motherboards. If you have an Intel based pciset (formerly called 'Triton') click here to see if your motherboard is included. If your pci chipset is NOT Intel then click here They also have a very informative Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) section.
A third party company handles MR BIOS upgrades

Phoenix Technologies

Identifying a Motherboard with a Phoenix BIOS could be difficult, the reasons being as follows (quoted from Phoenix's FAQ's):
"If you cannot find the maker's name on or in the computer, in the copyright notice displayed during POST, or in the owner's manual, then you are out of luck. Phoenix does not make computer systems. There is no reliable way for Phoenix to determine the original manufacturer. The numbers listed on the BIOS sticker on the motherboard do not identify the BIOS version or the manufacturer of the system." They "are sequence numbers used to count stickers. They do not identify the BIOS nor the computer manufacturer. Our customer list is highly propriety information."
All is not lost however companies like Intel have upgrades for the Phoenix BIOS's used on their motherboards.
Phoenix Technologies Homepage
Phoenix Technologies Technical Support

Motherboard Manufacturers BIOS Upgrades

Packard Bell
Gateway are utilizing a number of Intel's OEM boards but modify the AMI BIOS to their own specifications. For this reason an upgrade BIOS from Intel's site generally will NOT work on a Gateway computer. Gateway's BIOS's are usually suffixed by a 'T'. (Example: 1.00.03.CN0T)
BIOS upgrades for their OEM motherboards can found by clicking here.
See Intel for a more in detail about the AMI BIOS used on their boards

Packard Bell**NEW**
I have always stayed away from pointing to anywhere that had anything to do with Packard Bell because of seemingly opening a proverbial hornets nest but at last someone has done something constructive and set up up a site dedicated to their computers. There is a lot of useful info to be found at Rays Packard Bell Site. If you want to ID your PB motherboard try his Packard Bell Motherboards page

Intel have primarily used AMI "Flash" BIOS's and the format of the BIOS version number shown on the startup screen is usually sufficient to ID the motherboard. The AMI BIOS version number looks like this:



'XX' is the BIOS version number
'??' is the Intel Motherboard model
'Y' is usually a 0 or 1

Example: 1.00.07.DH0 - this indicates that the BIOS version is '7' and the 'DH' identifies the motherboard as a TC430HX (aka Tucson)

NOTE: If your number is similar to the above but has another letter AFTER the 'Y', the motherboard is an Intel OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) supplied unit and the BIOS has been modified by that OEM (Example: Gateway's BIOS versions have a 'T' {1.00.03.CN0T}at the end) It is highly unlikely that a BIOS upgrade from Intel's ftp BIOS site will work and you will have to go to that OEM's site for your upgrade.
The following is a list of known OEM's and their Identifiers (If you know of any others please let me know)
H - Vobis
L - Hewlett Packard
R - Packard Bell
T - Gateway

On Intel's latest 'TX' and 'LX' chipset motherboards they have gone over to a Phoenix "Flash" BIOS and these can be identified by the Phoenix BIOS logo info (example: 4A3NT0X0.86A.0047.P03.9704071222).
The BIOS number starts with a product family identifier (4A3NT0X) (in this example using the AN430TX (aka Anchorage)) at the beginning.
The '0' after the 'X' is the motherboard hardware revision number.
'86' is the BIOS OEM ID number (in this case a standard Intel motherboard - custom BIOS's for OEM customers will differ).
The 'A' denotes the type of motherboard (A=Consumer Desktop, B=Corporate Desktop, C=Server Products).
'0047' is the BIOS build number.
'P' is the BIOS release type (P=Production {and the '03' is the production release number}, D=Development, A=Alpha, B=Beta)
9704071222 is the BIOS build date and time (in this case 7th April, 1997 at 12.22PM)
The LT430TX (aka Lonetree) has a product family identifier 4L3TT0X.
Intel have upgrades for all their motherboards that are supplied by them and a list of the latest version (along with the Motherboard model name) can be found by clicking on this link.
You can download the latest BIOS versions as well as earlier versions from Intel's ftp BIOS site

NOTE: Intel's AMI BIOS files require that you 'unzip' the downloaded file TWICE (double click on the downloaded file then double click on the extracted BIOS.EXE file) (Tip: Do this in a NEW folder {directory}) then transfer the contents on to a bootable floppy disk. There is usually a 'Whatsnew.doc' file amongst the contents which tells you what the various upgrades 'fix' as well as a 'Biosinstr.txt' which explains how to do the upgrade.
(Tip: If you encounter problems after you have upgraded your BIOS the first thing you should do is a 'CMOS Clear' (Also known as a 'NVRAM Clear') by doing pressing F5 whilst in the BIOS Setup.)

Micron are another company that are utilizing Intel's OEM motherboards on some of their systems and they have a download site for the Micron BIOS updates for these systems (including their non-Intel systems)

Tyan's site contains drivers for their motherboards (including Controller card updates and Busmastering drivers) and has Tyan BIOS updates for download.

Zeos computer systems share a site with Micron and BIOS updates for Zeos systems can be download from their site.

Diamond Flower have an extensive list of BIOS updates for their motherboards which can be downloaded from their site.

Abit have an extensive list of BIOS updates for their motherboards (including older model motherboards) as well as drivers and utilities for a number of them which can be downloaded from their site.

Other Useful BIOS Information Addresses
Micro Firmware Inc.

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