BIOSTAR P4M80-M4 : Update BIOS so I can configure 2GB RAM

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The flash on this board refuses to update. I'm trying to write
4M80M609.BF and 4M80M609.BS into the flash but it seems that only
parts of these files are written.

The machine still boots (taking five minutes to do so) but without F8
functionality. I need that to reconfigure RAM size -- I just upgraded
from 1GB to 2GB.

Has anyone successfully update the BIOS on this board?

Thanks!

-- ben

Re: BIOSTAR P4M80-M4 : Update BIOS so I can configure 2GB RAM



lcplben wrote:
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The first part of any BIOS flash, is archiving the existing BIOS contents.

You want to verify, that the size of the downloaded BIOS file (512KB),
matches the size of the archived BIOS image.

You can also check the part number printed on the BIOS chip, to get an
idea of how big the chip is. (That is the part number printed on the
chip itself, not some number printed on the sticky paper label.)

In terms of flashing, the program that does the flash operation, checks
the existing BIOS ID string. The program can determine from that, whether
it should be flashing in the new BIOS file or not. This check is meant
to prevent accidents, where a user flashes "board YYY" BIOS file, into
board XXX.

The BIOS flash operation can be broken down into sections. There is the
main code segment (pretty big), and there is the boot block (maybe 8KB).
Sometimes, the manufacturer wants both of them to be updated. Other
times, only updating the main code segment is necessary. If they would
only leave the boot block alone, it would allow recovering the motherboard
easier if the BIOS update fails.

A sure-fire way to get that BIOS into the machine, is to contact badflash.com
and buy a new BIOS chip from them. As long as the BIOS chip is socketed, you
can pull out the previous BIOS chip, and install a new one. There is even a
proper tool, for pulling the chip out of the motherboard (brown colored) socket.
(If the chip is soldered to the motherboard, then this is not a practical
option.)

(The puller fits the diagonal corners of the chip, and the ends fit under the
corners of the chip, to give leverage to pull the chip out.)

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062619

Now, that is a pretty expensive way to do a BIOS flash. It probably amounts
to spending half of the purchase price of the motherboard, to be able to
do a flash update.

Some computer stores own a standalone BIOS flasher. We has a machine at work,
that cost perhaps $6000, and it could program virtually anything. All you had
to do, was download the file to the computer next to the programmer, insert
your chip, and 2 minutes later, the chip was ready. I burned a hundred chips
that way. Not many "mom & pop" computer stores can afford nice gear like
that. But my employer could. You at least need to know the part number
of the BIOS chip, so the programmer knows what it is programming.

So to start, I would be careful to verify the file is the right size.
A BIOS file is generally a power-of-two file size. A 512KB chip would
have a file size of 524288 bytes. I notice the Biostar download is not
zipped, so there is no chance of an "unzipping accident". Some BIOS, when
you download and extract them, the unzipping tool goes one step too far,
and the resulting file is 128KB instead of 512KB. Flashing the wrong sized
file into the chip, is guaranteed to "brick" the motherboard.

The best way to flash, is with an MSDOS floppy and DOS flasher. It helps,
if the motherboard maker provides a DOS flasher program. There are some third
party flashers, but you know that the risk is not zero by using a tool
like that. The badflash.com option is always available to you, if you
brick the board in your attempts to flash.

*******

Something to consider, before going any further, is what kind of RAM you
bought. At one time, a lot of Ebay sellers, were selling "high density" 1GB
sticks. When a high density DIMM is plugged into a board which lacks the
additional address bit needed, the BIOS detects the DIMM as a 512MB DIMM.
Low density DIMMs are detected OK. The high density DIMM is constructed
of one rank of x4 chips. So all 16 chips on the DIMM, form a 64 bit wide
rank of memory. The problem with that, is some chipsets don't have the
extra address bit needed to access that kind of memory chip. I looked it
up, and JEDEC approves that kind of memory construction. But Intel at least,
does not for any of their chipsets. Practically no branded RAM companies
(Kingston, Crucial, OCZ, Geil...) would make such a DIMM. But there are plenty
of sources in China, who'll make whatever you want to sell.

So before you bash on that flash chip some more, consider whether the
RAM you're using is the problem. If the RAM is only half detected, it
could be high density RAM mixed with a particular chipset.

    Paul

Re: BIOSTAR P4M80-M4 : Update BIOS so I can configure 2GB RAM



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Thanks, Paul.


How do I archive the BIOS?

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OK, the downloaded image is indeed 512KB.

