Bricked my computer updating my BIOS. Help!
September 28, 2013 4:57 PM   Subscribe

I updated my BIOS and now my computer won't boot. Please save me.

I got my computer in January, prebuilt, OEM windows 8. Everything was fine. There was the occasional problem with it not waking up from sleep, forcing a hard reboot, but all in all it was fine. (This is a documented problem, according to Google.)

Today, the not waking from sleep happened again, and upon the hard reboot, my second hard drive was not being recognized. I restarted my computer a few times, didn't help, freaked out, and opened up my computer to check all the plus. It was fine, I plugged in again, and everything looked good, drive recognized. I probably should've checked the BIOS to make sure it was a Windows oddity first, but oh well. I doubt it was the drive itself, it's a new one that was only a month old. My guess is that the hard refresh did something weird to windows' memory, but the extended shutdown when I was futzing around refreshed its cache, or something.

Anyway, that incident with Windows prompted me to do more googling, and some suggestions encouraged all updates to drivers (already done) and BIOS for the not waking from sleep problem, and that it might have to do with specific graphic cards. I've never updated my bios, but upon checking the website of my mobo, it did say that AMD+ graphic cards should update to the lastest BIOS.

So, I downloaded the BIOS file, dropped it in a flash drive, and reflashed my BIOS successfully with qflash. Great. Except now my Windows 8 is in a continuous loop and will not boot. Google reveals that Windows apparently "lock" onto the BIOS it's installed with and doesn't like changes. Fantastic, wish I'd known that earlier.

Google also suggests using a "refresh OS" option in Windows 8 to reset the lock, which is unfortunate because I can't get into Windows 8 at all. After about 2-3 fails it'll try to do the automatic repair, which takes a few minutes and then goes back into the reboot cycle. I've tried to download the Windows 8 installer to flash drive to see if I can do the refresh from drive, but it won't let me download ISO file because my OEM code can't be used with a retail copy of windows.

So now I'm freaking out. What do I do, Mefites?? Please assume I know only the bare minimum of computer hardware and software and explain a lot.
posted by Zelos to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Go in to the bios. See if AHCI is enabled for the sata hdds.

Windows 7/8 installed with AHCI enabled won't boot with it off, and vice versa. No amount of fiddling will make it.

I have been UTTERLY stumped by this in an identical situation. The automatic repair tries and fails really made that memory pop out of my brain.

Id also look on a site like thepiratebay for a YOURMANUFACTURER OEM ISO of windows. It's not piracy if you own a legitimate license. Microsoft themselves make most of the isos available online through cdns/mirrors. But the OEM ones can be really hard to find.
posted by emptythought at 5:09 PM on September 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: emptythought, thankyouthankyouthankyou. Flipped the SATA controllers to AHCI boots up windows normally. I'm shaking with relief right now, you have no idea. I have a ton of homework to do and the thought of reloading everything was close to making me cry.

Making a recovery disk posthaste.
posted by Zelos at 5:26 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

That sounds like a bug with the bios or the bios update- it should retain settings between bios updates.

In the future, before you do the update, make sure there is a way to recover. There almost always is, but it may be an arcane process that involves no video and beep codes and having a file on a floppy drive. Have that ready in case it fails.

Also, new drives are the most likely to fail. Assuming it is working because it is new is a faulty assumption.
posted by gjc at 7:46 PM on September 28, 2013

Response by poster: gjc: noted, although I don't think I'll try updating the BIOS again any time soon. (In the midst of my freaking out I forgot I actually did make a backup of my BIOS before I flashed it, meaning I theoretically could have flashed it back to its original I think, but I completely forgot in my panic.)

I'm not too worried about the hard drive failing - I bought a very extended warranty on it - but I was under the impression that failing drives usually give some signs of failure before it kicks the bucket: clicking, not spinning up, etc. The drive has been behaving very well for the entire time I've gotten it, which is why I didn't suspect the drive or SATA cable being the culprit.
posted by Zelos at 8:39 PM on September 28, 2013

SATA cables flake out a lot more often that I would have expected, had I not completely fixed so many flaky computers by replacing them.
posted by flabdablet at 10:36 AM on September 29, 2013

That sounds like a bug with the bios or the bios update- it should retain settings between bios updates.

For what it's worth Zelos, noting the settings beforehand and double checking them afterwards is something i always do with bios/firmware updates, OS updates on smartphones, etc. Surprisingly rarely are settings fully properly remembered and they're very often wiped or scrambled. I really doubt this is manufacturer specific, no one gets this right. To the point that i'd actually prefer that they all just wiped the settings and warned you of such beforehand rather than trying and failing.

Making a recovery disk posthaste.

That won't solve this type of problem. When i have critical work to do at this point i like to have a physical backup of everything on hand and another machine.

It doesn't have to be a kick-ass machine, it can be a shitty dell that was $60 on ebay(go look up the E6400. they're SO cheap now, indestructible, and quite capable still). As long as it has whatever program i need to keep doing what i'm doing i'm golden.

There are a kabillion stupid failure modes like this. Everything from flaky sata cables to this sort of thing being caused by an actual failure of some component on the motherboard. It's to the point that i don't care how serious the work i'm actually doing is, i don't want to ever be stumped by that again.

This is a similar "lifehack" to the people who just say fuck it and go out and buy 100 pairs of identical socks. I have a personal laptop, a personal desktop, and a "beater" laptop. Problem like this happens? Toss it aside and look at it again when whatever my primary task is gets finished, even if that's just "watch the newest episode of XYZ show before i go to bed".

The number one advice i give people at this point who ask how to avoid non-basic computer problems is to have more than one computer. Everything else is dangerously close to tiger repelling rock territory.

It might just be that i've had two motherboards die in one month recently though, in addition to the aforementioned flaky SATA cables AND encountering this AHCI glitch for the umpteenth time.
posted by emptythought at 6:02 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This makes me wish that I'd remembered to check the BIOS or disk manager to see if the hard drive was detected before I cracked the case.  I do remember that all the connections seemed snug when I popped the case open, but I did firmly seat them all again anyway, which might have been the hard drive issue to begin with and not Windows being a flake.  Do SATA cables just work themselves loose with use, assuming they were seated pretty snugly to begin with?   In all the prior times that Windows was having that issue of not waking up from sleep, it's never not detected hardware after a reboot before (and this time, I rebooted the system 2-3 times).

Since I'm apparently asking follow up questions now...  In your experience, emptythought, do other BIOS settings other than the IDE/ADHI tend to change after a flash?  it'd be nice to know for the future in case I ever feel brave enough to flash it again (probably not).  I guess I could just take a pencil and write down all the info on all the screens, but if there's any trends it'd be great to know.

Thanks again, all (especially emptythought).
posted by Zelos at 1:09 PM on September 30, 2013

Do SATA cables just work themselves loose with use, assuming they were seated pretty snugly to begin with?

My experience with SATA cables says that replacing them, rather than reseating them, is what fixes SATA flakiness.
posted by flabdablet at 4:56 PM on September 30, 2013

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