JEB's Driver & Firmware Updates Checklist

article #196, updated 2798 days ago

Here are the primary steps I take to do driver, BIOS, and firmware updates.  With rare, unsupported, or finicky hardware, more steps can be necessary, but these are a very good starting point.

  1. Install PC Wizard, from http://www.cpuid.com.  This program will tell us the make and model number of the motherboard at least, and often other hardware too.
  2. Run PC Wizard.  If you have hardware problems or corrupt BIOS, it will crash on first run; a BIOS update may fix it, but may turn your motherboard into a pretty picture!!!
  3. So barring demotherboardizational issues, in PC Wizard, click o n the icon labelled Mainboard.  You’ll see the motherboard make and model.  Highlight the model number in the lower-right pane, and copy it to the clipboard with Control-C.
  4. Browse to the web site of the motherboard make.  For Intel, you need http://downloadcenter.intel.com .
  5. Paste the model number of the motherboard in the search box on the web site.  If there’s no such box, you’ll have to use whatever navigation is there, to find the right pages.
  6. I don’t usually have a reason to replace all of the drivers, unless it’s a very old box.  I always do replace the NIC driver (and then fix it with the rest of the NIC checklist!), and the motherboard chipset if possible.  If the chipset is ancient (“ancient” is 2001 for XP, 2003 for 2003, 2006 for Server 2008 or Vista, 2007 for Server 2008R2 or 7), I consider it a significant issue if it cannot be updated, and will go to http://www.driverengine.com to try to find better, although this can be a non-trivial method.
  7. I do replace BIOS on new workstations whenever I can.  There is a phenomenon called “SATA instability”, where a PC with a SATA drive runs acceptably for months or even a year, while small corruptions build up in its C drive.  Eventually the corruptions reach a critical level, and things stop working; when this happens, it’s been 50/50 on requiring a reload of the OS.  When I get one of these, I always update the BIOS first, and I have never seen one of these machines on the bench twice.
  8. The rest of the items may be part of the motherboard, or not.  If not, you’ll want the web sites of the makes of the actual hardware.  There are exceptions; there is some hardware in big-make (Dell, HP) machines which are made by various companies to other specifications, and in these cases you’ll want to make sure that you have the driver built for that particular big-make PC handy, before trying a potentially better one.
  9. An extreme case is Intel NICs and some video hardware in some older Dell workstations.  In 9 out of 10 cases, if you have a Dell workstation with an Intel NIC, even if the NIC is on the motherboard, you really ought to install the current Intel NIC driver (search for “prowin32” at http://downloadcenter.intel.com).  But about 1 out of 10 times, you’ll have to revert to the ancient Dell-recombobulated Intel driver.
  10. In general it is at least a small risk, to replace RAID drivers, especially on a server.  I generally do this only (a) if the hardware is very old and something must be done, or (b) if a manufacturer support tech has stated that it should be done.  Ditto RAID firmware.
  11. If the video driver is more than two years old, I usually replace it.  If the user is a gamer, video user, video capture user, or CAD user, I always do, except where there are or have been known issues.

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