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Dang it, the ink on the chip is so faded I can't read the part number.

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I see. Good idea.

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It is socketed. They must have changed the pricing: a new, programmed
chip is only $25. Oh, yes: the chip puller is probably around that
price, too.

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OK.


Biostar provides one.

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I bought the two mem sticks from Kingston, 1GB each, so they should be
OK, right?

One thing further. I found the manual for the board. In the CMOS
section, it says this:

-----
By placing the jumper on pin2-3, it allows user to restore the BIOS
safe setting
and the CMOS data, please carefully follow the procedures to avoid
damaging
the motherboard.

Clear CMOS data.
=E2=80=BB Clear CMOS Procedures:
1. Remove AC power line.
2. Set the jumper to80=9CPin 2-3 close=E2=80=9D.
3. Wait for five seconds.
4. Set the jumper to80=9CPin 1-2 close=E2=80=9D.
5. Power on the AC.
6. Reset your desired password or clear the CMOS data.
-----

I hadn't seen this before, but it /seems/ like exactly what I want,
which is to make the second 1GB stick visible.

What do you think about this?

Thanks, Paul!

-- pete




Re: BIOSTAR P4M80-M4 : Update BIOS so I can configure 2GB RAM



lcplben wrote:
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1) To archive the BIOS, the flasher has to have a command line option
    to save the current file. Not all flashing tools make it obvious
    how you do that. I was hoping, by using the DOS one, you'd see that
    option. For example, boot your MSDOS floppy, then try something like

       flashtool.exe /?

    and see if it offers options. I've also, on occasion, used a hex editor
    to examine a "flashtool.exe" type file, looking for text strings inside
    which indicate how to use it. In at least one case, the tool had two
    layers to it. It was an AMI flashing tool, wrapped in a simpler outer shell
    by Asus, such that useful help info from the "/?" help option wasn't
    given to the user. But the tool still supported other options.

    The reason archiving the current BIOS is important, is two-fold. Some users
    discover later, to their dismay, that there is no downloadable file which
    corresponds to their current BIOS. And they find themselves unable to get
    back to the stability they had previously.

    The second reason for archiving, is if there is an immediate failure,
    you can try flashing back the archived copy, before resetting the PC.
    You do not reset the PC, and start booting again, until you have tried
    your best to flash *something* successfully into the BIOS chip. Say the
    attempt to flash the new file gets to 50% and then dies. You'd try the
    archived one and see if it goes to 100%. If it did, then you're taking
    less of a chance when the reboot comes.

    If the flash goes bad, the truth will come out on the next reboot. And
    then you'll know whether it is "badflash.com time", or you get to use
    your motherboard today.

    The Windows version of the flashing tool, may make the archiving step a
    bit easier. I just don't like the idea of doing the actual flash from
    Windows, and prefer booting a DOS floppy. (There is even a DOS CD.)

2) The Kingston sticks should be OK. A lot of their generic kinds of RAM,
    have data sheets, and you get some idea of the construction from the
    datasheet. In at least one case, Kingston plays a less desirable game.
    On one of their DDR2 products, the sticks come in two types. Either an
    8 chip or a 16 chip version. That is a bad thing to do, as normally a
    Kingston datasheet specs just one composition. So there are glaring
    exceptions to their normal level of precision. To their credit, in the
    Kingston search engine, it won't recommend that RAM for users who might
    otherwise have been able to use it - so they pay a price from being
    sloppy.

3) Clearing the CMOS, with the Clear RTC jumper or the like, clears the
    settings stored in the CMOS RAM inside the Southbridge. That is not
    the same thing as the executable code stored in the socketed flash
    chip. The code in the flash chip is what gets executed when you turn
    the power on. The values stored in the CMOS RAM, carries user preferences
    for that executing code. For example, if in the BIOS, you set the RAM
    to "Auto", when the code in the flash chip executes, it sees your request
    for Auto (stored in the CMOS RAM), and does the math for you, to pick a
    CAS value, operating frequency and so on for the RAM.

    You clear the CMOS for a couple reasons. One reason, would be to recover
    from an overclocking problem, or a bad BIOS screen setting. The second
reason,
    is after flashing a new BIOS into the flash chip, the data structure stored
    in the CMOS RAM, no longer matches the expectations of the flash chip. (Maybe
    the definition of one of the bytes has changed.) In a lot of cases, you can
    get going again, because the difference is trivial, or perhaps the BIOS
    flashing program has cleared the CMOS for you.

