Sunday, October 6, 2013

Disadvantages of Flash BIOS

BIOS is an acronym for the ‘Basic Input Output System’, and it resides on the motherboard of a computer, therefore persisting even when the computer is turned off. It is one of the most crucial components in the system, giving instructions regarding all the actions that a computer can perform, without accessing any other file or program. Without the BIOS, or if the BIOS is corrupted, a computer will not start (or ‘boot’, as it is technically called).
Why Flash BIOS?
When manufacturers launch a new motherboard, it is also generally accompanied with a new BIOS version. However, since technology advancements are relatively quick and new products could be launching every few weeks, upgrading to a new system as quickly is not feasible. An alternative to this is to upgrade the BIOS instead, so as to enhance system capabilities and improve stability. This process of upgrading is called flashing the BIOS. As the BIOS program is written on the persisted memory of the computer, it will however not be possible to flash the BIOS unless it is an EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory).
While the utility of flash BIOS is its ability to easily get upgraded, without opening or discarding the computer system, there are clear disadvantages in using this method of update and should be avoided to the extent possible.
Disadvantages of Flash BIOS
Susceptibility to malware
Flash BIOS can be susceptible to computer virus attacks that are extremely damaging, as the malicious code can potentially exploit the feature of flashing the BIOS to install malicious software and irreversibly damage the system. Further, BIOS malware can spread through platforms and motherboards of many different makes and even has the potential to spread not only via various operating systems but also by different hardware. This makes it a very serious security threat, and also as much more difficult, although not impossible, to guard against them.
Vulnerability of the flash process
However, by far the biggest risk of using the flash BIOS for upgrading the computer system is the vulnerability of the process itself. Even if no deliberate harm is intended, but an unprecedented event like a power outage occurs while the BIOS is being flashed, it can still get corrupted. System can also be corrupted if an incorrect update (or BIOS image, as it is technically called) is flashed onto the motherboard. In either of these scenarios, the computer system in all likelihood will not even boot, and is therefore rendered useless with a very remote possibility of any recovery.
More recent versions of BIOS have however started to include warnings or even self-recovery procedures in case of some such eventualities. This gives some respite from the above issues but it is strongly advised in most technical documentation to not flash the system BIOS unless it is absolutely unavoidable, and to still do it under expert technical supervision.


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