    So clearing the CMOS isn't anything to do with the act of flashing the BIOS
    chip. But using that option, can be required in some cases, after the flash
    upgrade is completed. (I.e. Board doesn't start on the next POST after the
BIOS
    flash, you try clearing the CMOS to see if it helps, when it doesn't help,
    you fork out $25 to badflash.com or equivalent for a new chip with fresh
    executable code in it.)

4) With regard to reading part numbers, at least some manufactured chips are
    "laser marked" and the printing can be read in reflected light, applied at
    just the right angle. I've spent hours of my life, holding a light just
    so, next to a PCB, so I can read the numbers. The advantage of laser marking,
    is the part number may not get washed off in factory solvents. The
disadvantage
    is the low contrast ratio, requiring some tricky lighting to make it stand
    out. In some cases, I need to arrange a light, and a magnifying glass, so
    I can get some info from the numbers.

Just a little fun for you. I have a copy of awdflash, which is a flashing tool
for Award BIOS, and this is a DOS tool. Using a Hex editor, I was able to
extract the usage information from it. While you can see it has the ability to
back up the original BIOS, the instructions still leave a little bit to the
imagination.

*******
AWDFLASH v8.23 (10/25) (C)Phoenix Technologies Ltd. 2002 All Rights Reserved

Usage:  AWDFLASH [FileName1] [FileName2] [/<sw>[/<sw>...]]

         FileName1 : New BIOS Name For Flash Programming
         FileName2 : BIOS File For Backing-up the Original BIOS
         ?: Show Help Messages
         py: Program Flash Memory
         pn: No Flash Programming
         sy: Backup Original BIOS To Disk File
         sn: No Original BIOS Backup
         Sb: Skip BootBlock programming
         Wb: Always Programming BootBlock
         cd: Clear DMI Data After Programming
         sd: Save DMI data to file
         cp: Clear PnP(ESCD) Data After Programming
         cc: Clear CMOS Data After Programming
         LD: Destroy CMOS Checksum And No System Halt
             For First Reboot After Programming
         Tiny: Occupy lesser memory
         QI: Qualify flash part number with source file
         E: Return to DOS When Programming is done
         R: RESET System After Programming
         F: Use Flash Routines in Original BIOS For Flash Programming
         cks:     Show update Binfile checksum
         cksXXXX: Compare Binfile CheckSum with XXXX
*******

An example of the syntax to use, is in this article. Using a search engine,
you could likely find more examples of syntax to use for various reasons.

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/41

    awdflash a:backup.bin /sy /pn

I don't know what tool Biostar uses in DOS. Their download item was an
InstallShield program (inside the BIOS.zip), and I don't have any way of
getting inside those. I use 7ZIP for examining more open format installers.
I try not to install too much junk on my PC, preferring to examine the files
by hand instead, to see what you're getting.

And just out of curiosity, what are your current symptoms ? What happens
when the new Kingston RAM is plugged in ? Have you tried one stick at a
time ? Are you turning off *all* power before changing out the RAM ?

HTH,
      Paul

Re: BIOSTAR P4M80-M4 : Update BIOS so I can configure 2GB RAM



On Wed, 6 Jan 2010 12:04:38 -0800 (PST), lcplben

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What makes you feel that you need a new bios to "reconfigure
RAM size"?

Generally speaking, there is no bios update needed to
configure "size", if you install more memory the bios
automatically adjusts that in every case.  The only thing a
new bios might do is give you different default timings, or
perhaps in some cases give manual timing settings but if it
is not stable yet, you need to pull out the new memory and
configure with the old stable memory first and it is a bad
plan because if the BIOS contents are lost you again can't
set it till memory is swapped.

So essentially, if you have installed 2GB and only 1GB is
seen, there is nothing entering the bios will do to help,
nor flashing a new bios.

When you write that only parts of these bios are written
what exactly do you mean, what do you seen on-screen during
the flashing process?  If you don't use a command line
switch to flash the boot block it is common that it is not
flashed, but more importantly after you flash does the
flasher state that it was successful?  After you flash does
the bios version show incrementally higher on the POST
screen displaying the bios revision?

I tend to think Paul is right, that the memory is simply not
compatible and/or it is damaged but incompatible is more
likely if only half is detected.

Re: BIOSTAR P4M80-M4 : Update BIOS so I can configure 2GB RAM



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Thanks Kony. I'll reply to Paul in a bit.

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The BIOS, as it stands now, does not give me the "set-mem-size"
option. That was the first symptom, actually, that finally led me to
try to reflash the chip. Getting the BIOS to see 2GB is what I'm
wanting to do. You would think that any sane board manufacturer WOULD
just detect a new mem size automatically. Anybody in his right mind
would design the board just this way. But not Biostar. Why this is I
cannot say, but it is certainly huge pita.

Anyway: on this board, getting the BIOS to see the new, bigger memory
is like configuring a new boot device: keep hitting DEL (or, for
Biostar, keep hitting Tab) and eventually a menu appears. Then hit F8
and you get a chance to set mem size to 2GB. All this is completely
familiar and usual.

The board originally had 1GB of mem in two DIMMs of 512MB apiece.

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I didn't think of that. I'll go back to the old 512-MB sticks and try
it.

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As I say, it seems the BIOS won't see the new mem without
configuration by me.

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I don't remember exactly what I see, but it seemed to me to be less
than it should be ; it seemed abbreviated somehow, as if  the flashing
code had been short-circuited. I sure wasn't confident, during the
four or five times I tried it,  that flashing had completed
successfully.

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There's a command line? And a command-line switch? I didn't see it.

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I don't remember. I'm not totally sure that it /is/ a higher version.

Here's what the Biostar instructions say:

"All modern Biostar motherboards feature the Flasher technology for
easy BIOS updating.

"Most motherboards' BIOS files have the BIN extension. Some do not
(for instance NCD1208BSP, NHA0302.BF, etc). Regardless of its
extension, after downloading the BIOS file is ready to use as-is. You
do not need to do any kind of decompression or extraction.

"Download the BIOS file then save it to floppy disk. Restart your
computer. Enter the CMOS setup by pressing <DELETE> at the POST or
Biostar splash screen. Make sure the disk is in your floppy drive,
choose "Upgrade BIOS" from the CMOS Setup main menu. The Flasher
utility will automatically detect and highlight the BIOS file on the
next screen.

"Make sure the BIOS file is highlighted and press Enter. Answer Y when
prompted 'are you sure to flash?'  After the flashing is done, reset
the computer and enter CMOS setup again. This time choose "Load
Optimized Defaults" from the main menu. FInally hit F10 to save and
exit.

"BIOS update is complete."

The BIOS update files I downloaded from Biostar are 4M80M609.BS and
<same-filename>.BF . These things are advertised to differ only in
that one shows a splash screen at boot time, while the other does not.

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It's not that only half of the mem is detected; instead, only the
lower 1GB of the 2GB is seen. I'm pretty sure about this, not
competely sure but pretty sure.


Re: BIOSTAR P4M80-M4 : Update BIOS so I can configure 2GB RAM



On Fri, 8 Jan 2010 07:44:57 -0800 (PST), lcplben

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Most (if not all??) boards do not have a set-mem-size
option, they do automatically detect the memory without
needing any user setting... and have been this way for many
years.

What makes you believe your board does not already do this?


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No, that is not at all usual.  I have never seen any
semi-modern, and by that I mean at least within the last 15
years, motherboard where you need to set the memory size.


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Then most likely you have either incompatible memory or one
of the modules is defective.  Remove one and keep the other
in the board, seeing if it detects all of either module, and
try that in both memory slots in case one slot has a bad
contact.


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It should tell you it completed if it did, unless this is
some unique Biostar flasher instead of the standard ones
everyone else uses.


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What method did you use?  Make a bootable floppy or windows
flasher or??  Generally there is a DOS flash program and you
just type in commands.  For example:

http://hww.ru/contents/articles/bios-update-guide.htm

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OK, I'd forgotten about built-in flashers.  You should still
be able to make a bootable CD, floppy, or  USB thumbdrive
with the needed bios flasher, boot it to DOS, and at the
command line give it the switches to do what you want like
make a backup of the current bios and it should tell you the
result when it finishes.

However, first you should write down the bios revision you
see at POST when the system is turned on as it may have
actually flashed correctly already meaning no need to try
again.


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What makes you sure of this?  Do as suggested above, leave
only one memory module installed, then only the other memory
module, and try that in both memory slots to see if you find
a commonality.  That it is seeing only the lower 1GB of 2GB
is not likely, nor is it  likely you need to set anything in
the bios just to see all the memory... having to  tweak bios
settings to change the timings is another matter, sometimes
marginally stable memory will need that, but typically with
a newly purchased set of memory it is better to just return
it for a refund and buy some different memory instead.

Did Kingston's website specifically state the memory is
compatible with that motherboard?


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